2nd Lt. Everett R. Preston
2nd Lt. Everett R. Preston was the son of William Preston and Josephine
Auton-Preston. He was born on October 27, 1919, in Mercer County,
Kentucky, and raised on Maggoffin Street in Harrodsburg. He attended local schools and
was a 1937 graduate of Harrodsburg High School.
After high school, Everett was employed as an electrician. He also joined the 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard. The tank company was headquartered in Harrodsburg.
On November 25, 1940, Everett's tank company was called to federal service as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He and the other soldiers traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky for one year of military training.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the maneuvers that the battalion learned that their time in the military had been extended from one to six years and that they were being sent overseas.
From Camp Polk, Louisiana, the 192nd traveled west by train to San Francisco. Once there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. On the island they were given physicals and shots. They then boarded a transport for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in the Philippines, D Company was attached to the 194th Tank Battalion. The official transfer of the company to the 194th was abandoned when the Japanese bombed Clark Airfield just ten hours after Pearl Harbor. The company would later return to the command of the 192nd.
During his time on Bataan, Everett was assigned to C and A Companies. Everett spent the next four months fighting the long, slow delaying action against the Japanese. In January 1942, Everett was the commanding officer of a platoon of tanks at Baliuag. He was sent south to find a bridge or crossing across the river. He never did find a crossing, and Lt. William Gentry went looking for him the next day to find out where he was. He and the other men continued to fight without food or the hope of being relieved.
On February 2, 1942, while assigned to C Company, in the area of the Agloloma and Anyasas Rivers. Everett received the Purple Heart after receiving wounds in an engagement against the Japanese.
The morning of April 9, 1942, Everett learned of the surrender of Bataan to the Japanese. He ordered his tankers to destroy their tanks and waited for orders from the Japanese.
Everett took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. At San Fernando, he and the other POWs were forced into small metal boxcars. They were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing until the POWs emptied the cars.
From Capas, Everett walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. It is not known if Everett went out on a work detail, but it is known that he was held as a POW at Cabanatuan.
On October 26, 1942, Everett was selected to go out on a work detail to Mindano. He and the other POWs marched from Cabanatuan to the barrio of Cabanatuan. There, they boarded a train for Manila. Unlike their previous train trip, the doors of the boxcars were left open for ventilation.
After disembarking the train the POWs marched to Bilibid Prison. Since there were no beds, they slept on the concrete floors. They remained at the prison until they were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto a freighter and taken to Mindanao. The POWs remained in the prison for two days.
On October 28th, the POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Erie Maru. The ship sailed the same day for Lasang. After stops at Iloilo and Cebu, the ship arrived at Lasang on November 7th. The POWs disembarked and arrived at Davao on November 11th. At Davao, there were two POW camps. In each camp, the POWs built runways.
Preston remained on Mindanao until June 6, 1944 when he and many of the POWs were taken to Davao. They were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and taken to Cebu. From Cebu, they were taken to Manila on the Singoto Maru. They were then taken to Bilibid Prison.
On December 13, 1944, Everett and 1,618 other POWs were marched to Pier 7 in Manila. They were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru and encouraged into the ship's holds by bayonet point.
The Oryoku Maru left Manila as part of the MATA-37 convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish and water. The morning of December 14th, mess was being given to the prisoners when the sound of planes was heard. The POWs heard the change in the planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy. Explosions were taking place all around the POWs.
In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. During the night, the medics in the ship's hold were ordered out by a Japanese officer to tend to the Japanese wounded. One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying and wounded were everywhere.
In the ship's holds, the POWs could hear the sound of the Japanese passengers being loaded into lifeboats. By the next morning, all the Japanese passengers were off the ship.
The morning of December 15th, U.S. Navy planes resumed the attack. Again, the attacks came in waves. A guard shouted into the holds that the prisoners were going ashore. He also said that the wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. It was not until the pilots saw the POWs climbing out of the ship's holds that they realized it was a prison ship and stopped the attack.
Everett and the other POWs swam to shore near Olongapa, Subic Bay, Luzon. He did this while under Japanese machine gun fire. After the POWs had abandoned ship, the Oryoku Maru was sunk. The surviving POWs were herded onto a tennis court. When roll was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack.
While the POWs were at Olongoa, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. They were buried at a cemetery nearby.
On December 24th, the remainder of the POWs were boarded onto trains at San Fernando, La Union. The widows of the train were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. From December 24th to the 27th, the POWs were held in a school house and later on a beach at San Fernando, La Union. During this time they were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of these men died.
The remaining prisoners were returned to Manila where they boarded another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.
The POWs on the ship were taken to Formosa. There, Everett once again came close to death when the ship was bombed and sunk by American planes on January 13, 1945, while it was still docked. During the attack, a bomb did explode in one of the the holds of the ship resulting in many POWs being wounded.
On January 14, 1945, Everett was boarded onto his third "hell ship" the Brazil Maru which left Formosa and arrived in Moji, Japan, on January 29, 1945. Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan.
By the time Everett arrived at Moji, he was extremely ill. He was taken to Fukuoka Camp #1-D. The POWs in the camp worked in a Onoda Coal Mine. It was while Everett was there that he became ill.
2nd Lt. Everett R. Preston is officially reported to have died of Acute Enteritis on April 21, 1945. When his family learned of his death, they were informed that he had died of dysentery.
After his death, Everett's remains were put in a mass grave. At the end of the war, since the remains of the POWs in the grave could not be identified, they were returned to the United States and buried in Section 82, Site 1B-1D, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. Everett shares his grave with 2nd Lt. Harry Black, 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady, and Capt. Donald Hanes of the 192nd.