Cpl. John Patrick Cahill
| Cpl. John P.
Cahill was born on October 6, 1916, and was raised at 4822 North Kenmore Avenue in Chicago.
He joined the Illinois National Guard with his brother Pvt. James A.
Cahill. Together they were called to active duty when the 33rd
Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard was federalized in November
John trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, were he learned how to operate motorcycles, tanks and halftracks. Next, he took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941 as a member of Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. It was there that the members of the 192nd first learned that their federal tour of duty had been extended, and that they had been selected for duty overseas.
With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the members of the 192nd found themselves involved in some of the first tank to tank battles, involving American tanks, in World War II. John was a member of a tank crew that consisted of himself, Lt. Ben Morin, Pvt. Steve Gados and Pvt. Louis Zelis.
Tanks from Company B, under the command of Lt. Ben Morin, were sent to Damortis after reports came in that a Japanese cyclist or motorized unit was approaching the town. John's unit did not encounter the Japanese at Damortis so they went on to Agoo. Since the tanks could not maneuver in the fields and had a tendency of getting stuck, they moved down the main highway in single file.
As the tanks went around a bend in the road, the tanks from Company B ran into a column of Japanese light tanks that had set up a road block. These light tanks had sloped sides, a low silhouette and no turret. The American tankers found it extremely difficult to score a disabling hit on them. Due to the high silhouettes of the American tanks, they were easy targets for the Japanese 47-mm guns.
John's tank was repeatedly hit by fire and left the road to maneuver out of the trap. It was during this maneuver that the tank took a disabling hit. The remaining four tanks attempted to come to the aid of the tank but had to give up due to heavy anti-tank fire.
John, along with Lt. Ben Morin, Pvt. Steve Gados and Pvt. Louis Zelis became the first American tank personnel to become Prisoners of War during World War II. John would spend the next three and one half years as a POW at various camps.
In July of 1942, after Bataan had been surrendered, John learned from other members of Company B that his brother, Jim, had died during a Japanese bombing. As a result of this, John refused to salute the Japanese and their flag. He was repeatedly beaten for his disobedience but he never did salute their flag.
After Cabanatuan, John was sent to Agoo and finally Japan. The ship he left Manila on the Coral Maru the ship was also known as the Taga Maru. The trip lasted from September 20, 1943, to October 5, 1943. During the trip the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa before arriving in Japan.
After disembarking the ship, John was assigned to Hirohata Camp which was 30 miles from Osaka. Also in the camp were Cpl. Erwin Glasenapp and Pvt. Wallace Marston of B Company. There he was assigned POW number 579.
The POWs at Hirohata 12B were used as slave laborers in the Seitetsu Steel Mills. They loaded and unloaded cargo and ore from ships, loaded and unloaded coal cars at the mills, worked in the machine shops, worked at the blast furnaces and cleaned the slag from the furnaces.
At the end of the war on September 4, 1945, John was liberated from Hirohata Camp. After being returned to the Philippines, he returned to Illinois and was discharged, from the army, on May 1, 1946. It was after his return to Chicago that John learned that his younger brother also had died in the war when his bomber clashed at sea.
John P. Cahill would later live in San Antonio, Texas. He passed away on October 20, 1992, in Niles, Illinois.