Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release form captivity

Frendy Medlock, Jr.

 

Frendy Medlock PictureFrendy enlisted in the regular army Sept. 16, 1939 at Vancouver Barracks Washington at which time he gave his home address as Gaylord, Oregon

 

Frendy's brother Capt. Robert L. Medlock writes about his brother's life:

 

My brother, Frendy Medlock joined the Army Air Corps before WWII, in 1939.  He was a mechanic in the 93rd Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bomb group and on October 4, 1941, with nearly 4000 other servicemen, was shipped out of San Francisco to Pearl Harbor & on to the Philippines. He was stationed at Clark Field, the largest most important airbase in the Philippine Islands. Our heavy bombers, B-17 Flying Fortresses that had not been flown south to Mindanao because of over crowding and the threat of war, were there. Fort Stotsenburg was adjacent to Clark Field, there for its protection.  On November 26th  the Air Force was put on war time footing, the men at Clark were on 24-hour alert. Ten hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and the Japanese Army and Navy planes had been able to get off their previously fogged-in Formosan airfields, they bombed and strafed Clark Field. Every plane at Clark was on the field, a sitting duck, no warning message got through.

 

All hell broke loose! Confusion, death and destruction rained. Destroyed were two squadrons of B-17s and a squadron of P-40s by 54 Jap bombers and 36 fighters in two waves. The Japs lost seven fighters, but no bombers. r d like to think my brother was the young mechanic, of whom I've read, who grabbed a machine gun and shot like crazy at the Jap Zeros flying over head. 

 

The men who could jumped into fox holes, slit trenches or headed for the woods. The Commander, Major Eubank, had prepared his men for all out war. It was over in about 40 minutes. Besides the Jap planes, there were Japanese agents everywhere; their acts of sabotage were easily recognizable, particularly at night.

 

In less than 24 hours, the first day of WWII in the Pacific, the US lost much of its fleet at Pearl Harbor and the heart of MacArthur's Air Force in the Philippines. Before the Philippine airbases were bombed, and although Pearl Harbor had been attacked, General MacArthur would not allow US planes to bomb the Jap Formosan airfields. There were no reconnaissance photos, and it would not have been a defensive act. His Air Force Commander, General Brereton was nearly out of his mind with anger.  Frendy may or may not have been wounded in the Clark Field attack, we'll never know. On December 24th, 1941, as tens of thousands of Japanese advanced, he and the other Air Force personnel abandoned the airbase and became a part of the US Air Infantry or Bataan Defenders. He survived the Bataan Death March and the Jap work details at Camp O'Donnell but died, July 7, 1942 at POW Camp Cabanatuan of starvation malaria and dysentery.  Not a word was ever heard from him by his family after his letter and birthday card to his Mother, dated November 26, 1941. His remains were never recovered.

 

                             “Ninety One Returned”

 

Ninety One returned (the number of letters returned to Ida Medlock, Frendy’s mother)

 

The men of the 93rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) ofthe US Army Air Corps 19th Bombardment Group boarded a troop train the evening of September 27th 1941 at Albuquerque, New Mexico for the long trip to San Francisco. Frendy Jr. left behind his sweetheart, Jewell Hassinger. They were to be married in October of 1941 but they decided to put the wedding off until he returned from military service. Jewell was not well. She had tuberculosis and died during surgery, December 13, 1947.

 

On October 1, 1941 the 189 men were at Fort McDowell on Angel Island, California where they were being processed for over seas travel and military service, they knew not where. Probably all 1,374 men of the 19th Bombardment Group were there. Frendy had written his folks on the first to let them know that he was there and they were getting shots and such and were waiting for a ship, his "destination unknown."

 

As if to salute and bid farewell to the over 4,000 servicemen leaving the next day, there was in San Francisco the evening of October 3rd a celebration and a parade before 300,000 people. It was the largest military spectacle ever held in the city's history. There were thousands of tough sun tanned soldiers in close formation with bayonets pointed at the sky marching with light field equipment followed by mounted motorized anti-aircraft guns, troop carriers and other mechanized army equipment. Navy and Marine marching units, American Legion, World War I veterans and ROTC units were represented as well.

 

Three U S Army troopships sailed from the harbor on Saturday the 4th the date of Frendy's official overseas departure. Thus began the men's overseas foreign service. Part  of the 93rd Bomb Squadron must have shipped out on the Tasker H. Bliss. It was built in Newport News, Virginia and formerly named, The Golden State and The President Cleveland. It was operated by the American President Lines prior to July 1941 when it was chartered by the US Army and hastily converted to a troopship. She was renamed as the Tasker H. Bliss in honor of U S Army's Major General Tasker Harold Bliss who served in World War I and was at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The Bliss sailed to ports in the South Pacific, Central America and the East Coast. Later it was converted for combat duty and left the States in a convoy with a Navy crew for the Allied Invasion of North Africa. There it was torpedoed and sunk in the harbor at Fedala, French Morocco on November 12th, 1942.

 

The ship was 535 feet in length, weighted 12 ~ tons, traveled at 16 ~ knots and could carry about 2400 passengers (troops). The Liberty and the Willard A. Holbrook also departed October 4th. The Holbrook was named for US Army's Major General Willard Ames Holbrook who served in the Indian Wars and Spanish American War. She must have been the sister ship of the Bliss. The latter traveled in the convoy to Pearl Harbor but remained there not arriving in Manila until November.

 

Frendy, Jr., in his letter to his folks written, October 9th speaks of his dislike for "boats." He made the first day ok but the next morning got sick and didn't feel so hot 'til the following day. On the stormy Pacific, "the first day, the night and the second day were really rough." "The big tub would sink her nose clear under," he wrote. "There were a lot of sick men aboard." The Bliss carried about 2000 troops and her sister ship an equal number. Frendy declares, the next time he makes the trip, "it'll be by air."

 

As the ship approached Honolulu, Frendy spoke of the boredom and his disappointment, he'd not seen any sharks, only flying fish and how fast they go. At Pearl Harbor they'd be unloading some troops and would stay a day or two depending on the Navy. He looked forward to shore leave but had guard duty for 24 hours, two hours on and four hours off. The Navy was evidently ready to leave so he didn't get his three-hour leave promised the guards. He can't give his parents his return address, he doesn't know where he's headed yet, but "there are all kinds of rumors." Destinations were closely guarded secrets even then.

 

On October 19th, when 200 miles out from Guam, Frendy writes again. At Pearl Harbor we were greeted at dock side by a "very good band and the music was swell."  Viewing the harbor and Honolulu he speaks of the many Palm trees, the town appears to be in a forest and notes also the engines of the narrow gauge railroad used near the docks to service the ships, they were a shade smaller than any he'd seen before.

 

The Bliss continued in a southwesterly direction and crossed the International Date Line. Frendy went to bed on Sunday, October 12th and woke up on Tuesday morning, October 14th. "Strange, they missed Monday!"

 

Frendy was assigned guard duty again. "It is so hot one gets ringing wet on guard."  The KP duty was hot too, "15 minutes on 15 minutes off, it's the only way they can work it, the washing room is too hot." The very humid 85 degrees causes a heat rash.

 

In his spare time Frendy plays Black Jack and Bingo and wins a little, that's about all there is to do. Before reaching Hawaii movies were shone on deck but since leaving "we've had black outs every night," Also since leaving Pearl Harbor there was an escort ship, he thought a destroyer, but must have been a heavy cruiser, very fast and with eight inch guns. It catapulted four airplanes from its deck and he liked the sound of their engines.  

 

He sent his address. The troops must have been told their destination after leaving Hawaii when there was know nobody they could tell. "A slip of the lip can sink a ship" was an expression often used after the war started.

 

Frendy had been aboard the Tasker H. Bliss 18 days when she docked at Manila in the Philippine Islands the evening of October 22nd, 1941. It was a journey of 7,000 miles, he thought worthwhile, but would never make it again.

 

The troops disembarked at the harbor at Manila, the largest and finest in all the Philippines. The townspeople turned out waving and shouting greetings from the sidewalks, "they thought we were something special." The men of the 93rd would see many unusual sights as they rode in the open-air buses to their new station, Clark Field.  The native’s houses were built on poles with walls of woven bamboo. Chickens, pigs and other animals lived on the ground below. The queer looking animals working in the fields were water buffalo.

 

In the Philippines the steering wheels are on the right side of the vehicles and driven on left or left side of the road. About 45 kilometers out of Manila, a P40 airplane meeting the bus landed on the highway turned off and smashed in the ditch. What a sight.

 

Frendy's new station, the largest air base in the Philippines was 65 miles north of Manila in Pamango Province on Luzon Province on Luzon Island. Fort Stotsenberg adjoined the field and supplied protection for the men, planes and equipment. The barracks designed for the very hot tropical weather had walls of woven bamboo; floors and roof supports of mahogany and the roofs were thatched with nipa grass. The first day Frendy built a frame for mosquito netting to cover his bed. It was an absolute necessity; the mosquitoes were terrible and particularly troublesome when the men were on guard duty at night.

 

Clark Field and the Fort were at the edge of an unexplored part of the jungle, a wild place where lots of pygmies lived. The field was within walking distance of where Frank Buck, the explorer killed a 30 foot, two inch python way back when. Just the week before a nine footer was killed. They hunted snakes and wild hogs there but Frendy would leave the snakes alone. He'd buy a bow and arrows like the pygmies use and get a knife and other keepsakes. Whenever a plane cracks up the pygmies would bring it in, in pieces and if anyone got lost they'd find him and bring him back to the base, he was told.

 

On November 11th Frendy writes again to his folks. Just that morning he and his buddies hiked into the jungle hacking their way with bowie knives. Bamboo grows about six to ten feet tall and is hard to get through and the trees are so thick they lean against each other and the sun can not be seen. He saw many varieties of large spiders, enough to fill a zoo and there were the prettiest birds he'd ever seen. It was so hot his shoes squished with sweat when he walked. He saw natives in a mud hole in a bamboo grove catching fish with their feet in the oozing mud.

 

By now, Frendy and his buddies had been in town twice. "You haven't seen anything until you've seen Manila," he exclaims. "All we have here at the base are movies but on hikes there are lots of good sights to see."

 

Frendy decided to try for Flying Enlistedmen's Training. He needed his birth certificate and character references from his parent's friends and needed them in a hurry.  If he could pass he might be able to go back to the States for training and he'd really like that. He closed in haste to get his letter on its way. The mail was flown out to the US on the Philippine Clipper and it took eight days.

 

On November 26, Frendy sends his Mother a birthday card and letter. He's had a hard time getting stamps as they've been on alert or duty, day and night. "The Post Office is two miles away and it's hot." Everyone complained about the cost of postage.

 

The 93rd's Organization Day was held the afternoon before and they were taken 30 miles up to a mountain (perhaps Mount Aryt) where they went swimming. They had to put an acid solution in their ears to prevent fungus growth, which some guys got. Frendy was having trouble with red ants that made a home in his bed when he was on guard duty.  When they bite, they inject an acid which causes swelling and itching like hives.

 

The week before, Frendy went once again to Manila, this time on an over night pass.  He and his friends stayed at an exclusive hotel with a dining room and floorshow. Cost them $9 for a room, $6 for supper, which they were served in the ballroom with the "big shots" (officers) from all over. The waiters showed them twice the respect and gave them three times the service they gave everyone else. The next day they went downtown shopping but the town was so big they didn't get in the right places so they gave up and returned to the base. This was an important letter. It must arrive in time for his mother's birthday, December 5th, 1941. It was Frendy's last letter.  Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was bombed by the Japanese December 7th and Clark Field was bombed December 8th, nine hours later.

 

Ida's letter dated December 8, speaks of her mailing a package to Frendy, December 1st and hoping it would reach him by Christmas. She'd not yet learned of the bombing by the Japanese of the Philippine Islands and Clark Field, Frendy's station. (The attack was disastrous, destroyed many planes and killed and injured many men.) No mail could possibly get there.

 

Because of Frendy's request, Ida immediately began writing letters and sending the necessary material for the Flying Enlistedmen's Training so he might return to the States and train to become a pilot, his greatest desire. The material surely never arrived. She continued to write letters, "91," total, no matter what information or misinformation she learned. All packages and letters were eventually returned. The first Christmas package was returned, September 17, 1942 long after his death in July.

 

Frendy and the other Air Corps men at Clark Field on December 24th became Infantry Soldiers, part of the Provisional Air Corps Infantry, 1st Battalion, 7th Materiel Squadron and began their retreat to Bataan, P I.

 

All the American and Philippine forces in the Philippines bravely fought the Japanese until forced to surrender, April 9, 1942. Corregidor fell May 6, 1942. Then began for the many weary, injured and ill, the 64 mile long Bataan Death March up the Old National Road to Camp O' Donnell, a dreadful place and later to the Cabanatuan prison camps. Many did not survive the battles, many the march and others the first POW camp.

 

Ida writes in her diaries, over and over again, "where is our boy?"

 

First notice from the US War Department dated November 19, 1942, "Missing in Action". Ida never gives up hope, she continues to write letters and send Christmas packages. Some reports are encouraging, some discouraging. Some of her friend's sons from down home are also reported missing in action or killed.

Sunday at 11:30 am, July 8th, 1945 a telegram arrived. "Secretary of war .... express his deep regret that your son Sgt. Frendy D. Medlock Jr. who was previously reported missing in action, died 7 July 1942 in a Japanese Prison of war camp in the Philippine Islands as a result of dysentery, Inanition and Malaria."

 

Many letters were written to individuals and organizations by Ida, in attempts to locate her son, then later after she learned of his death, to identify his remains and still later to prove he had military insurance that they could collect. His remains were "not recoverable" .

 

Frendy had survived the battles with the Japanese, December 8, 1941 to April 9, 1942, the 60 to 70 mile Bataan Death March and the dreadful Camp O'Donnell but as did 31,095 of American and Filipino servicemen, at 23 years of age, he succumbed at one of the Cabanatuan prisoner of war camps. A memorial marker has been placed in the Myrtle Point cemetery bearing Frendy's name. There is also a memorial monument in the park in Myrtle Point bearing the names of all four of the Gaylord, Oregon young men and others from Coos County. Frendy's name is also on a memorial marker at Manila with his rank and unit and at Cabanatuan twice, once spelled "Medlock" and again but misspelled, "McMedlock" in the Philippine Islands. Information about Frendy came after the war to the senior Medlocks from X POW, Sgt. Elvin Davis, a survivor and friend from down home, who saw Frendy Jr. in the Philippines when they were both POWs. " ..... his death was not in vain."- Elvin Davis. As was standard practice, letters and certificates signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Douglas MacArthur, General Henry H. Arnold and others were received by Frendy's parents.  Frendy was awarded posthumously six medals for his military service.

 

 

R. Leonard MEDLOCK'S MILITARY SERVICE