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Kentucky National Guard Memorial

Honoring Their Sacrifice

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Million, Joe B. (P2, C3, L30)

Million_JStaff Sergeant Joe Baxter Million, 26, of Mercer County, Kentucky, died on 14 December 1944 when he was burned to death in the Palawan Massacre near the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island, Philippines, while a prisoner of war on federal active duty with D Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. Palawan Island is South and West of Manila.

Million was born on either 30 June 1918 or 1 July 1918 in Mercer County, to Charles Million & Filora Norton-Million and he worked on the family farm and also listed skills as a mechanic. His military documents before the war all list his date of birth as 30 June 1918. The Kentucky Vital Records Index website lists his date of birth as 1 July 1918 as do some other sources such as the Bataan Project website.

Million enlisted in the Harrodsburg National Guard unit on 1 August 1940 at the age of twenty-two and was a private when he went on federal active duty with his unit on 25 November 1940.

Moving under secret orders, Company D arrived in the Philippines by Thanksgiving Day, 1941. War came to them when the Japanese attacked Clark Field just a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Harrodsburg Tankers along with the allied forces fought the Japanese valiantly without reinforcements or resupply until they were ordered to surrender in April 1942. They had delayed the Japanese Army's timetable from 50 days to four months, giving the allies vital time to protect Australia and recover from the attack on Pearl Harbor.

According to the Bataan Project website on 9 April 1942, Million was able to escape from Bataan to Corregidor and volunteered to go to Ft. Drum. Corregidor and Ft. Drum eventually were also forced to surrender and Million was taken prisoner on 6 May 1942.  Million was held at Camp O'Donnell, Cabanatuan #1, Batangas and finally at Palawan Island.

Million was one of some 300 POWs sent to Palawan Island on 1 August 1942 to build runways and earthworks with only hand tools. On 19 October 1944 American B-24s bombed the airfield. These were the first American planes the POWs had seen in more than two years. The airfield was also bombed at least one more time. The POWs were set to work to fill in the craters in the runway each time.

palawan-90bg-bombingPhoto Caption: Aerial view of 90th Bomb Group B-24s over Puerto Princesa Airfield (Palawan) - USAAF, 5th Air Force 1945

On 12 December 1944 an American naval convoy was seen heading toward the island and the Japanese believed the invasion was imminent. The convoy was actually heading to the nearby Island of Mindoro just south of Luzon.

The Japanese military had already decided that the POWs were to be killed at the time of the invasion.

On 14 December 1944 the POWs were ordered into the air raid shelters and Japanese soldiers doused the wooden shelters with buckets of gasoline and set them afire with torches and grenades. They shot, bayoneted or clubbed to death nearly all POWs who were able to escape the burning shelters. The search and killing of survivors continued until dark. Some of the wounded were buried alive in mass graves. Of the 150 American POWs held in the Palawan prison camp on that day only 11 survived.

Palawan_Massacre_POW_Burial_Site_1945editPHOTO Caption: Burial Site of the Palawan Massacre taken by Bob Meza US Navy in March 1945

Million's remains are among those 123 recovered after the war and buried in a mass grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri on February 14, 1952 in Section 85. This was presumably because the remains could not be positively individually identified.

Fellow Harrodsburg tanker Private Willard R. Yeast also died in the Massacre.

Four other Kentuckians, with no Kentucky National Guard connection, also perished in the massacre: Private James Louis Choate; of Madisonville, Hopkins County; Private William Thomas Cravens, of Port Royal, Henry County; Private James Rollie Rudd, of Cutuno, Magoffin County and Sergeant James Houston Stidham of Hardshell, Breathitt County.

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bataanprojlogoSEE Also: Bataan Commemorative Research Project Website Million Bio

The Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund, Inc., is a recognized 501(c)(3). EIN 26-3705273
 

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