Cummins, John L. (P2, C2, L9)
Private First Class John Lewis Cummins, 23, of Mercer County, Kentucky, was lost at sea on 24 October 1944 when an American submarine attacked the unmarked Japanese prisoner transport ship he was being held aboard en-route to Formosa as a prisoner of war while on federal active duty.
Cummins joined the Kentucky National Guard before they were activated for World War II. The 38th Tank Company was the first Kentucky unit ordered to active duty in Kentucky on 25 November 1940 and was redesignated as Company D, 192nd Light Tank Battalion at Fort Knox. Cummins was assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion in January 1941.
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. Cummins worked to supply the tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion with gasoline and ammunition in the fight against the Japanese.
He was taken prisoner on 11 April 1942 and moved in trucks to Mariveles. He survived the Death March. He was held at Camp O' Donnell where he went on a work detail to repair bridges. He was then sent to Cabanatuan and later to Bilibid Prison. In October 1944 Cummins was sent to Manila and boarded the hell ship Arisan Maru bound for Formosa.
On 24 October 1944, around 5:00 pm, near Shoonan off the coast of China two torpedoes from an American submarine struck amidships. The Japanese guards cut the rope ladders to the holds and closed the hatch covers before abandoning ship leaving the POWs. Some of the POWs managed to climb out of the holds and lowered rope ladders. Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue them from the water. The ship eventually broke in two and sank during the night. Of the 1,803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking. Since he was lost at sea, Cummins’ name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.
SEE Also: Bataan Commemorative Research Project Website Cummins Bio
PFC John Lewis Cummins’ family resided in Kentucky since the late 1700s. He was born on January 31, 1921, in Mercer County, the oldest of the four children born to Jack Cummins and Mary Bell Dennis-Cummins. He was known as “Lewis” to his family. As a child, John attended school in McAfee, Kentucky, near the family farm. Like many young men of his time, he attended high school but did not finish. After he left school, he worked as a grocery store clerk.
John joined the Kentucky National Guard’s 38th Tank Company headquartered in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. On November 25, 1940, John’s tank company was federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The company boarded 10 trucks in Harrodsburg on November 28th and its tanks were loaded onto a flatcar and taken by train to Ft. Knox. The company left Harrodsburg at 12:30 P.M. arriving about four hours later at 4:30 P.M.