2nd Lt. Richard Emmanuel Danca


    2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca was born on October 23, 1918, to Joseph and Sarah Danca in River Forest, Illinois.  He was known as "Emmanuel" to his family and friends.  With his brother and sister, he grew up at 26 Lathrop Avenue in Forest Park, Illinois, and attended grade school there.  He was a graduate of Proviso Township High School as a member of the Class of 1935. 

     On February 13, 1935, Richard joined the Illinois National Guard while he was a senior in high school.  He was honorably discharged as a private later that year.  He reenlisted and was discharged again in 1938.  Richard again reenlisted in the National Guard.  During his time in the National Guard, he worked as a company clerk, truck driver and mechanic.

    Richard married Elenore Drexler on March 11, 1940.  His family resided at 815 Marengo Avenue in Forest Park.  He worked for the U. S. Post Office as a postal clerk at Hines Veterans Administration Hospital.  He was also a good father to his infant son, Richard, who was born at Fort Knox, while Danca was training there.  He was a devoted husband to his wife.

    On November 25, 1940, the Maywood Tank Company was called to federal duty as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  It was at this time that "Dick," as he was called by his friends, was promoted to 1st Sergeant.  This made him the "Top Kick" or highest ranking enlisted man in B Company. 

    With the creation of Headquarters Company in January, 1941, B Company was in desperate need of officers.  To fill the vacancies, Richard, along with Matthew MacDowell and Ed Winger, was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant.  Each of these new officers went to a service school to help them learn the skills of administering a tank company.  Richard was given command of the first tank platoon of the B Company.

    After training at Fort Knox, Kentucky was completed, Richard went with the 192nd to take part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was called together at Camp Polk and informed that they were being shipped overseas.  

    The battalion's men and equipment were loaded onto trains and headed west to San Francisco.  On the train, Capt. Donald Hanes called his platoon commanders together to select combat numbers for their tanks.  Richard being third in seniority picked third.  These numbers were to painted on the tanks after they arrived in the Philippine Islands.

    Upon arriving in San Francisco, the battalion was taken to Angel Island.  There they received the necessary shots and were boarded onto transports and sailed for the Philippines. 

    On December 8, 1941, Richard lived through the bombing of Clark Field.  Before the attack and having received word of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks had been dispersed along the perimeter of Clark Field on December 1st.  This was done to prevent enemy paratroopers from landing at the field.  At all times two tank crew members remained with their tank.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tankplatoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was th e last American unit to enter Bataan.
    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. 
The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.    
    B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.

    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.

    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.   
      

    After the Japanese landed troops on Luzon, Richard led his tanks into action against the Japanese.  Often this meant providing coverage so the Filipino and American forces could fall back and form new lines.  He was wounded during one of these engagements.

    The last news that Richard's family received from him was in a letter dated February, 1942.  They did not receive the letter until August, 1942. 

    On April 9, 1942, Richard became a Prisoner of War when the defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  The tankers destroyed their tanks before making their way to Mariveles.  It was from there that Richard began the Death March.

    From Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, the POWs made their way to San Fernando.  At one point, they had to run past Japanese artillery that was firing at Corregidor.  Corregidor returned fire.  At San Fernando, they were held in cattle bins that were covered in human waste. 

     The POWs were then boarded onto small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  At Capas, the POWs disembarked the boxcars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    As a POW, Lt. Richard Danca was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  He was then sent to Bilibid Prison for transport to Japan.  Sometime during these imprisonments, he developed an infection which resulted in his developing blood poisoning. 

    It was on the Hell Ship, Nagato Maru, that 2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca died.  His date of death was November 13, 1942.  It is known that he died after the ship had docked at Tokao, Formosa.

    According to other members of B Company,  Richard's body was taken ashore and cremated.  His ashes were returned to the ship and given to Lt. Col. Ted Wickord.  Upon the ship's arrival in Japan, the Japanese authorities took Richard's ashes at Umeda POW Camp.  At the end of the war, no one knew what had happened to his remains.   His wife learned of his death on September 2, 1943.

Since the final resting place of 2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca is unknown, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

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