S/Sgt. Richard C. Armato
| S/Sgt. Richard
C. Armato was the son of Italian immigrants.
He was born on January 15, 1912, to Antonia
Gigante-Armato and Dominick Armato. He grew
up in Melrose Park, Illinois, and with
friends joined the Illinois National Guard as a
member of the 33rd Divisional Tank Company in
Before he was inducted into the army in 1940, Richard worked, as a bank clerk, at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago and lived at 741 North Waller Avenue in Chicago. When his tank company was called to federal service on November 25, 1940, Richard was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training.
At Fort Knox, Richard learned to operate all the equipment that was used by the company. He next went to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941. It was there that the 192nd Tank Battalion was selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.
When news of the overseas assignment given, Richard was given the opportunity to resign from federal service. This was done because he was 29 years old. Since he shipped out with his company, Richard chose to remain in the service.
By train, the company traveled to San
Francisco. Once there, they were ferried to
Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. On Angel
Island, they were housed in barracks at Fort
MacDowell. There, they were inoculated
for overseas duty.
The night of December 7th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. That night, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had reached the Philippines. All morning as the sky was filled with American planes. At noon the planes landed and the pilots went to have lunch.
As Richard and the other tankers watched, planes approached the airfield from the north. Tiny raindrops began to fall from the planes. When the bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. When the attack ended, the American Air Force in the Philippines had been practically destroyed.
Richard fought with his company after the Japanese invaded the Philippine Islands. In January 1942, they entered Bataan. The plan was to hold the Japanese off until relieved. They had no idea at the time that no one was coming to relieve them.
Many of the tankers, on their tanks radios, heard Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson say that in war some men would have to be sacrificed. He and the other tankers knew that he was talking about them.
Richard became a Prisoner of War when the Philippine Islands fell to the Japanese. He became a Prisoner of War on April 9, 1942 and took part in the death march.
From Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, Richard made his way to San Fernando. There, he and the other POWs were put into small wooden boxcars and rode to Capas. At Capas, they disembarked and walked to Camp O'Donnell.
O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military
base. There was only one water faucet for the
entire camp. As many as fifty POWs died each
day. The situation was so bad that the
Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
Richard was sent to the camp and assigned to
Barracks #5, Group 2. Medical records from the
camp show that Richard was hospitalized on April 13,
1943. The records do not show why he was
hospitalized or when he was discharged.
During this time,
Richard was selected to be sent to Japan.
On July 15,
1944, he was one of the POWs who boarded between
25 to 30 trucks for Bilibid Prison. The
POWs left the camp at 8:00 P.M. and arrived at
Bilibid at 2:00 in the morning. The
morning of July 17th, the POWs at 7:00 A.M. the
POWs were marched to the port area. When
they arrived, the Japanese attempted to put 1600
POWs in the rear hold of the ship. When
they realized this could not be done, they moved
900 POWs to the forward hold.
The next morning the POWs disembarked the ship and marched to a theater. They remained in the dark theater for hours. The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 200 men. The detachments were marched to the train station and boarded trains to the camps they were assigned. From Moji, Richard was sent to Fukuoka #3. This camp provided slave labor for the Yawata Steel Mills.
The prisoners were given various jobs including cleaning out the debris from the blast furnaces. Since Richard and the other POWs were slave labor, the Japanese saw no reason to allow the ovens to cool before the POWs cleaned them.
After three and a half years as a POW, he was liberated when the Japanese surrendered in 1945. He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman arriving on October 16, 1945, and was discharged, from the army, on June 20, 1946. He returned home to Melrose Park.
Richard later joined a monastery in Wisconsin where he studied to become a Catholic priest. After leaving the monastery, he moved to San Diego, California, where his sister and brother-in-law had moved. He worked as a title searcher for American Title & Insurance.
Richard Armato passed away on August 3, 1985, and was buried at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego next to his brother-in-law. He was 73 years old.