Bartz_R

 

Sgt. Robert W. Bartz


    Sgt. Robert W. Bartz was the son of Albert E. Bartz & Ida C. Hawkinson-Bartz.  He was born on March 31, 1920, in Edgerton, Wisconsin, and was one of eight children born to the couple.  With his four brothers and three sisters, he grew up at 220 North Palm Street in Janesville.  He worked as a farmhand.   

    Robert joined the Wisconsin National Guard on September 30, 1940.  He was a member of the same tank company as his brother, Albert.  On November 25, 1940, Bob was called to federal duty when his Wisconsin National Guard company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for nearly a year and then took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that he and the other members of his company that his battalion was being sent overseas.
    The reason for this move was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, on a routine patrol, when one of the pilots noticed something odd in the water.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water. and saw another flagged buoy in the distance.  The squadron flew toward it and came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its designated patrol and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed and reported what had been seen, it was too late to do anything that evening.
   The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area but the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted.  It was on August 15th that the decision was made to send the battalion to the Philippines.
    The battalion traveled by train routes to San Francisco, California, and were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island by the ferry the U.S.A.T Frank M. Coxe.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals from its medical detachment, and those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.      When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
During this p
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    Sailing, the ship arrived in Manila Bay the morning of November 20, 1941, at 8:00.  The soldiers disembarked the ship about three hours after it docked.  Most took buses to a train station and rode a train to Ft. Stotsenburg.
     At the fort, they were greeted by General Edward P. King, who apologized to the men that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
     The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the 192nd were told of the attack on Pearl Harbor and sent to their tanks around Clark Field.  A week earlier, they had been given assigned positions around the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon, to be refueled, and lined up, in a straight line, near the pilots' mess hall.    
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American.  As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  Anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing. 
    That night, since they did not have any foxholes, the men used the old latrine pit for cover.  Being that it was safer in the trench than in their tents, the men slept in the pit.  The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes.  Without knowing it, they had slept their last night on a cot or bed for the next three and a half years.  From this point on, the men slept in blankets on the ground.

    The company receive orders on December 12th and went to the Barrio of Dau so it could protect a highway and railroad from sabotage.   From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno 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 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
    At the Gumain River, the night of December 31st to the morning of January 1st, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
    At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese.  The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them.  The result was the loss of three tanks.
    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.  It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.  The company returned to the command of the 192nd. 
    The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan.  The night of January 7th, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
    While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops.  The morning of January 27th, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it.  That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn.  While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.   
    On January 28th, the tank battalions 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.
    A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese Marines 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 had left 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. 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.

    The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat.  The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten.  They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.   
    On March 2nd or 3rd, during the Battle of the Points.  The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line.  The Japanese were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.   Both of the pockets were wiped out.
    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.

    The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea.  By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.  Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave.  When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die."  The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.

    After fighting the Japanese for four months, Robert became a Prisoner of War when the Filipino and American troops were surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.
    It was from Mariveles, at the southern tip of Bataan, that Robert began the death march.  The POWs made their way north to San Fernando.  There, they were placed in a bull pen covered in human waste.  When ordered to by the Japanese, they formed a detachment of 100 POWs and marched to the train station. 
    At the station, they were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "forty and eights."  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living disembarked at Capas.  From there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Robert was held as a POW he took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  To get out of the camp, Robert volunteered to go out on a work detail to collect scrap metal.  He was part of a group of ten POWs who would tie the disabled American vehicles together, with ropes, and drive them to San Fernando.  Four months later Robert was sent to the Pampanga Provincial Hospital after he came down with malaria.  After recovering from the malaria, on October 10, 1942, he was sent to Bilibid Prison where he was admitted to Ward 8.  Medical records indicate he remained at Bilibid until February 10, 1943, when he was discharged and sent to Cabanatuan.  
    In July 1944, a list of POWs was posted at Cabanatuan.
At 8:00 P.M. on July 15th, trucks arrived at the camp.  The POWs were boarded onto the trucks and taken to Bilibid Prison.  The POWs arrived at Bilibid seven hours later.  Their dinner was rotten sweet potatoes.  Since it was night, they had to eat in the dark.  Since he was ill he was put into the hospital ward.  "They treated us pretty good during the time at Bilibid-and I don't think it was just because I was in the hospital.  The hospital orderlies and doctors were Americans, mostly naval personnel.  Their medical supplies were scant but they had quite a bit of equipment needed in performing surgery."
    They remained at Bilibid until July 17th at 8:00 A.M. and walked to Pier 7 and boarded onto the Nissyo Maru.  The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of the POWs were put into the read hold.
    The ship was moved and remained outside the breakwater, at Manila, from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy.  The POWs were fed rice and vegetables, twice a day, which were cooked together.  They also received two canteen cups of water each day. 
    The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island at 2:00 P.M.  It remained off the island overnight and sailed at 8:00 A.M. the next day.  The ship sailed north by northeast.  On July 26th at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large fire off the ship.  It turned out that the one of the ships, the Otari Yama Maru had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack.  On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M.   The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. and continued its northward trip all day and night of July 29th.  On July 30th, the ship ran into a storm which kept submarines away.  The storm finally passed by August 2nd, and the next day the POWs were issued clothing. It arrived at Moji, Japan, the night of August 3rd, at about midnight. 
    At 8:00 in the morning the next day, the POWs disembarked the ship. They were taken to a theater and were held in it all day.  They were organized into detachments of 200 men and taken to the train station.  The train left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at the camp at 2:00 A.M., they were unloaded and walked the three miles to the camp. 
Robert and the other POWs were sent to Fukuoka #23 with him was Pfc. Earl Burchard of A Company. The camp commandant gave each POW his job after talking to the man.

    There, Robert and the other POWs worked in a coal mine.  "We use to work ten days on the day shift and ten days night and the only time we got off was when we switched shifts-then we get the extra time until the alternate shift. It was a merry-go-round."  The POWs rotated shifts in the mine.  For ten days, they would work days and then rotated and worked ten nights.  A work day for the prisoners lasted 12 to 14 hours.  Recalling his time as a POW, he said, "One day was the same as another, as far as we were concerned over there.  We use to work ten days on the day shift and ten nights and the only time off was when we switched shifts - then we'd get the extra time until the alternate shift." 

    The POWs in the camp were fed mainly rice.  "Rice and more rice - only it was never enough."  But, they also ate seaweed and potato tops.  There were times that the POWs ate grass.   Since the diet were so bad, Robert developed pellagra and beriberi.

    The day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Robert recalled the camp shook since it was 80 miles from the city. 
    On August 28th, B-29s appeared over the camp. Two of the planes circled and dropped fifty gallon drums to  the POWs.  For the first time, the POWs knew they were now in charge.  Most of the guards quickly disappeared.  On September 15th, Americans arrived in the camp.  When he was liberated, John weighed less than 80 pounds.  The POWs were taken by truck to the train station.  They road the train to Nagasaki.  Once there, they were given physicals, deloused, and the seriously ill were boarded onto a hospital ship.  The rest were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to Okinawa.  They were than flown back to the Philippines before returning to the United States on the Dutch ship, the S.S. Klipfontein arriving there in October 1945.

    Robert returned to Janesville after the war and learned his father had died, in 1943, while he was a POW.  He was discharged from the army on May 26, 1947.  Robert married Eleanor Goehler and would move to Richmond, Illinois, where he was superintendent of the public works department until he retired in 1975. 

    Robert Bartz moved to Harrington, Texas, and in November 1977, he suffered a massive heart attack.  He appeared to be recovering when he suddenly passed away on March 6, 1978.  He was buried at Mont Meta Memorial Park, San Benito, Texas.



Return to A Company

Next