2nd Lt. Donald Ray Bertrand
2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand was born in Roswell, New Mexico, on August 8, 1919. When he was two, his parents, Thomas Bertrand & Mary Pope-Bertrand, moved their family first to Estherville, Iowa, and then to Maywood, Illinois. In Maywood, he, his brother, and two sisters were raised at 205 South 8th Avenue and attended Emerson Grade School. He graduated from Proviso Township High School in 1939 and worked as a receiving clerk at a paper good company.
Donald joined the 33rd Tank Company of the
Illinois National Guard to fulfill his
military obligation. On November 25,
1940, Donald left for Fort Knox, Kentucky, for
training. At Fort Knox, Donald learned to
operate the all the equipment used by the
192nd. He attended radio operators
school and qualified as a radio man.
When Headquarters Company was formed, Donald
was assigned to the company as the technical
sergeant in the reconnaissance
platoon. In the late summer of 1941,
the 192nd was sent to take part in maneuvers
in Louisiana. When
the maneuvers ended,
the 192nd Tank
Battalion was ordered
to remain behind at
Camp Polk. The
members of the
battalion had no idea
why they were being
kept there. What
they were told, on the
side of a hill, was
that they were being
He retured home on leave became
engaged to Evelyn Crowe.
After the companies were brought up to strength
with replacements, from the 753rd Tank
Battalion, for the men released from federal
service, the battalion received the 753rd's tank
and half-tracks. The companies of the
battalion traveled over different railroad
routes to San Francisco. From there, they
were ferried to Angel Island in San Francisco
The 192nd was
Hugh L. Scott
for Hawaii as
part of a
For many, it
would be the
last time that
ever see the
2nd. The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the
In the Philippines, Donald was reassigned to C Company and received a battlefield commission as an officer. He was made a tank platoon commander. Donald lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field on December 8, 1941.
On December 16, 1941, Donald and Lt.
Emmett Gibson were at Clark Field when
Japanese planes appeared to bomb the
airfield once more. The two
officers found themselves in a
slip-trench during a Japanese air
attack. Each one had a .30 caliber
machine gun and opened fire on the
planes. Both men watched as their
tracers went through the wings of the
Japanese fighters. The pilots of
the planes broke off the attack and took
off for home.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the
company crossed over the last bridge which was
mined and about to be blown. The 292nd
held its position so that the 194th Tank
Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover
the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last
American unit to enter Bataan.
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.
few days prior to the
surrender, he was
reassigned to C
took part in the death march and was
held as a Prisoner of War at Camp
O'Donnell until he was selected to
go on a work detail. During
this time, he lived in Barracks
Food for the prisoners was generous. The food was well prepared and each POW received a full mess kit of rice and a canteen cup filled with a thick cabbage soup containing pork. They even were given corn beef and cabbage one night.
The trip on the freighter lasted 13 days.
The reason was the ship made frequent stops in
ports along the coast of Luzon. The POWs
disembarked the ship at Davao, where they joined
another group of 1000 prisoners. To the
POWs these prisoners at Davao appeared to
be well fed when compared to the men in their
group. Upon arrival of new POWs, the
rations for these men were cut in half which
caused friction between the two groups.
At Davao, the prisoners were assigned to a farm. The prisoners grew rice, sweet potatoes, cassava roots, coffee and squash. The food was used to feed the Japanese soldiers in the Philippines. Leftover food was ship to the military in Japan. The only part of this food the prisoners received were the plant tops from the sweet potatoes. The prisoners were fed rice three times a day. The evening meal would also include mongo beans. For three to four months, the POWs also received tuna fish once a week.
Unlike the many camps, there was plenty of water available to the prisoners and there was a well in the compound. The POWs could actually keep themselves and their clothes clean. Being clean was a great help in improving the health of the POWs.
As the American forces got closer to the Philippine Islands the Japanese began to send as many POWs to Japan or other occupied countries as possible. On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindano, by truck. Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed. The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano, for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17th. The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse. The POWs were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship and arrived at Manila on June 25th. He was later sent to Bilibid Prison.
December 12, 1944, the POWs
heard rumors that a detail was
being sent out. The next
day, December 13th, the POWs
went through what was a farce of
an inspection which started at
7:30 in the morning and lasted
until after 9:00. They
were told cigarettes, soap, and
salt would be issued. The
POWs were also told that they
would also receive a meal to eat
and one to take with them.
They were allowed to roam the
By 11:30 A.M., the POWs were lined up, roll call was taken,and the POWs formed detachments of 100 men. The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
The Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports. There were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked. One was a old run down ship, the other two were large and in good shape. They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship.
It was at this time the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon. They were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
Donald was put into the ship's rear hold. 800 POWs were put in the hold and were then fed fish and barley. The sides of the hold had two tiers of bunks that went around its diameter. The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from it.
The ship left Manila on December 14th, at about 3:30 AM, as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water. Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, and water. Three fourths of a cup of water was shared by twenty POWs.
At dawn, the prisoners
had just eaten when they
heard the sound of
guns. At first, they
thought the anti-aircraft
gun crews were just
drilling since they had
not heard any
planes. It was only
when the first bomb
exploded that they knew it
was no drill. The
POWs heard the change in
the sound of the planes'
engines as they began
their dives toward the
ships in the convoy.
Explosions were taking
place all around the
from the planes ricocheted
in to the hold causing
many casualties. In
all, the POWs would have
to sweat out five air
raids. The one
result of the raid was no
At four-thirty in the afternoon, the ship experienced its worse attack. It was hit at least three times, by bombs, on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs were wounded by ricocheting bullets or shrapnel from explosions. Bombs that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water over it. Bullets from the fighters hit the metal hull plates at an angle that prevent most from penetrating the hull. Somewhere on the ship a fire had started but was put out after several hours.
After the first raid, the
ship was left alone by
"playing possum" in the
water. The fighters
went after the other ships
in the convoy. The
POWs believed that the
planes were attempting to
destroy the anti-aircraft
guns on the escort ships.
Sometime after midnight,
the POWs heard noise on
deck as women and
the night, the medics
in the ship's hold
were ordered out, by a
Japanese officer, to
tend to the Japanese
wounded. One of
the medics recalled
that the dead, dying,
and wounded were
The ship steamed in
closer to the beach
and its anchor was
dropped at about
2:20. At 4:00
A.M., the POWs were
told they would be
daybreak. It was
The POWs were still
sitting in the holds
hours after daybreak
when the sound of
the U.S. Navy planes
attack, the attacks
came in waves.
waves of 30 to
to a half
wave there was
a lull, of
At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the POWs, "All go home; Speedo!" He also shouted that the wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. The pilots continued the attack. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. One hitting the stern of the ship killing many.
In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
About a half hour later, the ship's stern started to really burn. Donald made his way on deck and went over the side. Donald swam to shore near Olongapo Naval Station, Subic Bay, Luzon. As he swam to shore, which was about 300 to 400 yards away. Japanese soldiers fired on the POWs to keep them in the water so they would not escape. As they swam to shore, four American planes flew over them at a low altitude. The POWs frantically waved to them hoping to prevent them from strafing. One plane veered off and returned flying even lower over the POWs. This time, he dipped their wings to acknowledge they knew the men in the water were Americans. Once on shore, the POWs were herded onto tennis courts at the Olongapo Naval Station at Subic Bay. It was noted by the POWs when they reached shore that much of the ship's stern was blown away.
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. What was learned is that these men were taken to a cemetery and shot. They were buried at a cemetery nearby. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts for five or six days. During that time, they were given water but not fed.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time on the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
kilo bags of
rice for the
About half of
had fallen out
of the bags
Each POW was
spoons of raw
rice, and a
quarter of a
the POWs on
the ship was
to have six
men climb out
Once on deck,
they would use
ropes to pull
up the dead
and also pull
up the human
the men on
The dead were
During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and docked around 11:30 AM. After arriving at Takao, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat. This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water. From January 1st through the 5th, the POWs received one meal a day and very little water. This resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise. On January 6th, the POWs began to receive two meals a day.
While docked at Takao, the Enoura Maru came under attack by American planes the morning of January 9th. The POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine guns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard. The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.
One bomb that hit the ship exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 285 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in in the hold for three days with the dead. The stench from the dead filled the air. On January 11th, a work detail was formed and about half the dead were removed from the hold. The dead were unloaded from the ship, and a POW detail of twenty men took the corpses to a large furnace where they were cremated. These men reported that 150 POWs had been cremated. Their ashes were buried in a large urn on Formosa. Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold were moved into another hold.
On January 13th, the surviving POWs were boarded onto a third "Hell Ship" the Brazil Maru. On the ship, the POWs found they had more room and were actually issued life jackets. The ship sailed for Japan on January 14th as part of a convoy. 2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand died in the ship's hold on January 20, 1945. The cause of death was listed as dysentery on the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion, but U.S. Army records show that he died from wounds he had received during the attack on the Enoura Maru. Donald was 23 years old.
After 2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand died, his body was thrown overboard after being stripped of its clothing. His clothing was given to other prisoners who needed it. Since he died at sea, 2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.