Bertrand

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.

    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 sent overseas.  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 Bay. 
    On the island, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals.  Those who had minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Donald left the United States as a sergeant.

    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  For many, it would be the last time that they would ever see the United States.  The battalion arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.
   
At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  In another incident, the cruiser escorting the ships took off after an unknown ship whose smoke could be seen over the horizon.   The bow of the ship came out of the water and it sped off.  It turned out the ship was from a neutral country.
    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.  

    Seventeen days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Donald and the other members of Company B arrived in Manila.  The battalion was deployed Fort Stotsenbeurg. 
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.

    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.
    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 tank platoon, 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 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.
    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.

    A few days prior to the surrender, he was reassigned to C Company.  Donald 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 #29. 
    It is also known that Donald was sent to Davao, Mindanao, on a detail that built runways.  While he was a POW there, his parents received a POW card from him. 
At Pier 7, the POWs were boarded onto the Erie Maru.  The POWs had enough room to lay down without being crowded.  The hatches to the ships holds were left open to provide ventilation.  The POWs were allowed on deck once the ship cleared Manila Harbor. 

    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.

    On 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 compound.

    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 POWs.  Bullets 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 evening meal.

    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 children were unloaded.  During 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 everywhere.
    Inside the hold, the moaning and muttering of men who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night.  That night many POWs died in the hold.   Some POWs were reported of drinking urine and howling.

    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 disembarked after daybreak.  It was December 15th.  The POWs were still sitting in the holds hours after daybreak when the sound of planes was heard.  When the U.S. Navy planes resumed their attack, the attacks came in waves.  The planes attacked in waves of 30 to 50 planes.  The attacks lasted anywhere from twenty minutes to a half hour.  After each wave there was a lull, of about 30 minutes, until more planes appeared. 
    The POWs would live through three more attacks.  During one attack, a bomb came through the side of the ship blowing a large hole in the aft hold and resulting in the deaths of many POWs.  The POWs noted that the attack was heavier than the day before. 

    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.

    The evening of December 16th, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs.  About half of the rice  had fallen out of the bags because of holes.  Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt. 
    At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 20th, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court.  Rumors flew on
where they going to be taken.  At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English, "No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid."  The guard knew as little as the POWs.
    On December 21st, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon.  Once there, they were put in a movie theater.  Since it was dark, the POWs saw the theater as a dungeon. 
    During their time at San Fernando, the POWs lived through several air raids.  The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area.  Most of the civilians had been evacuated from the barrio.  Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
    At about 10:00 PM on December 23rd,  the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs.  The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck.  It was believed these men were taken to Bilibid Prison.  The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
   After ten in the morning on December 24th, the POWs were taken to the train station.  The POWs saw that the train station had been hit by bombings and that the train cars had bullet holes in them from strafing.  180 to 200 POWs were packed into steel boxcars with four guards.  The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible.  Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards on each car.  The guards told the POWs it was okay to wave to the American planes.
    On December 25th, the POWs disembarked at San Francisco, La Union, at 2:00 AM and disembarked. They
walked two kilometers to a schoolyard on the southern outskirts of the barrio.  From December 25th until the 26th, the POWs were held in a schoolhouse.  The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach.  During the time on the beach, the POWs were given one handful of rice and a canteen of water.  The heat from the sun was so bad that the men drank seawater.  Many of the men who did this died.
    The remaining prisoners were boarded until another "hell ship" the Enoura Maru.  On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds.  The ship had been use to haul cattle.  The POWs were held in the same stalls that the cattle had been held in.  In the lower hold, the POWs were lined up in companies of 100 men.  Each man had four feet of space.  Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.

    The daily routine for the POWs on the ship was to have six men climb out of the hold.  Once on deck, they would use ropes to pull up the dead and also pull up the human waste in buckets.  Afterwards, the men on deck would lower ten buckets containing rice, soup, and tea.  The dead were thrown into the sea.

    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.


 

 


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