Blonien

 

Pvt. Elmer Florian Blonien


    Pvt. Elmer F. Blonien was born on April 12, 1916, to John K. Blonien and Katherine Muellenbach-Blonien.  In 1930, his family moved to Wood County, Wisconsin, where his family resided in the town of Rudolph.  It is known he had one brother and three sisters.   He worked in his father's grocery store until he was drafted.

    On April 7, 1941, Elmer was inducted into the U. S. Army.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training.  During the trip down to Ft. Knox, Elmer became friends with Albert Dubois.  The two met while playing cards on the train.  When DuBois ran out of money, Elmer gave DuBois three dollars so that he could keep playing.  

    At Ft. Knox, Elmer was assigned to A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The reason this was done was the army was attempting to fill out the rosters of the letter companies with men from the home states of each company.  He trained as a tank driver.

    In the late summer of 1941, Elmer took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After these maneuvers, at Camp Polk, he learned his battalion was being sent overseas. 

       The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
   
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.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, 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.  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. 
    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.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
     
  On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  They remained there off and on for several days.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.  The tanks were put on alert.  Sometime before noon, the alert was canceled and the planes that had filled the sky landed.  Many were lined up near the mess hall.

    The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45.  Many of the tankers counted 53 planes.  The planes approached the airfield and watched hat was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.

    Elmer lived through the bombing of Clark Field.  During the attack, he and the other tankers could do little since their guns were not made to use against planes.   Elmer spent the next four months fighting the Japanese and on April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War.

    Elmer made his way to Mariveles where he started what became known as the death march.  The POWs walked out of the barrio heading north toward San Fernando.  The first few miles it was all uphill and many of the prisoners quickly had a hard time keeping up with their group.

    At one point, the POWs had to run across an field where the Japanese had artillery that was firing on Corregidor.  At San Fernando, Elmer and the other men were packed into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold eight horses or 40 men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.

    Albert DuBois stated that the march was harder on Elmer because he was a big man.  In his opinion, Elmer's health began to fail as a result of the march.

    At Capas, the POWs who were still living climbed out of the cars.  The bodies of the dead fell to the car floors as the living left the cars.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. 

    Camp O'Donnell was a death trap.  As many as fifty men died each day.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  The death rate among the POWs got so bad that the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.  Those prisoners considered to be healthy were sent there.

    Sometime during Elmer's imprisonment at Cabanatuan, he became ill with malaria, which resulted in his developing a spleen infection.  Elmer was put in the camp hospital on October 5, 1942.  Abie Abraham, who was Elmer's friend, was also in the hospital.  In a letter to Elmer's family, he told of how Elmer talked about his family and how much he loved them. 

    According to Albert DuBois of A Company, he saw Elmer twelve hours before Elmer died.  Elmer no longer had the smile on his face that he always seemed to have.  His face was filled with pain.

    DuBois spoke to the doctor treating Elmer.  The doctor looked at him and said, "I don't know if he can live without a spleen, but he can't live with the one he has."  The doctor removed Elmer's spleen without anesthesia, anesthetic or the proper medical equipment.  

    Both Dubois and Forest Knox, also of A Company, stated that Elmer was in terrible pain.  According to Knox, Elmer lay on a stretcher all night after the surgery.  He held onto the handles of the stretcher and twisted his hands in pain.  The result was that the flesh was gone from the palms of his hands.  During this time, Elmer never made a sound.

    Pvt. Elmer H. Blonien died after surgery on Tuesday, October 20, 1942, at approximately 3:45 PM.  He was buried in the camp cemetery at Cabanatuan.   His parents would not learn of his death until August 1943.  Other records, kept by the medical staff show, that Elmer died on November 15, 1942.

    After the war, on December 15, 1947, the the remains of Pvt. Elmer F. Blonien were disinterred from Grave 721, Row 0, Plot 10 at the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery.  They were given the identification of X-4048.  He was reburied on March 22, 1948. 

    When the new American Cemetery was opened, the remains were disinterred again and buried at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila as an "unknown".  Since Elmer' Blonien was buried as an "unknown", his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.

    In addition, Elmer's parents had a memorial headstone placed in the town cemetery in Rudolph.


 

 

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