Boeshart

 

Sgt. Charles Raymond Boeshart


    Sgt. Charles R. Boeshart was born on August 18, 1915, in Columbus, Ohio, and was the son of William J. Bosehart and Catherine J. Boeshart.  With his two sisters and two brothers, he first lived near Ohio State University at 8th and High Streets.  In 1920, his family moved to a farm on Catawba Island near Port Clinton, Ohio, and later moved to Port Clinton, where they resided at 615 East Third Street.

    After attending local schools, Charles worked for U. S. Gypsum.  With several friends, Charles joined the Company H of the Ohio National Guard which was headquartered in an armory in Port Clinton.  Most joined to earn some extra spending money.

    In the fall of 1940, Charles' tank company was federalized as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion and sent to Fort Knox, on November 28, 1941.  During this time he trained as a tank mechanic.  In January, 1941, he was transferred to Headquarters Company when the company was created with members of the the four letter companies of the battalion.  He would later be assigned to one of three tanks assigned to HQ Company.

    In the late summer of 1941, Charles took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through 30th. What he remembered about the maneuvers was the heat and humidity.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and learned they were being sent overseas.  Men 29 years old or older were released from service.  Charles was given a ten day pass home.  During this time, he married Mildred E. Critchelow whom he had met on a blind date.  The next day, October 12, 1941, he returned to Camp Polk.

    Traveling west over four different train routes to San Francisco, California, the battalion was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  While waiting for the other companies of the battalion to arrive, he played tourist and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Once the battalion had completely arrived, the medical detachment gave physicals to every man.  Those found to have minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some 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.   They 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.
    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, the transport, 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.
    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.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
    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.  
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two tank crew members remained with each tank at  all times.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The tank crew members returned to their tanks.
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. 

    Charles said many of the tank crews ran to their tanks.  He chose to stay out of his tank.  As it turned out a bomb hit the back of the tank destroying it.  He lost everything except a mirror that he shaved with.  He would keep the mirror through the death march and the camps.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks. 
    The tankers were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.  It was at Lingayen Gulf that a platoon of the battalion's tanks engaged the Japanese in the first tank battle of World War II involving American tanks.  The tank companies, during the withdrawal into Bataan, repeatedly were the last unit to disengage from the enemy before a new defensive line was formed.

    Charles spent the next few months fighting the Japanese.  One of the things he remembered was that the tanks had to travel at night to prevent them from being attacked by Japanese planes.  As they drove, they often found themselves on roads and bridges that were too narrow for the tanks.

    To keep his tank on the road as they drove, Charles would lay on the front of the tank and give directions to the driver.  This was particularly important in the mountains where the tanks barely fit on the roads.  Charles would look hang over the front of the tanks and tell the driver which way to turn the tank so that the half of the outside track remained on the road.

    Charles believed that a great deal of the fighting took place at night.  One reason was that the Japanese would attempt to use the cover of darkness to penetrate the American lines.  His memory of this combat was tracers and fiery explosions.
    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, where the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed, so the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but 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.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as the Japanese troops passed the tanks for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.           
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.   Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

     When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks. 

    On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese who were advancing down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the conflicting orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff. 
    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.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6th/7th the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver:  "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw.  Just after the infantry evacuated a column of Japanese came marching down the road and were taken by surprised by the tanks and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese  This stopped the Japanese advance and the tanks withdrew without any problems.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    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, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over. 
   
C 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.     The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.

    During one of these engagements, Charles lost his helmet.  He later saw another helmet on the ground and picked it up.  When he turned it over, there was a head strapped in it.

    When word of the surrender reached C Company, Charles and the other men opened the gasoline cocks on their tanks and flood the tanks.  They threw their guns and ammunition into the tanks and set them on fire.

    During this time the Prisoners of War remained in their bivouac.  One day, Charles watched two Americans go to a rocky precipice.  Both men took off their watches and smashed them under their boots.  Then, they shook hands.  They held hands as they jumped to their deaths.

    The members of C Company remained where they were for two days.  They then made their way to Mariveles.  The soldiers attempted to hide rice and other food on themselves, but the Japanese searched them and threw it on the ground.

    Next, Charles and the other POWs were ordered to move to a school yard where they were made to kneel in the sun without food or water. They soon realized that behind them was Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor.  The American guns on the island began returning fire.  Shells from the American guns began landing among the POWs.  The men had no place to hide and several were killed.  Three of the four Japanese guns were also destroyed.

    It was from Mariveles, late in the afternoon, that Charles began what would later become known as the Bataan Death March.  The first night the POWs were marched all night.  The first place that they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machinegun nest.  Corregidor was shelling the area and several of the shells landed among the POWs killing them.

    What Charles remembered about the march was the thirst that he had.  To keep moisture in his mouth, he kept a small pebble in his mouth.  To make sure that the prisoners could not get water, the Japanese took away the POWs' canteen cups.  The Japanese also would make a show of drinking water from the artesian wells and splashed in it to torment the prisoners.

     Some POWs began drinking water from the hollows that water buffalos were laying.  They very quickly developed dysentery.  Although he was thirsty, Charles waited for the Japanese to give out water.

    Hunger was another enemy facing the POWs.  Some men became so desperate for food that they ran into the sugarcane fields to get food.  Charles saw many men shot attempting to get a piece of sugarcane to eat.

    When Charles reached San Fernando, he and the other prisoners were packed into small wooden boxcars. Each car could hold forty men; 100 men were put into each car.  They were packed in so tight that the dead remained standing until the living jumped out of the cars at Capas.  From there, Charles walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a former Filipino Army camp pressed into service as a prison camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  About two weeks after arriving at Camp O'Donnell, Charles went out a work detail to rebuild the bridges that the Americans had destroyed during their withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula. The detail American commanding officer was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord the commanding officer of the 192nd.

    When the detail ended in September 1942, Charles was sent Cabanatuan.  This camp had been opened because of the conditions at Camp O'Donnell, and he remained in the camp until October 1942.
    800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball.  After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M.  There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M.  The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
    From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila.  Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier.  The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry and were put in a warehouse on the pier.  The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted.  They also were allowed to wash.
    Before boarding the ship on October 7th, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
    The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon.  In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship.  That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck.  Each day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water.  The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship.  The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed.  A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine.  The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
    The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th, and the POWs disembarked and were bathed on the dock.   They sailed again on October 16th at 7:30 A.M. but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M., because the Japanese thought submarines were in the area.  At this time, the POWs were receiving two bags of hardtack and a meal of rice and soup each day.  The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored until October 27th when it returned to Takao.
    During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.  The ship sailed again on October 27th and returned to Takao the same day.  The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned.  They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 28th and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands.  The ship sailed on October 31st, as part of a seven ship convoy.  During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea.  On November 5th, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered.
    The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7th, but the 1300 POWs leaving the ship did not disembark until November 8th.  Those POWs who were too ill to continue the trip to Mukden, Manchuria, remained behind at Fusan.  Those who died were cremated and had their ashed placed in small white boxes which were sent to Mukden.

    The POWs were given new fur-lined coats and boarded onto a train and traveled several days to Mukden, Manchuria. The POWs experienced extreme temperature changes. They had extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters.  If a man died, his body was stored in a warehouse until the spring.  The first winter in the camp, two hundred men died.   The prisoners' barracks were unheated, so they rolled themselves up in their blankets like cigars.  They would also sleep near each other to share body heat.

    Charles recalled that one man escaped from the camp but was recaptured.  He was hung near where the POWs' were fed so that they would see his body as they ate.  He also remembered that if there was a problem with a POW, the Japanese would make the other POWs near the man punch him in the mouth.  They were told that if they refused to hit the man, they would be shot.     

    Charles also recalled that the Japanese would line the prisoners up and have them count to a pre-selected number.  The men who called the number out, would step forward.  These POWs were marched to a area where they were made to dig their own graves.  When they finished, they were shot.

    At Mukden, Charles worked doing construction work in three different camps.  He also worked in a textile mill making clothe.  The air in the mill was filled with dust and fibers.  He and the other POWs constantly coughed and had a hard time breathing while they worked. 

    The POWs did whatever they could to sabotage the machinery.  They would jam the machines, break gears, and put sand into the oiling holes on the machines.  The hard part was to make the sabotage look like it was an accident.

    During his time as a prisoner at Mukden, Charles never was seriously ill, but he did have five teeth removed with a pair of pliers.  There was no medicine to kill the pain.

    The POWs had no real idea of how the war was going, but the local people would tell them rumors.  But what they could see is the American B-29s which began to appear over Mukden.  On one occasion, the planes attempted to bomb a series of ammunition dumps near the camp.  One of the bombs landed in the camp killing 20 POWs.  The air raids became more frequent in 1945.
    One day the POWs were working when they were told to stop working. It was only noon. This was the first sign that something was going on.  The next morning, Charles believed that it was August 15th, the Japanese commander called the POWs out of their quarters and told them that the camp was being closed that they were being returned to the main camp.  The POWs marched three miles to the camp.

    Shortly after the POWs arrived in the camp, American paratroopers were dropped into Mukden.  The men went into the commanding officer's office.  They came out sometime later and told the POWs that the war was over.

    A few days later, August 18, 1945, Russian tanks broke down the gate of the camp.  The Russians disarmed the Japanese.  They also held a formal surrender ceremony with the liberated POWs as the guests of honor.

    Charles and the other freed POWs were taken to Darien, where he learned that his father was extremely ill.  He was taken by the U.S.S. Relief to Okinawa, where arrangements were made for him to be returned to the United States as fast as possible.  He was flown home and arrived in Port Clinton on October 4, 1945.  He was the first member of C Company to return home.

    Charles visited his father who later died on December 7, 1945.  Charles then returned to Kentucky to be with his wife.  He was sent to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio, for dental problems.  He was discharged, from the army, on April 11, 1946.  His wife and him would set up a home in Breckinridge County and later Louisville.  He was the father of two children.

    After the war, Charles became a finish carpenter.  He was so skilled in his trade that he built the pedestal that the stature of General George Patton stands on at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox.

    Charles R. Boeshart passed away on December 17, 1998.  He was buried in Louisville, Kentucky.


 

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