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
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.
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.
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 Baluiag. 2nd 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.
unaware of the
they came from
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
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
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.
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.