Boeshart

 

Sgt. Charles Raymond Boeshart


    Sgt. Charles R. Boeshart was born on August 18, 1915, in Columbus, Ohio.  He 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 & High Streets.  In 1920, his family moved to a farm on Catawba Island near Port Clinton, Ohio.  They would later move to Port Clinton, Ohio and reside 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.

    In the fall of 1940, Charles's tank company was federalized as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  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. What he remembered about the maneuvers was the heat and humidity.  After the maneuvers, he and the rest of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  Charles was given a ten day pass home.  During this time, he married a girl from Kentucky whom he had met on a blind date.  The next day, October 12, 1941, he returned to Camp Polk.

    Traveling west by train to San Francisco, Charles and the other soldiers were taken to Angel Island.  While waiting for the other companies of the battalion to arrive, he played tourist and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.
    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.  The tankers remaining behind prepared the tanks and half-tracks for transport to the fort.
    At the Ft. Stotsenburg, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    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.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    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. 

    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. Charles remained in the camp until October 1942.

    On October 5, Charles was one of the first POWs selected to be sent to another occupied country to supply slave labor.  The POWs were awakened at 2:00 in the morning and to Manila.  Arriving there, they were housed in a warehouse on Pier 7.  Charles and the others remained at the warehouse until they where he was boarded onto the Tottori Maru on October 7th.

    The Tottori Maru sailed on October 8th.  During the trip, twelve men died.  Since they were also sick with dysentery, the floor of the hold was covered in human waste.  Immediately after sailing, the ship was attacked by an American submarine. The ship's captain maneuvered the ship so that the torpedoes passed harmlessly passed it.

    On October 12th, the ship reached Takao, Formosa.  It dropped anchor and remained in port for four days.  It sailed on October 16th, but returned to Takao.  On October 18th, it sailed again.  When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao.  During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.

    The ship sailed again on October 30th.  On October 31st, the ship stopped at Makao, Formosa before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea.  It was during this portion of the voyage that the ship was caught in a typhoon for five days.  The Tottori Maru dropped anchor at Pusan on November 7th.  The POWs were disembarked the next day.

    The POWs were 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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