Christ
Pvt. Albert John Christ

    Pvt. Albert J. Christ was born on February14, 1917, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Edward E. Christ & Elizabeth Tierney-Christ.  With his three sisters and three brothers, he grew up at 4427 Maplecroft Avenue in Parma, Ohio.  He graduated high school and went to work in an aluminum mill. 
    Albert was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 28, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  At Ft. Knox, he attended radio operators school and qualified as a tank crew radioman.  During his time at Ft. Knox, he became good friends with Peter Pirnat.  Both were from Ohio. 
   After completing basic training, Albert was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and joined the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia.  When it arrived, maneuvers were taking place, but the battalion did not take part in them.  After the maneuvers ended, the 192nd Tank Battalion learned that they were being deployed.  Men who were 29 years old were given the chance to resign from military service.  Albert was assigned to Headquarters Company.
    The 192nd was sent to San Francisco, California, over four different train routes.  Once there, they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  While at the fort, they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Those men who had physical ailments were held back and told they would rejoin the battalion at a later date.  They never did.
    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 Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  They sailed the same day for Manila.  The ships 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.
    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.
   
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The letter companies were ordered to the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. 
    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.  Albert, and the other members of HQ, took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes.  After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
    For the next four months Albert
worked to keep the tanks running and supplied.  On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M.  The members of the company remained in their bivouac.  Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Albert was now a Prisoner of War.

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road.  They were told to put their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.

    The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Albert's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  Albert, and the other men, had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, he received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
     How long the POWs remained in the bull pen is not known.  The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns and took them to the train depot at San Fernando. 
James was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, Albert walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell. 
     Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water spigot for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day. 
    To get out of the camp because it was a death trap, Albert was one of 300 POWs who went out on the Tayabas Road Detail which left Camp O'Donnell on May 21, 1942.  He may have been better off staying at Camp O'Donnell.  The POWs made a three day trek to Tabayas Province.  They soon found that the Japanese wanted them to build a road with picks and shovels. Their meals were cooked in a rusty wheel barrow, and they slept on the rocks of the river bank where they were working.
    The Japanese divided the POWs into teams.  The teams raced each other and were rewarded with food, water, and breaks for the amount of work they did.  Teams that performed poorly were made to work harder which resulted in them becoming weaker and weaker, since they went without rest and the food they needed.  Being in an weakened conditioned, the POWs came down with malaria and dysentery.  Many died from dysentery.  Replacements for men who could no longer work came from men who had surrendered on Corregidor.
    While on the detail, it was reported by other POWs that Albert stole water from the Japanese on eight different occasions.  Had he been caught, he would have been executed.  They described him as being extremely brave.
    Many of the original POWs became ill and were sent to Bilibid Prison on June 14th, June 29th, and July 14th. The doctors at the prison referred to these POWs as "the walking dead."  Albert developed cerebral malaria, but he was also weak from exhaustion and starvation.  He was sent to Bilibid Prison on June 29th.  According to the records kept by the doctors at Bilibid, Pvt. Albert Christ died from cerebral malaria, starvation, and exhaustion, at Bilibid Prison on July 12, 1942.  He was buried in the Bilibid Cemetery. 

    After the war, Albert's remains were recovered from Bilibid Prison.  At his family's request, he was reburied at Arlington National Cemetery on July 13, 1949, in Section 34. Site 221.

    There is one more story involving Albert that should be told.  During his time as a POW, Albert had a watch with his name and his mother's name on it.  After the war, a former POW who was nicknamed "Happy" returned the watch, with the help of Peter Pirnat, to Albert's mother.  It turned out that "Happy" had stolen the watch from the Japanese on eight different occasions.
     What is known about "Happy" was that he was a member of B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and of Polish descent.  It is believed that "Happy" was Mike Wepsic who always seemed to have a smile on his face.


 

 


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