Sgt. Walter F. Cigoi
Sgt. Walter F. Cigoi was born
in August 18, 1917, to Louis & Olga Cigoi in
York Township, DuPage County, Illinois. The
family first resided at 315 Elm Park Avenue in
Elmhurst. He later lived at 2235 West Huron
Street in Chicago.
During the 1930s in Maywood, he joined the Illinois National Guard as a member of the 33rd Tank Company. He also worked at Hines Veterans Administration Hospital as an attendant. Among the members of his company, Walter and Robert Bronge were known as the "Meatball Twins".
went to Fort Knox, Kentucky when the company was
"federalized" in November of 1940. At Fort
Knox, he learned to operate tanks, halftracks
and motorcycles. He next took part in the
Louisiana maneuvers of 1941. It was after
these maneuvers that the members of the 192nd
Tank Battalion learned that they had been
selected by General George S. Patton to go to
the Philippine Islands.
A little over two weeks after arriving in the Philippines the 192nd Tank Battalion found itself as part of the first line of defense against the Japanese. During the Battle of Bataan, the tanks of B Company were assigned to the east coast of Bataan to prevent the Japanese from landing troops. It was during this assignment that Walter took part in a firefight with Japanese ships.
It is known that Walter was a tank commander when he arrived in the Philippines. Each morning, in an attempt to find the American tanks, the Japanese would send a reconnaissance plane known to the Americans as "Recon Joe" over the Bataan jungle. Since the jungle was dense, Recon Joe could never spot the tanks. As the number of tanks dwindled, Walter was reassigned to a half-track.
One morning, Walter got angry that "recon Joe" woke him up, so Walter attempted to shoot down the reconnaissance plane. To do this, he pulled his halftrack onto the beach and began firing at the plane; unfortunately, he missed. Twenty minutes later, Japanese dive bombers bombed the American position. The attack resulted in the deaths of three members of B Company.
When the Filipino and American troops on Bataan were surrendered, Walter began a Prisoner Of War. He took part in the death march from Marivales. It was on the march that Walter and Sgt. Robert Bronge are credited with twice saving the life of Pvt. Lester (Tennenberg) Tenney. Both times they carried him when he could not continue the march on his own.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small
wooden boxcars. After the train ride to
Capas, Walter was unable to continue the march
on his own. He was carried the last few
miles of the march by Sgt. Jim Bashleben and
Sgt. James Bainbridge to Camp O'Donnell.
While they were exiting the train, they found
Walter on the ground frothing at the
mouth. When they arrived at Camp
O'Donnell, they placed him under a building to
get him out of the sun. When they returned
to the hut later, Walter was gone.
Cabanatuan, Walter came down with malaria and was
sent to "zero ward" on June 19, 1942. This was
the camp's hospital. It was given the name
since most of the POWs who were sent there would not
leave it alive. According to records kept by
the medical staff, Wlater was returned to duty on
September 5, 1942.
A few months later on October 6, 1942, he was sent to Manila for transport to Manchuria. On October 8, 1942, Walter and another 1500 POWs were sent to the dock area of Manila and boarded onto Tottori Maru and shipped north. The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. It is believed that Walter was in the group sent into the hold. According to survivors, conditions on the ship were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck. This was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed.
Shortly after leaving Manila, the Tottori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine. The POWs on deck watched as all four torpedoes shot at the ship just missed. Next, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.
After an eight day stay on Formosa, the ship sailed for Pusan, Korea from Takao. It appears that Walter was considered to be too ill to continue the trip and remained on Formosa. According to records Walter was sent to the Japanese Imperial Army Hospital at Takao on October 28, 1942. Walter died from dysentery at Takao, Formosa. His date of death is listed as Tuesday, November 3, 1942. After his death, Walter's remains were cremated. He was buried Daichoku Cemetery at Taihoku, Formosa.
After the war in 1946,
the remains of Sgt. Walter F. Cigoi and four
other Americans were exhumed by the American
Graves Registration Service and sent to
Hawaii. The remains of these
Americans were mixed with the remains of eleven
British POWs. Since the British remains
were dominant, the remains were transferred to
the Imperial War Graves Commission and reburied
at the Sai Wan Bay Cemetery in Hong Kong.
His family was informed of the burial on June
It should be noted that Walter's brother, Emil, joined the U. S. Marines so that he could fight in the Pacific Battle Theater. He hoped that he would be sent to the Philippines and liberate Walter. According to what has been learned, Emil was killed in action in the Philippines while attempting to find his brother. Emil had no idea that Walter had died two years earlier.