Cigoi

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".

     Walter 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.
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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.
   
At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and 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.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
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.

    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. 
    Walter survived his time at Camp O'Donnell and was next sent to Cabanatuan when the camp open.  This camp opened since the Japanese finally acknowledged that the death rate at Camp O'Donnell had to be dealt with by them.

    While at 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. 
    Walter was selected to go out on the Las Pinas Work Detail at some point.  The POWs built runways for an airfield and farmed.  The Japanese rotated the POWs.  One day, they would work on the airfield, the next day they would farm.  When the detail ended, he was returned to Cabanatuan.

    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 12, 1951.

    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.


 

 


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