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 and later lived at 2235 West Huron Street
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 on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times. They received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Elkoney lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. That morning, they had been awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. He and the other tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were American. They then saw what looked like rain drops falling from the planes. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover. This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6th/7th the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw. Just after the infantry evacuated a column of Japanese came marching down the road and were taken by surprised by the tanks and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese This stopped the Japanese advance and the tanks withdrew without any problems.
Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
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 guarding beaches that could be used to land troops. 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.
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 half-track 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.
B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
When the Filipino and American troops on Bataan were surrendered, Walter was one of members of B Company who escaped to Corregidor. Being that he had combat experience he was assigned to the 4th Marines. On May 6, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Corregidor was surrendered. He remained on the island held as a POW on the beach.
Walter was next sent to Cabanatuan when the camp after spending a short time at Bilibid Prison. This camp opened since the Japanese finally acknowledged that the death rate at Camp O'Donnell, the first POW camp, 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. At some point, Walter became ill and was returned to Cabanatuan.
800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball. After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M. There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M. The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
From the train station, the men were marched to pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila. Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier. The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry and were housed in a warehouse for two days. The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted. They also were allowed to wash.
Almost 1700 POWs were boarded onto the Tottori Maru on October 7th, but the ship did not sail until 10:00 A.M. the next day and passed Corregidor at noon. In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship. That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck. Each day, the POWs were given bread for meals which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water. The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship because of the captain's ability at maneuvering the ship. Both the Japanese and Americans cheered him. The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed. A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine. The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th, and the POWs disembarked and were bathed on the dock. They sailed again on October 16th at 7:30 A.M. but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M., because the Japanese thought submarines were in the area. At this time, the POWs were receiving two bags of hardtack and a meal of rice and soup each day. The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored until October 27th when it returned to Takao.
During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea. The ship sailed again on October 27th and returned to Takao the same day. The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned. They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 28th and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands.
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, and his date of death was listed as Tuesday, November 3, 1942. After his death, Walter's remains were cremated and were buried at 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. Walter's family was informed of the burial on June 12, 1951.
It should be noted that Walter's brother, Emil, joined the U. S. Marines, while living in Minnesota, 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, as a member of the 1st Marine Division, was killed in action on September 18, 1944, on Peleliu Island which is in the Palau Islands. When he died, Emil had no idea that Walter had died two years earlier.