Courtney

Pfc. Daniel Joseph Courtney


    Pfc. Daniel J. Courtney was born on October 23, 1917, in Janesville, Wisconsin, to Edward & Eva Courtney.  As a child, with his two brothers and four sisters, he grew up at 518 South Pearl Street.  He was known as "Dannie" to his family and friends.  One of his sisters was married to 1st Lt. John F. A. Bushaw who would assume commander of A Company in the Philippines.  When he was called to federal duty, Dannie was working for a canning company in Janesville.

    Knowing it was just a matter of time before he would be drafted into the army, Dannie joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville.  On November 2, 1940, the tank company was federalized and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky.

    In January 1941, Dannie was reassigned to Headquarters Company when it was formed with members of the four letter companies of the battalion.  On April 1, 1941, Dannie married Mary Liptow at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Janesville.  The couple would have a son within a year.

    The battalion next was sent to Louisiana, where they took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
    Dannie returned home to say their goodbyes to friends and family.  Returning to Camp Polk, the battalion was sent over different train routes for San Francisco, California, where they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated.  Men who were found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the company at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.  It was from this army base that the 192nd left the United States for the Philippine Islands. 
    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, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left them to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting at sea.  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.
    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  All the members of the 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 to be refueled 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.
    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 the members of HQ Company slept in a dried latrine near their bivoauc.  They had no idea that it was the last time they would sleep on a bed for over three and a half years. 
    After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed in support of B and C Companies.

    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   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.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."   
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  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 with 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.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.            

    Dannie and his company finally boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit.  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 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.  As he drove away, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Dannie's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours without food or water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which 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 and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march he received no water and little food.  At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcars.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  They were packed in so tightly, that those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars.  From Capas, Dannie walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Dannie was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell and than  Cabanatuan in the Philippines.  It appears that Danny spent his  majority of his time as a POW at Cabanatuan. 
     In September 1943, Dannie's name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan.  He was transported to Japan on the Coral Maru.  The ship was also known as the Taga Maru.  The ship sailed on September 19, 1943. Unlike many other POWs, Dannie's experience on the ship was not that bad.  The ship was not crowded and the prisoners were given adequate food.  Around September 22nd, the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa, before sailing for Moji, Japan, arriving there on October 8, 1943.

    The POWs disembarked the ship and were taken by train to POWs camps.  Dannie was sent to Hirohata 12-B.  The prisoners in the camp worked in the Seitetsu Steel Mill.  At the camp, Dannie ran a coal shovel that fired a boiler.  Working with coal without eye protection resulted in Dannie having vision problems.

    Dannie and the other POWs were liberated by American troops on September 9, 1945, and were taken to Saipan on the U.S.A.H.S. Marigold.  From there, he was sent to Marianas and flown by Air Transport to Hawaii.  Finally, he was flown to the United States landing at Hamilton Airfield north of San Francisco and hospitalized.  From there, he was sent to Galesburg, Illinois, and hospitalized.

     Dannie returned to Mary and together they raised a family of seven children.  One son, Donnie, drowned in 1962.  To support his family, Dannie worked at the General Motors manufacturing plant in Janesville.

    Daniel J. Courtney passed away on March 23, 1974, and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Janesville, Wisconsin, next to his son.


 

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