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
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
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.
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.
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
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.