Danca

 

2nd Lt. Richard Emmanuel Danca


    2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca was born on October 23, 1918, to Joseph and Sarah Danca in River Forest, Illinois.  He was known as "Emmanuel" to his family and friends.  With his brother and sister, he grew up at 26 Lathrop Avenue in Forest Park, Illinois, and attended grade school there.  He was a graduate of Proviso Township High School as a member of the Class of 1935. 

    On February 13, 1935, Richard joined the Illinois National Guard while he was a senior in high school.  He was honorably discharged as a private later that year.  He reenlisted and was discharged again in 1938.  Richard again reenlisted in the National Guard.  During his time in the National Guard, he worked as a company clerk, truck driver and mechanic.

    Richard married Elenore Drexler on March 11, 1940.  His family resided at 815 Marengo Avenue in Forest Park.  He worked for the U. S. Post Office as a postal clerk at Hines Veterans Administration Hospital.  He was also a good father to his infant son, Richard, who was born at Fort Knox, while Danca was training there.  He was a devoted husband to his wife.

    On November 25, 1940, the Maywood Tank Company was called to federal duty as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  It was at this time that "Dick," as he was called by his friends, was promoted to 1st Sergeant.  This made him the "Top Kick" or highest ranking enlisted man in B Company. 

    With the creation of Headquarters Company in January of 1941, B Company was in desperate need of officers.  To fill the vacancies, Richard, along with Matthew MacDowell and Ed Winger, was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant.  Each of these new officers went to a service school to help them learn the skills of administering a tank company.  Richard was given command of the first tank platoon of the B Company. 

    After training at Fort Knox, Kentucky was completed, Richard went with the 192nd to take part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was called together at Camp Polk and informed that they were being shipped overseas.  

    The battalion's men and equipment were loaded onto trains and headed west to San Francisco.  On the train, Capt. Donald Hanes called his platoon commanders together to select combat numbers for their tanks.  Richard being third in seniority picked third.  These numbers were to painted on the tanks after they arrived in 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.S. 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.
    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.

    On December 8, 1941, Richard lived through the bombing of Clark Field.  Before the attack and having received word of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks had been dispersed along the perimeter of Clark Field.  This was done to prevent enemy paratroopers from landing at the field.

    After the Japanese landed troops on Luzon, Richard led his tanks into action against the Japanese.  Often this meant providing coverage so the Filipino and American forces could fall back and form new lines.  He was wounded during one of these engagements.

    The last news that Richard's family received from him was in a letter dated February, 1942.  They did not receive the letter until August 1942. 

    On April 9, 1942, Richard became a Prisoner of War when the defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  The tankers destroyed their tanks before making their way to Mariveles.  It was from there that Richard began the Death March.

    From Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, the POWs made their way to San Fernando.  At one point, they had to run past Japanese artillery that was firing at Corregidor.  Corregidor returned fire.  At San Fernando, they were held in cattle bins that were covered in human waste. 

     The POWs were then boarded onto small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  At Capas, the POWs disembarked the boxcars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    As a POW, Lt. Richard Danca was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  At Cabanatuan, he was assigned to Barracks #29 which was an officers barracks.  He was then sent to Bilibid Prison for transport to Japan.  Sometime during these imprisonments, he developed an infection which resulted in his developing blood poisoning. 

    It was on the Hell Ship, Nagato Maru, that 2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca died.  His date of death was November 13, 1942.  It is known that he died after the ship had docked at Tokao, Formosa.

    According to other members of B Company,  Richard's body was taken ashore and cremated.  His ashes were returned to the ship and given to Lt. Col. Ted Wickord.  Upon the ship's arrival in Japan, the Japanese authorities took Richard's ashes at Umeda POW Camp.  At the end of the war, no one knew what had happened to his remains.   His wife learned of his death on September 2, 1943.

    Since the final resting place of 2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca is unknown, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

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