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, who apologized that they 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.
    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.  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,  the soldiers 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.  The 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.  The company remained at Clark Field for the next two weeks.

    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.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    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.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. 
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. 
   
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 from the tanks because of the smell.
   
    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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