Pfc. Albert E. DeCurtins
| Pfc. Albert
E. DeCurtins was one of twin sons born on August 2,
1917, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, to Frederick & Margaret
DeCurtins. He, and his five brothers and sister,
grew up in both Wapakoneta and at 337 East Wayne
Street in Celina, Ohio. He attended school in
both towns and graduated in 1935 from Immaculate
Conception High School, where he was a star basketball
player. After high school, he worked as a
Mersman Brothers Table Factory in Celina.
Albert was inducted into the army in 1941.
When Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion was
formed in January, 1941, at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
Albert was assigned to the company. He trained
there until the late summer of 1941. Then he
took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. At Camp
Polk, Louisiana, he and the other members of the
battalion that they were being sent overseas.
Albert took part in the delaying action to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. It was during this time, that a photo of a half-track was taken on Bataan. This photo often appears in books. The soldier sitting on the front hood of the half-track, holding a tommy-gun was Albert.
Albert became a Prisoner of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. Capt. Fred Bruni came to the members of HQ Company and told them of the surrender. He told them to remain in the area.
A day or two later the soldiers were told to gather their possessions and go out to the road. Albert and the other men lined up along the road and put their possessions in front of them. A short time later as they were standing there, a Japanese officer and troops came down the road. The Japanese soldiers took what they wanted from the American possessions.
The Americans were ordered onto their trucks and drove toward Mariveles. Outside the barrio, they were herded onto an airfield. As they sat at the airfield, they noticed that Japanese soldiers were gathering across from them. The Americans realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad. As the Japanese were preparing to execute Albert and the other POWs, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out. He spoke to a Japanese sergeant then got back into the car and drove off. The Japanese soldiers lowered their guns.
Not long after this incident, Albert and the other POWs were ordered to move. They marched into Mariveles where they were ordered into a school yard. They were left there for a day. During this time they went without food or water.
As Albert and the other men sat in the school yard, they realized that behind them was Japanese artillery. The four guns began firing on the Island of Corregidor. Soon the island began firing upon the Japanese guns. The American shells began landing among the POWs. The POWs had no place to hide from the shells resulting in American deaths. Three of four of the Japanese guns were knocked out.
It was from the school yard, that Albert began what became known as the death march. Albert trudged 85 miles with his friend from Celina, Pvt. Peter Garmon. Albert was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. Conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as 100 prisoners died each day. While there, Albert met Fr. John Wilson, a Roman Catholic priest. As it turned out, Fr. Wilson was also from Celina.
When Cabanatuan Prison Camp was opened in May of 1942, Albert was sent there. It was sometime during his imprisonment there that Albert developed dysentery. He was already sick with malaria. He was put in the camp hospital on July 18, 1942. Fr. John Wilson heard that Albert was extremely ill and sought him out. Fr. John administered to Albert "The Last Rites" of the Catholic Church.
Pfc. Albert E. DeCurtins died on Thursday, September 10, 1942, at Cabanatuan Prison Camp. He was 25 years old. Fr. John Wilson presided over the funeral service. After the war, Fr. Wilson told the DeCurtins family of Albert's short life as a Japanese POW.
The remains of Pfc. Albert E. DeCurtins were returned to the United States after the war. Since the remains of the POWs in the grave had become mixed and none could be positively identified, the men were buried in a common grave. On November 23, 1949, Albert and six other POWs were buried in a mass grave at Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Nebraska. This location was selected because each family would have approximately the same distance to travel to visit the grave. The men were buried in Section R, Graves 37, 38, and 39.
After the war, the VFW Post in Celina was renamed the Eichar-DeCurtins VFW Post 5713. At some point in time, all five of Albert's brothers were members of the post.