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 1941but what specific
training he received is not known. In the late
summer of 1941, he took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana. After the maneuvers the battalion
was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of
returning to Ft. Knox. At Camp Polk, he and
the other members of the battalion learned 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 which often appears in books. The soldier sitting on the front hood of the half-track, holding a tommy-gun was Albert DeCurtins.
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 the evening of April 8th
and told them they were surrendering the next
morning. He told them to remain in the area,
but to destroy anything that the Japanese could
use. He also somehow got a hold of enough
bread and pineapple juice for the soldiers to have
what he called, "Their last supper." The next day,
April 9, 1942, Albert became a Prisoner of War.
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
When the POWs were ordered again, they had started
what became known as the death march. Albert
trudged 65 miles with his friend from Celina, Pvt.
Peter Garmon. When they reached San Fernando,
they were put in a bull pen and ordered to
sit. They remained there until the Japanese
ordered them to form 100 men detachments and marched
to the train station. There, small wooden
boxcars were waiting for them to board. The
cars were known as "forty or eights" and could hold
forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese put 100
men in each car and closed the doors. Those
who died remained standing until the living left the
cars at Capas. The POWswalked the last ten
miles to Camp O'Donnell.
When Cabanatuan Prison Camp opened in May, 1942, Albert was sent there. It was sometime during his imprisonment there that Albert developed dysentery. He was already sick with malaria and 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.