Depa

Cpl. Edward Gus Depa


     Cpl. Edward G. Depa was born in September 3, 1916, to Marek and Ludwina Depa.  He was raised in Wisconsin with his three brothers and three sisters.  His mother died while he was a child leaving his father to raise the children.  Edward came to Chicago looking for work in 1936 and lived at 717 North Paulina Street.  He worked as a punch press operator at a electric appliance manufacturing company.  It was while living in Chicago that Edward was drafted in April of 1941.  

    Edward was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he became a member of Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  He participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 with the battalion.  It was after the maneuvers, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, that he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
    In the late summer of 1941, Edward took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  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 Islands. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii, as part of a three ship convoy, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    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.

    When the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese, Edward became a POW.   He took part in the death march and as a Prisoner of War was imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan in the Philippines.  On October 5, 1942, Ed and another 1600 POW's were sent to the dock area of Manila,  They spent two days housed in a warehouse on the dock before being boarded onto Tottori Maru

    The ship sailed for Takao, Formosa.  The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  Woody was one of the lucky POWs who remained on deck.   The conditions on the ship were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed.  Many POWs died during the trip.

    Shortly after leaving Manila, the Tottori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine.  The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes.  Woody and the other POWs watched as the two torpedoes fired at the ship missed. 

    The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 12th.  The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing.  It returned to Takao the same day and sailed again on October 18th.   When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao.  During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.

   The ship sailed again on October 30th.  On October 31st, the ship stopped at Makou, Pescadores Islands before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea.  During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.

    After 31 days on the ship, docked at Pusan, Korea on November 7th.  1300 POW's got off the ship and sent on a four day train trip north to Mukden, Manchria.  There, they worked in a sawmill or a manufacturing plant.  He remained in the camp a little over a year when he was selected to be taken to Japan.

    On May 24, 1944, Ed was sent on the Nissyo Mau to Kyushu, Japan.  The ship stopped at Takao, Formosa, on May 26th, and at Moji, Japan, on May 29th.  There, he was held at Kamioka Camp and worked in a lead mine.  For the POWs, climbing the 340 stairs out of the mine was one of the most difficult things they had to do after working in the mine all day. 

     The Japanese treatment of the POWs was brutal.  When the Japanese heard news of an air raid by the Americans, they would select eight or ten POWs, to be punish and thrown into the guardhouse.  The men would be forgotten.  The POWs also learned that when the Japanese called them out in the middle of the night for an inspection, it meant that the Japanese had suffered another defeat and that the Americans were getting closer.

    After the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese made the prisoners do close order drill as punishment for the bomb.  The prisoners learned about the bomb by buying a paper on the Black Market and smuggling it into the camp.  

    After the surrender, the POWs took control of the camp.  Ed remained in the camp until he was liberated by American Forces on September 16, 1945.  He was returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Yarmouth, at San Francisco, on October 8th, where he received additional medical treatment.  Ed remained in the military until he was discharged on May 20, 1946.
   
Edward Depa married and would later move to Thorp, Wisconsin, where he passed away on December 16, 2003.  He was buried at Saint Mary's of Czestochowa Cemetery in Thorp, Wisconsin.
    The photo at the bottom of the page was taken while Cpl. Edward Depa was a POW at Hooten Camp in Mukden, Manchuria.





 

 

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