Dery

Sgt. Roger C. Dery


    Sgt. Roger C. Dery was born on November 17, 1917, in  Bear Creek, Wisconsin, to Rosmer G. Dery & Lydia Schoelkoph-Dery.  His father was French-Canadian and his mother was German.  With his sister, he grew up at 30 Prospect Street in Bear Creek.  He moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, and rented a room at 974 Jackson Street.
    Sometime after moving to Janesville, Roger joined the Wisconsin National Guard's tank company.  He may have done so because a draft act had just been passed, and he knew he was going to be drafted into the Army.  Knowing this, he may have wanted to fulfill his military service since the company was scheduled to be federalized. 

   
The company left for Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 27, 1940, by train.  Since they had few tanks, the companies pulled their tanks from the junkyard at the fort and rebuilt them to operating order.  The members of the company trained on the equipment and learned to operate it.  Roger, with his background in radio repair, went to radio school and qualified as a radioman.
   The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers.  They were kept at Camp Polk after the maneuvers without being given a reason.  According to members of the battalion, General George Patton told them the news that they were going overseas.  Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  Men were allowed to go home and say goodbye.  It appears that Willard married at this time.
   The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join 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 November 5th, 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.  They sailed the same day for Manila.  The ships 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.
    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.
 
   At six in the morning, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to move their platoons to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  The 192nd had been assigned to the southern portion of the airfield.  The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons were useless against planes.  After the attack, the tankers saw the damage done to the airfield.  They remained at the airfield for a week before being sent north.
    The company was sent to Lingayen Gulf were their job was to hold a position until the Filipino and American forces had established another defensive line.  They would then disengage and fall back.

    At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.   The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.     
    On another occasion the company had bivouac for the night, along both sides of the road, and posted sentries.  The guards heard a noise and alerted the other tankers who grabbed their guns.  As they sat quietly, a Japanese bicycle battalion road into their bivouac.  They opened fire with everything they had.  There were flashes of light and screaming.  Then, there was silence.  The tankers had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.

    During the Battle of the Points, A Company was involved in wiping out Japanese soldiers who had been landed on two peninsulas on Bataan.  The Japanese landed troops Quinauan Point ten miles behind the main defensive line.  When they attempted to reinforce them, they landed additional troops Anyasan Point seven miles behind the main battle line.  When the tanks became available, A Company was sent in to help wipe out the 2000 soldiers trapped in the pockets.
    On April 9, 1942, Willard became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered.  At kilometer post 201, the tankers circled their tanks and shot an anti-tank round into each tank.  They flooded the tanks with gas and set them on fire.  After this was done they waited for orders to move.

   
    Roger and the other members of A Company started the death march at Miraveles.   Fearing retribution because their tanks had been used to wipe out pockets of Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Bataan, the tankers would not identify themselves as tank battalion members.  They tore off anything on their uniforms that indicated they were tank corps. 
    The soldiers made their way north to San Fernando.  There, they were put into a bull pen which was covered in human waste.  There was a slit trench in the corner that was meant for the POWs to use as a latrine.  The surface was alive and covered with maggots. 
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks.  They were marched to the train station where they were packed into small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as "forty or eights" since they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  Those POWs who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
     Camp O'Donnell, an unfinished Filipino training base, was pressed into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink of water.  The Japanese guard could and would turn off the faucet whenever he felt like it.  If a man wanted a drink, he would have to stand in place until it was turned back on again.
    The death rate in the camp began to climb.  As many as 55 POWs died each day.  For those assigned to the burial detail, the job was endless.  Seeing that something had to be done to lower the number of deaths, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan and sent the healthier POWs there.
    It is not known if Roger went to Cabanatuan when it was opened, or if he was sent there after returning from a work detail.  It is known that on July 12, 1942, Roger was sent to the camp hospital because he had dysentery.  He was put in Barracks 2 in the Hospital Area of the camp.  On several occasions, the Philippine Red Cross came to the camp with medical supplies for the POWs.  The Japanese refused to allow the medical supplies to be given to the POWs.  Since the medical staff had little medicine to treat the sick with many died. 

    According to the records kept by the medical staff, Sgt. Roger C. Dery died from dysentery on Wednesday, July 15, 1942, at approximately 2:00 in the morning.  When he died, his only possession was a billfold.  He was buried in the camp cemetery.
    After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of Sgt. Robert C. Dery.  Had the request of his family, Roger was buried at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila.  He was buried in Plot F, Row 7, Grave 77.



 

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