|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, to find work 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 because a draft act had just been passed, and he knew he was going to be drafted into the Army. Knowing this, he would 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.
In January 1941, Headquarters Company was formed and members of each letter company were assigned to the company. It was at that time that Roger became a member of the company. There are two possibilities of what his duties were with the company. Being a radioman, he may have been in communications for the battalion, or he may have been a radioman in one of the three tanks assigned to the company.
The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers. The battalion kept at Camp Polk after the maneuvers without being given a reason. According to members of the battalion, it was on the side of a hill that they learned that General George S. Patton had selected them for overseas duty. Married men and men too old to go overseas were given the chance to be released from federal service. Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion. Most of the remaining men were allowed to go home and say goodbye to their families.
The companies of the battalion traveled over different train routes 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. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd. The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
Arriving at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water before sailing for Manila. 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 would soon be at war. The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, at 8:00 A.M. and docked at Manila later in the day. At 3:00 P.M. most of the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those assigned to trucks drove them to the base, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind and unloaded the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but the fact was that he had not learned of their arrival until just days before their ship docked. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
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 Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield. All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. 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, except for the tanks' machine guns, 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 battalion was sent to Lingayen Gulf,, on December 21st, 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.
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. Donald was now a Prisoner of War. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans. They remained along the sides of the road for hours.
HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off. The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs were order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces. The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them. Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit. When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.
It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. The first five miles of the march was uphill. They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando. During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell.
When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard. They were left there for hours sitting in the sun. At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments. When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas. From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell, an unfinished Filipino training base, which 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. To bury a man, the POWs dug a shallow grave and held the body down with a pole. This was done because the water table was high and the bodies floated in the graves. The next day, when the burials continued, those on the detail found that wild dos had dug up the bodies or that the bodies were sitting up in their graves. 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, but 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 in grave 214 with seven other members of the 192nd. Two of whom were S/Sgt. Jesse E. Tubbs and Cpl. Gerald K. Sterken, who were from Janesville.
After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of Sgt. Robert C. Dery. At 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.