Dietrich

 

Pfc. George Robert Dietrich


    Pfc. George R. Dietrich was the son of Joseph F. Dietrich & Eva Venemann-Dietrich.  He was born on August 27, 1914, in Hibbing, Minnesota, and grew up at 409 Godfrey in Louisville, Kentucky, with his two sisters and brother.  Before he was drafted into the U. S. Army on March 5, 1941, he worked for his father's contracting company as a carpenter.

    After being drafted into the army, he was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  Upon arriving there, he was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The reason for this is that he was from one of the four states that the National Guard companies that made up the battalion were from.

    George was assigned to D Company and worked in supplies.  In this capacity, he went to Louisiana with the company to take part in maneuvers in the late summer of 1941.

    After the maneuvers, George learned that his battalion was being sent overseas.  He and the other men received leaves home to say goodbye to their families and friends.  They returned to Camp Polk and 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.A.T. 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 Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. 
    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.
    
  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The letter companies were ordered to the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. D Company had been attached to the 194th and was stationed at the north end of the airfield. 

    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.  The members of HQ took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes.  After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing. 
    For the next four months, George worked to keep the tanks supplied. 
On April 9, 1942, George became a Prisoner Of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He took part in the death march and was held at Camp O'Donnell.  He was later held as a POW at Cabanatuan and remained in the camp.  In September 1943, George was selected for a work detail to build runways at Las Pinas.  He and the other men found themselves working with picks and shovels on land that was usually flooded.  He remained on this detail until July 1944 when the detail was disbanded and he was taken to Bilibid Prison. 
    The POWs arrived at Bilibid and remained at Bilibid until July 17th at 8:00 A.M., when they were walked to Pier 7.  They were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru.  The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of the POWs were put into the read hold.
    The ship remained outside the breakwater
, at Manila, from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy.  The POWs were fed rice and vegetables, which were cooked together.  They also received two canteen cups of water. 
    The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island at 2:00 P.M.  It remained off the island overnight and sailed at 8:00 A.M. the next day.  The ship sailed north by northeast.  On July 26th at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large  fire off the ship.  It turned out that the one of the ships, the Otari Yama Maru had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack.  On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M.   The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. and continued its northward trip all day and night of July 29th.  On July 30th, the ship ran into a storm.  The storm finally passed by August 2nd.  The POWs were issued clothing on August 3rd and arrived at Moji on August 4th at midnight. 
    At 8:00 in the morning, the POWs disembarked the ship. They were taken to a theater and were held in it all day.  They were than taken to the train station.  The train left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at the camp at 2:00 A.M., they were unloaded and walked the three miles to the camp.

    George was held at Fukuoka #23 at Keisen.  He and the other POWs were used as laborers in a coal mine.  The camp consisted of a mess hall, a hospital, six unheated barracks located on top of a hill with a ten foot high wooden fence around it. In the barracks, the POWs slept in 15 X 15 foot bays.  Six POWs shared a bay.  At 6:00 A.M., 6:00 P.M., and 9:00 P.M. the Japanese took row call.  For the first two weeks in the camp, the POWs learned the Japanese words for mining equipment.
    The POWs received their jobs from the camp commandant who spoke adequate English.  The POWs were divided into two groups of miners.  The "A" group mined during the day, while the "B" group mined at night.  Every ten days the groups would swap shifts.  When the POWs arrived at the mine, they were turned over to civilian supervisors.   The POWs quickly learned the more they did the more these supervisors wanted from them.  After awhile, the supervisor and POWs came to a reasonable agreement on how many cars they would load each day.  The one good thing about working in the mine in the winter was the temperature was about 70 degrees. 

    During 1945, things got worse for the POWs, so they knew the Japanese were losing the war.  At 5:00 P.M. on August 15th they learned the war was over.  The POWs did not believe it.  The next day the camp commandant, at 9:00 A.M., informed the POWs that the war was over.  He also told them that they had to stay in the camp.  On August 24th, the Japanese gave the POWs paint and canvas and told them to paint "POW." on the canvas and put it on the barracks roofs.
   On August 28th, B-29s appeared over the camp. Two of the planes circled and dropped fifty gallon drums to  the POWs.  For the first time, the POWs knew they were now in charge.  Most of the guards quickly disappeared.  On September 15th, Americans arrived in the camp.  When he was liberated, John weighed less than 80 pounds.  The POWs were taken by truck to the train station.  They road the train to Nagasaki.  Once there, they were given physicals, deloused, and the seriously ill were boarded onto a hospital ship.  The rest were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to Okinawa.  They were than flown back to the Philippines and later returned to the Philippines.

    When George was considered healthy enough, he was boarded onto the Dutch ship, S.S. Klipfontaine, and arrived at Seattle, Washington, on October 27, 1945.  He returned to Louisville and was discharged on April 20, 1946. George R. Dietrich passed away in October 19, 1985, in Louisville, Kentucky.



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