Cpl. George Emery Dravo

    Pvt. George E. Dravo was born on June 6, 1920, in Chicago Ridge, Illinois, to Eugene Dravo & Catherine Kreten-Dravo.  The family moved to Maywood, Illinois, and as a child and lived at 1508 South Fourth Avenue and attended the local schools.  He was a  1938 graduate of Proviso Township High School.

    Since a federal draft act had just been passed, George knew that it was just a matter of time until he was inducted into the army.  Like other men from the area, he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Division Tank Company in Maywood.  His reason for joining the company was that it was about to be called into federal service, and he knew that if he served one year, with the company, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he would fulfill his military obligation.

    On November 25, 1940, the tank company members readied to their equipment.  On November 28th, they traveled, by train, to Ft Knox for one year of military service.  The tank company was now known as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  In January 1941, George was assigned to Headquarters Company when it was formed with men from the four letters company of the battalion.  George was a motorcycle messenger for Headquarters Company.

    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the George and the other members were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was on the side of a hill that the battalion learned that they were not being released from military service but being sent overseas.  He and the other men received leaves home to say their goodbyes.

    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin 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 that arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  Since the ships had a two day layover, the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Wednesday, 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 were being sent into harm's way.  The ships sailed for Manila, the next day, and entered Manila Bay on at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7 later that day.  At 3:00 P.M., and the soldiers left the ship and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those assigned to trucks drove to the base, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained at the pier to unload the tanks.
  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.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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 prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    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.  

    On December 8, 1941, George lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  For the next four months, he delivered messages between headquarters and the letter companies.  This at times was a difficult job since the companies were constantly on the move.  At some point during the fighting, George was promoted to corporal and put in command of a half-track.
    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.   

    The lack of food and water were two of the most difficult things that the prisoners had to deal with on the march.  In addition, the hot temperatures made the situation worse.  In George's opinion, the problem was that the Japanese had no tradition, in their culture, to handle prisoners, since they had been taught to die and not surrender.  They simply were not prepared to take and keep prisoners.  It was his belief that this was the cause of so many of the atrocities on the march and later in the camps.

    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 was a unfinished Filipino Army Training Camp.  The entire POW population had only one water faucet for the entire camp. It was while a POW there that George is credited with saving the life of his friend, Jack Swinehamer.  Jack had been declared dead and taken to the cemetery at the camp.  After he had been laid is the mass grave, George saw Jack move.  George pulled Jack from the grave and returned him to the camp.  To help Jack regain his strength, George shared his food with him.

    George was selected to go out on a work detail to rebuild the bridges that the Americans had destroyed during their withdraw into Bataan.  The detail was divided into two groups.  George's group was sent to a sawmill to cut the lumber that would be used during the construction.  George loaded trucks with lumber and stacked boards to dry.

    On this detail, George witnessed the execution of ten POWs.  One night, one POW escaped from the detail.  The Japanese had instituted a "Blood Brother Rule."  If a POW escaped the five POWs who slept on either side of the man would be executed.  Five POWs to the right of the man, and five POWs to the left of the man were executed.  The Japanese reasoned that these men could have stopped the man from escaping.

    George also witnessed the death of Ralph Hite of HQ Company.  According to George, Ralph and five other POWs ate "Pony Candy" and became ill.  Ralph quickly developed dysentery and died.  He was buried in a hardwood coffin that the Japanese allowed the POWs to make.  After the war, George wrote to Ralph's mother about Ralph's death. 

    After the detail ended, George was sent to Cabanatuan, and according to medical records from the camp, George entered the camp hospital June 19, 1942.  No illness was indicated or a date of discharge indicated. 
    In September 1943, George was selected to go out on a work detail to Las Pinas.  On this detail, the POWs built runways for an airfield. 
The detail was under the control of the Japanese Navy and welfare of the POWs was of no concern to them.  They only concern they had was getting the runway built.  If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury.  Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.

    The POWs were divided into two detachments.  The first detachment drained rice paddies and laid the ground work for the runway, while the second detachment built the runway.  When most of the work was done in July 1944, most of the POWs were returned to Cabanatuan.  Forrest was one of 300 men that remained at the airfield.

    On September 21, 1944, while the POWs were working, they saw American diver bombers.  This was the first time they had seen American planes since the surrender of Bataan.  Watching the planes attack the Japanese caused the POWs to cheer.  The next day the detail was ended.

  On September 22nd, the Japanese closed the camp and sent the POWs to Bilibid Prison.  In October of 1944, the Americans began bombing Manila.  The Japanese knowing that it was just a matter of time until the Philippines were liberated, began to transfer the prisoners to Japan or an Japanese controlled country.  George was sent to the Port Area of Manila as part of this process.

    When George's group of POWs arrived at Manila, they found their ship was not ready to sail.  It turned out there was another POW detachment whose ship was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in his group had not arrived from the POW camps.  The Japanese flipped detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.  That ship George was suppose to sail on, the Arisan Maru, was sunk by an American submarine on October 24, 1944.

    The POWs were boarded onto the ship, on October 1st, and it sailed on October 3rd, the ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater.  It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy.  The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men.  To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
    As part of a ten ship convoy it sailed again on October 4th and stopped at Cabcaben.  The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts.  The convoy stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6th, two of the ships were sunk.

    The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for Hong Kong when they received word American planes were in the area.  During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships.  The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th.  On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.

    The POWs were in such bad shape that the Japanese took them ashore, on November 8th, and sent them to Inrin Temporary.  The camp was specifically opened for them and they only did light work and grew vegetables to supplement their diets.  The healthier POWs worked at a sugarcane mill.

    In January 14, 1945, he was boarded onto the Melbourne Maru for Japan and arrived at Moji on January 23rd.  From Moji, the POWs rode a train to Sendai #7, where the POWs worked in a copper mine.

    George and the other POWs were issued winter clothing.  The real problem was that the shoes they were given to wear were made of straw and froze when they got wet, which meant many of the POWs suffered from frostbite.

    At some point, George was sent to Ashio #8-D.  Once again, the POWs were used as slave labor in another copper mine.  George remained at the camp until he was liberated and returned to the Philippines to be fattened up before he was returned home. While in the Philippines, he was promoted to sergeant.   He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze arriving San Francisco on October 16, 1945, and hospitalized.  Because of health issues, he was not discharged from the army until June 21, 1946.

    After returning home, George married Helen May Feister and became the father of two children.  He lived most of the remainder of his life in the Maywood area.  During this time, he worked as a policeman and machinist. 

    In 1989, George moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he passed away on December 3, 1993, of a heart attack.  During the autopsy, the doctor noted that George's heart had scar tissue from an earlier heart attack which he most likely suffered while POW.

    George E. Dravo was buried in Section H, Site  263 at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Park in Boulder, Nevada, on December 8, 1993. 


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