Pvt. John J. Eber was born on September 17,
1914, in Ohio City, Ohio, to Jacob P. Eber &
With his sister, he grew up in Townsend County,
Ohio, and outside of Norwalk, Ohio, on State
Route 18. He worked at a tire plant.
On March 22, 1941, John was
inducted into the U.S. Army in Toledo,
Ohio. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky,
for basic training where he attended radio
school and graduated as a radioman. Upon
completion of his basic training, he was
assigned to Headquarters Company of the 192nd
Tank Battalion and assigned to one of the three
tanks of the company.
was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the
late summer of 1941 to take part in
maneuvers. During the maneuvers, HQ
Company serviced the tanks of the battalion,
but they did not actively participate.
After the maneuvers, on the side of a hill,
the battalion learned they were being sent
overseas. According to members of the
battalion, General George Patton told them
the news. Men too old to go overseas
were released from federal service.
Replacements for these men came from the
753rd Tank Battalion.
Many of the members of
the battalion were given leave so that they
could say goodbye to family 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.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 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.
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. HQ Company remained
behind in their bivouac.
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. John, and the
other 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 John worked to supply the letter
companies with the supplies they needed
to fight the Japanese.
He may have been promoted to
corporal during this time.
On April 9, 1942,
Bataan was surrendered to the
Japanese at 7:00 A.M. The
members of the company remained in
their bivouac. Capt. Fred Bruni,
HQ's commanding officer, gave his
men the news of the surrender.
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. John was now a Prisoner
11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ
company's encampment. 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. They were told to put 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.
boarded their trucks and drove to
Mariveles. From there, they walked to
Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. 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 sat
watching and waiting to see what the Japanese
intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in
a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.
He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant
in charge of the detail. The officer got
back in the car and drove off. The
Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower
Later in the
day, John's group of POWs was moved to a school
yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left
sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese
did not feed them or give them water.
Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery
pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft.
Drum. These two islands had not
surrendered. Shells from these two
American forts began landing among the
POWs. The POWs could do little since they
had no place to hide. Some POWs were
killed by incoming American shells. One
group that tried to hide in a small brick
building died when it took a direct hit.
The American guns did succeed in knocking out
three of the four Japanese guns.
were ordered to move again by the
Japanese. John, and the other men, had no
idea that they had started what became known as
the death march. During the march, he
received no water and little food. It took
the members of HQ Company six days to reach San
Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put
into a bull pen that had a fence around
it. In one corner was a slit trench to be
used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface
of the trench moved since it was covered in
maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit,
but they could not lie down.
How long the POWs
remained in the bull pen is not known. The
Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns and
took them to the train depot at San
Fernando. John was put into a small
and taken to Capas. The cars could hold
forty men or eight horses. The Japanese
packed 100 men into each car. Those who
died remained standing until the living climbed
out of the car. From Capas, John walked
the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino
training base that the Japanese pressed into
service as a Prisoner of War camp. It
turned out to be a death trap with as many as
fifty POWs dying each day. There was only
one working water faucet for the entire
camp. To get a drink, men stood in line
for days. Many died while waiting for a
drink. The death rate among the POWs was
as high as fifty men a day. The situation
got so bad that the Japanese opened a new POW
camp at Cabanatuan. The healthier POWs
were sent to the new camp.
Being considered too ill to
move John remained behind at Camp
O'Donnell. According to U.S. Army records,
Pvt. John J. Eber died of dysentery on July 4,
1942, at Camp O'Donnell. He was buried in
the camp cemetery. After the war, his
remains were identified and return home to Ohio
on October 18, 1948. He was posthumously
promoted to sergeant.
John J. Eber was buried at
Milan Cemetery in Milan, Ohio, on Wednesday,
October 20, 1948, in the Andrews Section, Lot
214. He was posthumously promoted to