Ehrhardt

 

Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt


    Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt was born on August 9, 1917, in Wheatland, Wyoming, and was the son of Jacob & Elizabeth Ehrhardt.  It is known that he had a half-brother, and that the family would move to Saginaw, Michigan, where his father had a farm.  Clyde moved to Bellwood, Illinois, with his friend, Art Campbell, to work on the construction of a subway in Chicago.  Since Clyde's brother was married and living in Bellwood, the two men resided with him.  Clyde was known for having a good sense of humor and playing the accordion at family parties. 

    In 1940, Clyde was working as a press operator at a company that made milk cans.  When it became apparent that a draft act was going to be passed, Clyde joined the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard in Maywood, Illinois, because the company was going to be federalized for one year.  In the fall of 1940, the tank company was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28th, and designated as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  During this time, Clyde trained as tank driver.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the battalion learned that they were not being released from federal service but being sent overseas as part as Operation PLUM.  Within hours, most men had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.  Afterwards, many of the soldiers were allowed to return home to say their goodbyes.

    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Those with major health issues were released from service and replaced, while those with minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and 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 entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
   At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalion's officers met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  Most of the men believed this was the start of the maneuvers, and laughed when told of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  At noon, all the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers had enough time to count 54 planes in formation.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. 

    After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  During this time, they lived through several more attacks on the island.  The battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese had landed.  Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough gasoline for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.  The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks had been asked to hold the position for six hours, they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when they withdrew following the Philippine Army.

    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.    On December 31st/January 1st,  the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge.  The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6th/7th the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming.  While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver:  "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.

    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
    On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  It is not known if Clyde escaped to Corregidor at this time or surrendered.  What is known is that he was held as a Prisoner of War at Cabanatuan.  He was selected to work on a detail at the Bachrach Garage in Manila to repair equipment for the Japanese.  On this detail were Daniel Boni, Roger Heilig and Warren Hidebrandt of B Company.
    On August 14, 1944, Clyde was admitted to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison suffering from the cornea ulcer.  Because of the poor condition of the records, a date of discharge was not shown, and it is not known if he returned to the detail or remained at the prison.

    When it became apparent to the Japanese that it was just a matter of time until the Americans would invade the Philippines, they began transporting the POWs to Japan or other parts of the empire.  Clyde and the other members of the Bachrach Garage detail were sent to Bilibid Prison to await shipment.

    In early October, Clyde was marched to the Port Area of Manila, where his POW detachment was scheduled to board the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail.  Not all the POWs in the detachment had arrived at the pier so the Japanese put another POW detachment, which had completely arrived, on the ship so it could sail. 
    Clyde's detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11th and nearly 1800 POWs were

packed into the ship's number one hold.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks.  The bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while laying down, while those who were standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans, but the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans, so the floor of the hold was covered with human waste.

    On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp, so that during the night, the POWs were in total darkness. 
   Being in the cove prevented the ship from being attacked by American planes during the air raid on Manila.  But, on one occasion, the ship was attacked by American planes when they flew a mission against the airfield at Palawan.

    Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice.  Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights.  Some of the prisoners were able to hot-wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines.  This allowed fresh air into the hold.  The power was turned off when the Japanese discovered what had been done.

    When the POWs began to develop heat blisters, the Japanese finally acknowledged that if they didn't do something many of the POWs would die.  To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs to it.  At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.

     The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th, where it joined a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21st, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs making them targets for American submarines.  In addition, American Military Intelligence was reading Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese, but did not want to  tip off the Japanese of this, so they did not inform the submarines that there were transports carrying POWs.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru,  on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard signaling that submarines had been spotted.  The men in the holds began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.

    The Japanese, on deck, ran to the bow of the ship.  As they watched, a torpedo passed in front of the bow of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in its third hold where there were no POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    The Japanese guards took their rifles and used them as clubs on the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on but did not tie them down.  When they were done, they cut the rope ladders into the holds and abandoned ship.

    The POWs had stopped chanting since they now knew they were facing death.  Some of the POWs in the first hold were able to climb out and reattach the rope ladders which allowed the POWs to climb onto the deck.  Once on deck, an America major spoke to the men.  He said, "Boys, were in a hellva jam - but we've been in jams before.  Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers.  Let's play it that way to the very end of the script.  Right after he spoke, a chaplain

    For the next few hours, the ship remained afloat, and many of the POWs raided the ship's food lockers because they wanted to die with full stomachs.  The ship slowly sunk lower in the water, and when the stern began taking on water, the ship split in two, but both halves of the ship remained afloat.  Many POWs took to the water and attempted to find anything that would float, while other POWs swam to other Japanese ships but were pushed underwater with poles to drown them or clubbed by Japanese sailors.

    Three of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles and the sea was rough, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru sank sometime after dark.  As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer and fewer until there was silence.

    Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  Of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.  Eight of these men would survive the war.  Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Clyde D. Erhardt's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.   


 

 

 

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