Glasenapp

Pvt. Erwin Albert Glasenapp


     Pvt. Erwin A. Glasenapp was born on January 16, 1916, to Gustave Glasenapp and Hulga Schmidt-Glasenapp in Douglas County, Minnesota.  He grew up, with his six brothers and seven sisters, on the family farm fifteen miles north of Rochester, Minnesota, in Kolmar Township, Olmsted County, and attended school in a one room wooden school house.  During the 1920s, his mother passed away.

    After graduating grade school, Erwin went to live with his sister Ella's family at 1018 North Twelfth Avenue in Melrose Park, Illinois.  It was while living there that he attended Proviso Township High School, in Maywood, Illinois, and was a member of the graduating Class of 1936.  After high school, he worked in a restaurant.

    Like most young men his age, Erwin knew that the recently passed draft act would result in his serving in the military.  To have a say in his military service, he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard's Maywood Tank Company in September of 1940.  Erwin also knew that the company was scheduled to be called to federal service and that this duty would fulfill his military obligation.

    In the autumn of 1940, the 33rd Tank Company left Maywood for Fort Knox, Kentucky, and became Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  At Fort Knox, the men were trained to perform the various jobs of a tank crew.  In Erwin's case, he was trained as a radio operator.  

    The battalion was next sent to Louisiana and took part in maneuvers in the late summer of 1941.  Unbeknownst to them, they had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.  They learned of this assignment while sitting on the side of a hill at Camp Polk, Louisiana.

    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, 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.
    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.
   
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.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and 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.  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 did tank maintenance.

    After receiving new equipment, the battalion was sent to Angel Island, where it left the United States for the Philippines.  After a stop in Hawaii, the ship sailed under strict blackout conditions.  This reinforced the belief in Erwin's and the other members of the 192nd that the United States would soon be at war.

    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.    
   
The 192nd remained at Clark field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line. 
    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 were 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 tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over.
   
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back.  According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.  When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
 
    The night of April 8, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  They circled their tanks.  Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks.  Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.

      At 7:00 in the morning on April 9, 1942, Erwin became a Prisoner of War.  He took part in the death march and believed that the worst part of the march was the 100 degree temperatures and the lack of food, the lack of water, and the lack of rest.  He recalled watching American prisoners being beaten, shot and bayoneted by the Japanese guards because they could not keep up with the column.

     For Erwin, the march took six days and nights to complete before he arrived at Camp O'Donnell.  This camp was terribly inadequate for the number of men being held there.  If a man wanted a drink, he had to stand in line at the water faucet for hours to get one.  There was only one faucet for the entire camp.

    As a POW, Erwin was next sent to Cabanatuan in May 1942.  It is not known if he went out on any work details.  Camp medical records indicate that he was hospitalized on March 23, 1943.  The reason why he was hospitalized and the date he was discharged were not recorded.   
    Erwin remained at Cabanatuan until he was sent to Japan until September 18, 1943.  The POWs were boarded onto the Taga Maru on September 20, 1943.  After a stop at Takao Formosa, the ship arrived in Japan on October 20th.   Erwin was sent to Hirohata #12-B, which was about 30 miles from Kobe and Osaka.  There he was given the number of POW 1261.

    At this camp, Erwin worked in a coal mine shoveling coal into mine cars.  The work was extremely hard and done with very little food.  The coal was then transported to the Seitetsu Steel Mills.  What made the situation even worse were the beatings by the guards and the sickness of the prisoners.

    Erwin and the other POWs had no idea of how the war was going until the guards disappeared, and American planes dropped supplies to them.  On September 9, 1945, Erwin was liberated by American Forces.  After Army contacted his sister and informed her of his liberation.

    Erwin returned to the United States and was discharged, from the army, on March 18, 1946.  He moved back to Minnesota, and married Betty Sue Keeton, on June 15, 1947, in Pope County, Arkansas.  The couple ran a resort in Rochester, Minnesota.  He was the father of a daughter and two sons. 

      Erwin Glasenapp passed away on June 28, 1999, just hours before his family received the medals he had earned in World War II.  Erwin's medals include the Bronze Star, the American Defender of the Philippines Service Medal and the Prisoner of War Medal.  He was buried, next to his wife, at Grandview Cemetery, Rochester, Minnesota.

    The photo at the top of the page was taken by the Japanese while Erwin was a POW.  The photo below, was taken six months after he had been liberated from Hirohata and returned to the United States.


 


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