Pvt. George Charles Hardtke
| Pvt. George C.
Hardtke was born on July 18, 1914, in Chicago,
Illinois, and was the son of Louis F. Hardtke & Emma J.
Rach-Hardtke. With his six brothers and three
sisters, he grew up at 1861 North Winnebago Avenue
in Chicago. Like many young men of the time,
George completed grammar school and went to work as
a shipping clerk at a candy company. It is
known that his mother passed away in 1940.
George was inducted into the U.S. Army on April 3, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. During basic training, he was assigned to Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and assigned to one of the half-tracks that were used for reconnaissance by the battalion.
The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers. They were kept at Camp Polk, after the maneuvers, without being given a reason why. According to members of the battalion, General George Patton had picked the battalion to go overseas. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service and replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and taken by ferry 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. 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 arriving at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd. Since there was a two day layover, the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. During this part of the trip, smoke was seen on the horizon and the heavy cruiser, which was escorting the two transports, went to intercept it. The soldiers stated that the cruiser revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and the ship took off after the ship. It turned out the ship belonged to a neutral country.
When the ships arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, they took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables, before sailing the next moring for Manila. One night, the ships passed an island while they were in total blackout. For many of the soldiers, this was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that day. The soldiers disembarked the ship, about three hours after it arrived, and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those assigned as truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort, while the maintenance section of the company remained behind to unload the battalion's tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. The fact was that he had learned of their arrival just days before they docked. He made sure that they had everything they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their guns which had been greased to protect them from rusting while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
The morning of Monday, December 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. The 194th was assigned the northern part of the airfield to defend, and the 192nd guard the southern half. At all times, two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.
At six in the morning, on Monday, December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort and told of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. That morning the tankers watched as the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled, the planes were lined up in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield. As they watched the planes, they saw "raindrops" falling from them. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
As a member of HQ Company, George remained in the bivouac of the battalion. After the attack, the tankers saw the carnage done during the attack. The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps. The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
The tank battalion received
that it was to
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
Later in the day, the POWs were 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.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese, they had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march, the POWs 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.
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two were still alive. When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station. The POWs were put into a small wooden boxcars and taken to Capas. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars. From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to 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. Many POWs went out on work details to
get out of the camp.