Harrie

 

Cpl. Robert M. Harrie


    Cpl. Robert M. Harrie was the son of Charles F. Harrie & Bessie Gordon-Harrie.  He was born on November 9, 1922, in Whitestown, Wisconsin.  His mother died and his father remarried.  Robert moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, with his family, where he attended elementary school and high school.   It is known that he had two sisters, two half-brothers, and three half sisters.   After high school, he worked for the Janesville Gazette.

    While he was in high school, Robert joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company headquartered in the armory in Janesville.  Since he was sixteen, he was discharged.  In 1940, he reenlisted in the National Guard.

    While he was still in high school, the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Robert left high school in November, 1940 and traveled to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for nine months of training.  During his time at Ft. Knox, Robert attended radio operator's school and qualified as a radio operator.

     In the late summer of 1941, Robert as a member of the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941.  After the maneuvers he and the other members of the battalion learned that their time in the military had been extended
   The battalion 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 November 5th, 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.  It
was during the battalion's trip to the Philippines that Robert celebrated his 19th birthday.  As the convoy approached the International Date Line, Robert realized that, with the change of date, he would miss his birthday entirely.  To solve the problem, the convoy went without November 10th.
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  It sailed the same day for Manila.  The ship entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  It 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.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were told of the attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.  Capt. Walter Write ordered the tankers to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Their duty was to prevent the use of paratroopers.  As they sat in the tankers sat in their tanks, they watched as American planes flew overhead all morning.  Around noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.

    Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared overhead.  Like the other men, Robert believed they were American until they felt and heard bombs exploding.  During the attack, Bob and the rest of his tank crew fired at the planes, but could do little damage since they did not have the proper weapons. 

   As the Filipino and American forces entered Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River.  Knowing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep.  It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.  Robert climbed out of his tank to see what was going on and had the steel helmet he was wearing shot off his head.  He got back into the tank.

    As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers.  The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks.  To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smoke screen.  Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line.

    Robert spent the next four months fighting the Japanese.  On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He and the other members of A Company made their way to Mariveles where they began the death march.

    Robert, and the other POWs, marched for days without food or water.  At San Fernando, he and the other POWs were packed into wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane.  The POWs were packed in so tightly, that men suffocated from lack of air.       
   At Capas, the prisoners disembarked and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.  This former Filipino Army Camp was pressed into service by the Japanese without prior preparation.  Arriving at the camp, they were told by the camp's commandant that they were not Prisoners of War but captives of Japan, and would be treated as such.
  
As a POW Robert was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  Cabanatuan was opened to lower the death rate among the POWs.  After arriving in the camp, he was assigned to Barracks #14.  During his time in the camp, Robert came down with dysentery and put into the camp hospital on July 16, 1942.  He was discharged from the hospital on September 6th. 

    When Cabanatuan was opened, Robert was transferred there with most of the other prisoners.  Sometime during his imprisonment there, Robert developed dysentery.  On Tuesday, September 9, 1942, he was admitted to the camp hospital.  Cpl. Robert M. Harrie died from dysentery on Saturday, November 21, 1942, at 10:30 PM.  He was 20 years old.  His parents learned of his death in August 1943.

    After the war, his family asked that Robert's remains be returned to Janesville.  He was reburied at Milton Lawn Cemetery in Janesville on July 23, 1949.  




 

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