Sgt. Howard L. Hasselkus


    Sgt. Howard L. Hasselkus was born July 17, 1918, to Fred A. Hasselkus & Myna Hoefflinger-Hasselkus at 402 Toledo Street in Elmore, Ohio.  His mother died, and his father married Myna Hoefflinger.  This marriage resulted in Howard becoming the half brother of two sisters and a brother.  He graduated from Harris-Elmore High School in 1936.  After high school, he worked as a draftsman for the Multiplex Concrete Machinery Company in Elmore.

    Howard was inducted into the U. S Army on February 2, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He would train there for almost year.  After arriving at Ft. Knox, Howard was assigned to Headquarters Company when the company was formed.  Being that the company was newly formed, Howard quickly rose in rank.

    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion traveled to Louisiana and continued their training at Camp Polk, Louisiana in the form of maneuvers.  The members of the battalion learned at Camp Polk that they had been selected for duty overseas.  Traveling west over four different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California.  They were taken by ferry to Angel Island.  On the island the soldiers received physicals and inoculations.  Men who did not pass the physicals were replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
   The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  
    About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.

    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  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 8, 1941, the Japanese attacked the Philippines hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Howard was assigned to one of the halftracks of HQ Company.  The halftracks were used for reconnaissance.  Howard appears in a halftrack photo, that often appears in books on the Battle of Bataan.

    On April 9, 1942, Howard and the other members of the battalion were ordered to surrender.   Capt. Fred Bruni, the company commanding officer, brought juice and bread to his men.  With them he had what he called "their last supper".

     Howard and the other men remained in their encampment for two days before they were ordered by a Japanese officer to move out to the road that passed their encampment.  They were then told to kneel along the sides of the road.  As they knelt, Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from Howard's and the other men's possessions. 

    The members of HQ Company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, Howard and the other Prisoners of War 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 there 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 their guns.

    Later in the day, Howard's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  In the school yard, they once again sat and waited.  They were again ordered to move.  This time when they were ordered to rest, they found themselves sitting in the middle of a artillery battle between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs were killed from incoming American shells.  One group died when they attempted to hide in a small break shed which took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed at knocking out three of the four Japanese guns. 

    The POWs were again ordered to move.  They had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  They made their way north to San Fernando.  At the train station, they were packed into wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold eight horses or forty men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  At Capas, the POWs still living climbed out of the boxcars.  The bodies of the dead fell out of boxcars.  The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell, which was an unfinished Filipino training camp, was pressed into use by the Japanese as a prison camp.  The conditions in the camp were so bad that the as many as fifty POWs died each day.  There was only one water fountain for the entire camp.  While a POW in the camp, he worked as a draftsman.

    The Japanese realized that the conditions at Camp O'Donnell had to be dealt with, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  It is not known if Howard went directly to the camp when it opened, or if he was sent to the camp after returning from a work detail.  It is known that Howard was admitted to the camp's hospital on Thursday, August 6, 1942, suffering from malaria, scurvy, and pellagra.  According to U. S. Army records, Sgt. Howard L. Hasselkus died on Sunday, November 22, 1942, at 11:00 PM at Cabanatuan Prison Camp from malaria.  It was only after his death that it was learned that he had secretly married Evelyn Smith on July 4, 1941.

    After the war, Howard's remains could not be identified.  He is most likely shares a grave, with other POWs, that is marked "Unknown" at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.  His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.


 

 

 


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