M/Sgt. Robert George Havens

    M/Sgt. Robert G. Havens was the son of George S. & Clara Havens.  He was born in Wisconsin on July 28, 1917.  He had three sisters and a brother.  His family resided with his grandparents in Janesville, Wisconsin, where they lived at 1803 South Mineral Point Avenue.   He was a manager for newspaper carriers for the Janesville Gazette.

    On November 1, 1937, Robert enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Divisional Tank Company headquartered in Janesville.  After high school, he worked for the Janesville Gazette and became the circulation manager.

    Robert was called to federal duty on November 25, 1940 and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky to train.  It was there that his company became A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  While he was at Fort Knox, he was promoted to Sergeant Major and transferred from Company A to Headquarters Company when it was created in January, 1941.  In his new company, he was given the job of battalion clerk

    Robert next took part in maneuvers in Louisiana and then was sent to Camp Polk.  At Camp Polk, he was informed that the 192nd Tank Battalion was being sent overseas for further training.  He received a leave home to take care of any unfinished business and to say his 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 health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii, on the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott, 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 October 29th 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 November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.

    On April 9, 1942, Robert became a Prisoner of War when the Filipino and American Forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  After receiving news of the surrender, Robert and his company remained in their camp for two days.  Japanese soldiers arrived and told them to go t the road that ran near their encampment.  The Prisoners of War were made to kneel along the sides of the road.  As they knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them took whatever they wanted from the Americans.

    The POWs boarded trucks and road to Mariveles.  Outside of the barrio, they were herded into a field an told to sit.  They remained there for hours.  When they received orders to move, they were moved to another open field in front of a school.  They were again told to sit and wait.  Behind them were artillery pieces.  The guns opened up on Corregidor.  Within a few minutes, Corregidor began to return fire.

    Shells from Corregidor began landing among the POWs.  Robert and the men attempted to find cover.  There was a little shed that some POWs hid in. The shed was hit by a shell.  When the shelling stopped, all but one of the Japanese artillery pieces had been destroyed.

    Not too long after this, Robert was ordered to move again,  He had no idea that this time he had started what became known as the Death March.  He and the other men made their way to San Fernando.  They were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  At Capas, they disembarked and made their way to Camp O'Donnell.  The conditions in this unfinished Filipino Army base were so bad that the POWs volunteered to go out on work details to escape them.
    To lower the death rate among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.   Robert was sent to the camp when it opened.  According to records kept by the medical staff at the camp, Robert was admitted to the camp's hospital on June 19, 1942, suffering from malaria.  He was discharged on August 15, 1942.

    Robert went out on a work detail to Clark Field.  There, he and the other POWs worked to enlarge the airfield.  While on this detail, he became ill and was sent to Cabanatuan. Records show he entered the hospital in October 1942 suffering from myocarditis due to beriberi.   It was there that Sgt. Robert G. Havens died of myocarditis and beriberi on Monday, November 23, 1942, at 11:30 PM.

    Robert's one prized possession he had with him when he died was a prayer book.  He asked his friend Phil Parish to give the book to his family when Phil returned home.  Phil kept his promise and gave the book to Robert's parents after the war.

    Since M/Sgt. Robert G. Havens' final resting place is unknown.  After he died, he was buried in a mass grave with eight other POWs who died on the same date.  Two of these POWs were member of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The grave was designated as Grave 808.

    After the war, a recovery team from the Army exhumed of the POWs buried in Grave 808 on January 31, 1946.  Robert's remains were originally given the number of C-135.  Three sets of remains from the grave were identified while six sets of remains were not positively identified.  Robert's remains were given the new number of Unknown X-538.  Since the Army believed they could not positively identify his remains, he was buried in Plot L, Row 8, Grave 76, as an "unknown" at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila. 

    Since M/Sgt. Robert G. Haven's remains were never identified, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing  at the cemetery.  



Return to A Company