Robert G. Havens was the son of George S.
& Clara Havens, and was born in Wisconsin,
on July 28, 1917. He had three sisters
and a brother and 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
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 and
transferred to Headquarters Company when it
was created in January 1941. In his new
company, he was given the job of battalion
clerk and would later be promoted to master
Robert next took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana in the late summer of 1941.
After the maneuvers the battalion was sent
to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft.
Knox. At Camp Polk, the soldiers were
informed that the 192nd Tank Battalion was
being sent overseas for further
training. Those men 29 years or older
were given the chance to resign from federal
service and were replaced. Many of the
soldiers received leaves home to take care
of any unfinished business and to say their
The decision to send the
192nd to the Philippines was because of an
event that happened during the summer of
1941. A squadron of American fighters
were flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of
the pilots noticed something odd. He
took his plane down and identified a buoy in
the water. He came upon more buoys
that lined up, in a straight line, in the
direction of an Japanese occupied
island. When the squadron landed he
reported what he had seen. By the time
a Navy ship was sent to the area, the buoys
had been picked up. It was at that
time the decision was made to build up the
American military presence in the
From Camp Polk, the
battalion traveled west over different train
routes to San Francisco, Californa.
Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were
ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island and
given physicals and inoculated for tropical
diseases. Those with health issues were
released from service and replaced.
Other men were held back and scheduled to
rejoin the battalion at a later date.
192nd was boarded onto the U.S.
A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed
on Monday, October 27th. During
this part of the trip, many tankers had
seasickness, but once they recovered
they spent much of the time training in
breaking down machine guns, cleaning
weapons, and doing KP.
They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday,
November 2nd, and had a two day layover, so
the soldiers were given shore leave
so they could see the island.
Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for
Guam but took a southerly route
away from the main shipping lanes. It
was at this time it was joined by, the heavy
cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville
and, the transport, S. S. Calvin
Coolidge. Sunday night,
November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and
when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11th. During the
night, while they slept, the ships had
crossed the International Date Line.
On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an
unknown ship was seen on the horizon.
The Louisville revved up its engines, its
bow came out of the water, and it shot off
in the direction of the smoke. It
turned out the smoke was from a ship that
belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived
at Guam on Sunday, November 16th,
the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts,
and vegetables before sailing for Manila the
next day. At one point, the
ships passed an island at night and did so
in total blackout. This for many of
the soldiers was a sign that they were being
sent into harm's way. The
ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on
Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier
7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M.,
most of the soldiers were taken by bus to
Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove
trucks drove them to the fort, while the
maintenance section remained behind at the
pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, the
tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who
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. After making sure the
soldiers had their Thanksgiving Dinner, King
went to have his own dinner.
The members of
the battalion pitched the tents in an open
field halfway between the Clark Field
Administration Building and Fort
Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in
two rows and five men were assigned to each
tent. There were two supply tents and
meals were provided by food trucks stationed
at the end of the rows of tents.
For the next
seventeen days the tankers spent much of
their time removing cosmoline from their
weapons which had the grease put on them to
prevent them from rusting during the voyage
to the Philippines. 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
On Monday, December
1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter
of Clark Field to guard against
paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion
guarded the northern portion of the airfield
and the 192nd guarded the southern
portion. At all times, two members of
each tank and half-track remained with their
vehicles. Meals were served to the
tankers from food trucks.
At six in the
morning on December 8th, the officers of the
battalion were called to the radio room at
the fort. They were ordered to bring
their tank platoons up to full strength
around Clark Field. The tankers were
receiving lunch from food trucks when, at
12:45, they saw a formation of planes
approaching the airfield from the
north. At first they thought they were
American planes and had enough time to count
54 planes. As they watched, the saw
"raindrops" falling from the planes.
When bombs began exploding, the soldiers
knew the planes were Japanese.
Japanese were finished, there was not much
left of the airfield. The soldiers
watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were
hauled to the hospital on bomb racks,
trucks, and anything that could carry the
wounded was in use. When the hospital
filled, they watched the medics place the
wounded under the building. Many of
these men had their arms and legs missing.
For the next four
months, Robert worked to ensure that the
letter companies had what they needed.
Often this meant he had to fight with the
bureaucracy that controlled the needed
April 9, 1942, the members of the tank
company received the order "bash" on their
radios. This meant they to destroy any
equipment that could be used for military
purposes. The next day, the Japanese
arrived and ordered the HQ personnel onto
the road. When the POWs were ordered
to move, they found walking on the gravel
trail difficult. When the
trial ended, and the POW were on the main
road, the first thing the
Japanese did was separate the officers from
the enlisted men.
were left in the sun for the rest of the
day. That night they were ordered
north. The march was difficult in the
dark since they could not see where they
were walking. Whenever they slipped,
they knew they had stepped on the remains of
a dead soldier. The POWs made
their way north, against the flow of
Japanese troops, who were moving
south. At Limay on April 11th, they
were put into a schoolyard, which had
barbwire around it, until ordered to move.
their way north to Balanga and
arrived in Orani on April 12th, where they
were reunited with the officers of the tank
group who had been driven there. At
6:30 that evening, the POWs resumed the
march and marched at a faster pace.
The guards also seemed to be nervous about
something. This time they the POWs
make their way to Hormosa. There, the
road went from gravel to concrete.
This change of surface made the march
easier. When the POWs were allowed to
sit down, those who attempted to lay down
were jabbed with bayonets.
continued the march and - for the first time
in months - it began to rain which felt
great. At 4:30 PM on April 13th, they
arrived at San Fernando, where they were
once again put into a pen which was already
occupied by Filipino soldiers.
The POWs were put into groups of 200
men to be fed. A couple of the POWs
would get the food which was distributed to
each member of the group. Water was
given out in a similar fashion.
That night not all the POWs could lie down
to sleep. At 4:00 A.M., the
Japanese woke the POWs, formed detachments
of 100 men, and marched them to the train
the train station, they were packed into
small wooden boxcars
used to haul sugarcane. The cars were
known as "Forty or Eights," since they could
hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese
put 100 men into each boxcar and closed the
doors. They were packed in so tightly
that those who died remained standing since
they could not fall to the floors. At
Capas, the living POWs 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 and 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.
Medical records show he entered the hospital
in October 1942 suffering from myocarditis -
which is when the body's immune system
attacks the body - due to beriberi.
The medical records indicate
that Sgt. Robert G. Havens died of
myocarditis and beriberi on Monday, November
23, 1942, at 11:30 P.M.
Robert's one prized
possession, which 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.
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. The recovery
team knew who was buried in the grave, but
not where in the grave the man had been
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. After this, 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
Since M/Sgt. Robert G. Haven's
remains were never identified, his name
appears on The Tablets of the
Missing at the cemetery.