M/Sgt. Robert George Havens

    M/Sgt. 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 Janesville.    
    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 sergeant.    

   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 goodbyes.     
   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 Philippines. 
    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.
    The 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.
    On 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 maneuvers.   
    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.
    When the 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 supplies.
    On 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.
   The POWs 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.
    They made 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.
    The POWs 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 station.
    At 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 placed.
    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.  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 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