|Tec 5 Donald M. Heddleston
T/5 Donald M. Heddleston was born out of wedlock in
Minnesota on March 11, 1917. His
mother, Anna H. Austerson, moved to Orfordville,
Wisconsin, with her infant son and later married
Louis Sveom. The couple would have two
Donald was raised in Ordfordville and attended school there. He also took the last name of his step-father, but he was never adopted. As a young man, Donald worked as a automobile mechanic at the DeVoe Plymouth dealership in Orfordville.
In October 1940, Donald joined the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville. Most likely the reason was that a draft act had just been passed and he knew he would be drafted. The Janesville tank company had already been notified that it was being called up for federal duty for one year, and joining the National Guard would fulfill his military commitment. When he joined, he was required, by the National Guard, to use the name that appeared on his birth certificate, which was Donald M. Heddleston.
On November 25, 1940, Donald's tank company was called to federal service as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 27, Donald traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky. In January 1941, he was transferred to HQ Company when the company was formed with men from the letter companies of the battalion. Being a mechanic meant he most likely qualified as a tank mechanic.
Donald continued to train at Ft. Knox until he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana, from September 1 through 30, 1941. It was after the maneuvers, at Camp Polk, that Donald and his battalion learned that instead of being released from federal service, they were being sent overseas. Donald returned home to say goodbye to family and friends.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were ferried. on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or 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 27. 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. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 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, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, 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 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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 P. 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 they had Thanksgiving Dinner, King went and had 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.
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 half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the members of HQ Company were informed by Capt. Fred Bruni of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. All the members of the letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.
At 12:45 in the afternoon, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first the soldiers assumed the planes were American. It was only after they saw and heard bombs dropping from the planes did they knew that 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.
That night the members of the company slept in a dry latrine that was near their bivouac since it was safer then their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night on a bed. The next morning, they saw the bodies of the dead lying on the ground. Pilots who had night duty lay dead in their tents.
Donald and the other members of HQ Company worked to keep the tankers supplied and the tanks running. On January 14, 1942, Donald was wounded by enemy fire. The exact details are not known. It is known that he did not return to active duty until March 11th which was his 25th birthday.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. Donald was now a Prisoner of War. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans. They remained along the sides of the road for hours.
Donald, and the rest of the company, rode trucks south to outside Mariveles where they disembarked and were ordered into a field at the airport. As they sat there, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form across from them. The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad.
As Donald and the other POWs watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car, got out, and talked to the Japanese sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. As he drove off, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Not too long after this, Donald and the other men were ordered to move. They moved to a second field where Japanese artillery was set up and firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. As they sat in the field, the two islands began to return fire and shells began to land among the POWs. Several men were killed when a shell hit the hut that they had sought refuge in from the shells. By the time the artillery exchange had ended, the Americans had destroyed three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were again ordered to move and they had no idea that they had started the death march. According to other members of the company, Donald had a leg wound and had a hard time on the march.
Donald and the other POWs made their way north to San Fernando. There, he and the other men were packed into small wooden boxcars that were used for hauling sugarcane. The boxcars were known as "Forty or Eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put 100 men in each car and closed the doors. They rode the cars to Capas were the bodies of the dead fell out when the living disembarked. The POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Once in Camp O'Donnell, Donald was put in the camp hospital because of his wounds. He remained at Camp O'Donnell even after the new camp at Cabanatuan opened in late May 1942. It was while he was in the hospital that he became ill with dysentery. According to the final report on the 192nd written by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield, T/5 Donald M. Heddleston died from malaria and dysentery on Monday, June 8, 1942, at Camp O'Donnell. But, according to the surviving members of A Company, Donald became ill because he refused to eat and traded his rice ration for cigarettes.
Records kept by the medical staff at Camp O'Donnell show that Donald died on June 8, 1942. The cause of death was listed as malaria and dysentery. After his death he was buried in the camp cemetery in Section M, Row 10, Grave 2.
After the war, the Remains Recovery Team were able to identify Donald's remains because the chaplains had recorded the exact location of each body in the grave. The remains of T/5 Donald M. Heddleston were reburied at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot N, Row 4, Grave 41.