|Tec 5 Donald M.
T/5 Donald M. Heddleston was born out of wedlock in
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 daughters together.
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 joinng 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 27th, 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 in the late summer of 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.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes to San Francisco, California, where 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. Other men with minor medical issues were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, on the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott, as part of a three ship convoy which arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover. The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island. They sailed again on October 29th for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
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. At one point, the ships passed an island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they would soon be at war. About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manilalater that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded buses and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila. Those assigned to trucks drove them to the fort. The maintenance section of the battalion 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 they had Thanksgiving Dinner, King went and had his own dinner.
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.
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.
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 11th, 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.