Pvt. Kenneth A. Heinrich
| Pvt. Kenneth A.
Heinrich was born on April 24, 1919, in Chicago,
Illinois, to Otto Heinrich & Grace
Schmacher-Heinrich. He grew up, in Chicago,
at 1909 West Wilson Avenue with his two
brothers. He attended school in
Chicago and graduated from Senn High School in
After high school, he attended the RCA
Radio Institute and worked as a repairman at a
On April 7, 1941, Ken was inducted into the U. S. Army. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. Once there, he was assigned to B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. Since the company had been a Illinois National Guard tank company, the army filled the vacancies in the company with men from Illinois.
While at Ft. Knox, Ken became friends with Charles Corr, who was one of the soldiers in charge of training radio operators. Ken would qualify as a radioman during his training.
In the late summer of 1941, Ken took part in
maneuvers in Louisiana. After the
maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain
behind at Camp Polk. None of the members
of the battalion had any idea why they were
there. On the side of a hill, the members
learned they were being sent overseas as part of
Operation PLUM. Within hours, many men had
figured out they were being sent to the
For the next four months. Ken fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. The evening of April 8, 1942, he and the rest of B Company received the word of the surrender. They destroyed their tanks and waited to see what would happen to them.
Ken's company were ordered to Mariveles. After they were searched and the Japanese took what they wanted from the POWs, the POWs were herded into a field. It was from this barrio that Ken started what became known as the death march.
Ken made his way north to San Fernando. Once there, they were ordered into boxcars. One hundred men were packed into each car. Those who died remained standing until he living disembarked the cars at Capas. From there, the Prisoners of War made their way to Camp O'Donnell.
At this time it is known that Ken was held as a
prisoner at Camp O'Donnell. Upon arriving
at the camp, the POWs were told by its
commandant that they were not Prisoners of War
but captives and would be treated as captives.
Ken was sent out
on a work detail to Clark Field to build
runways. He remained on the detail until August
17, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid
Prison. It was also on this date that his
family received a POW postcard from him.
The card was the first news they had from him in
over a year. During his time as a POW, his
weight dropped from 140 pounds to 98
pounds. He also suffered from
pneumonia, pellagra, and dysentery.
Ken was scheduled to be sent to Japan on the Hokusen Maru. At the last minute, a Japanese doctor determined that Ken was too ill with pneumonia to go to Japan. This decision caused Ken to remain at Bilibid, and it also saved his life.
As it turned out, Ken's POW detachment was put on the Arisan Maru instead of the Hokusen Maru. The reason this happened was that the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail but not all the POWs, in the detachment, had not arrived at the pier. Since the detachment of POWs which was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru had arrived, the Japanese switched POW detachments. As it turned out, the Arisan Maru was sunk by an American submarine. Only nine of the 1803 POWs on the ship survived its sinking.
On February 4, 1945, Ken was liberated by American troops at Bilibid Prison. Upon liberation, he was assigned to the 12 Replacement Battalion. His family learned he had been liberated on February 20, 1945.
Ken returned to the United States arriving in San Francisco on March 16th. He was sent to Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. The hospital had been the Chicago Beach Hotel and commandeered by the military as a hospital.
While a patient, Ken met Charles Corr's girlfriend, Joanne Budimier, who he had been introduced to four years earlier. Her reason for visiting the hospital was to see if any of the former POWs had known Charles Corr. It was Ken who told her that Charles had died while a POW at Cabanatuan.
Ken and Joanne visited many times and fell in love. The two were married on June 28, 1945, at Gardiner General Hospital. They would become the parents of two children.
Ken was discharged, from the army, on October 4, 1945. He supported his family as a television repairman. He would later move to Schaumberg, Illinois. After he retired he and his wife would move to California.
Ken Heinrich passed away on October 16, 1992. He was buried in Section 8, Site 213-D, at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.
It should be noted that while Ken was a POW, his parents received a letter that he had written right before the surrender of Bataan. Ken had mailed the letter, but the ship that it was on was sunk by the Japanese. An American submarine fished the mailbag, the letter was in, from the sea. When the letter arrived at his parents' home, it showed signs of its time in the water.