Heinrich

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 1937.   After high school, he attended the RCA  Radio Institute and worked as a repairman at a radio store.

    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 Philippine Islands. 
    Ken received a pass home and said his goodbyes.  Ken and Corr met at the train station for their return trip to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  Corr introduced his girlfriend to Ken before they left Chicago.
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, 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.
    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  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. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  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.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    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.
    Conditions in the camp were terrible.  As may as 55 POWs died a day.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  The Japanese finally admitted that they had to do something, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
    Ken was sent to Cabanatuan when it opened.  Medical records kept by the camp's hospital staff show that he was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday, June 12, 1942, suffering from malaria and cellulitis.  He remained in the hospital until January 28, 1943, when he was discharged.  His family did not learn that he was a POW until June 9, 1943. 

    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.
    On September 1, 1944, he was admitted to the hospital ward - from Building 12 which was known as "the Casual Group" - at the prison suffering from acute bronchitis.  While he was in the hospital, the detail ended and the POWs were sent to Bilibid.  They were held there until their names appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan.

    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 MaruThe 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.


 



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