S/Sgt Warren A. Hildebrandt

     S/Sgt Warren A. Hildebrandt was the son of Cecil L. Hildebrandt and Marie Bergen-Hildebrandt and born on July 9, 1921, in Arizona  With his brother and sister, he was raised in Saginaw, Michigan, and later Maywood, Illinois. He attended Irving Grammar School and was a 1939 graduate of Proviso Township High School. While at Proviso he participated in football.  After graduating from Proviso, he attended Elmhurst College for one year.

    Warren enlisted in the Illinois National Guard as a member of the 33rd Tank Company from Maywood, Illinois, while he was still in high school with his best friend, Roger Heilig.  Since he was only sixteen, his parents had to sign the enlistment papers.  He was nicknamed  "Hildy" by the other members of the company. 

    In November of 1940, he was called to federal duty and trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  At Fort Knox, he was trained to operate all the equipment used by the company.  Specifically, he was sent to school to learn about chemical weapons.  The company was now known as Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Next, he took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941.  The members of the battalion were unaware that the 192nd had already been selectedfor duty in the Philippine Islands.
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover.  The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.  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 were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had hwat they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
    The first week of December, 1941, the tankers were ordered to Clark Field to assigned locations.  At all times, two members of each tank crew or half-track crew had to remain with their tank or half-track.
    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.

    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta, where the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River had been destroyed.  The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.

    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders were received from the General MacArthur's chief of staff about who had command of the troops.  Gen. Wainwright was attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan and was unaware of the orders.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6th/7th, the 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross a bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.

    On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and Americans on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  It is not known if Warren surrendered on that day or escaped to Corregidor.  It is known that Warren was held as a Prisoner Of War at Cabanatuan.  He was l/Sgtater assigned to the Bachrach Garage work detail.  He and the other POWs repaired trucks and other vehicles for the Japanese.

    When the Japanese concluded that it was just the a matter of time before the Philippines would be liberated, they disbanded the detail and sent the men to Pier 7 in Manila.  On October 10th, Warren with other prisoners were boarded onto the Arisan Maru
    Warren's POW group was scheduled to sail on the Houkusen Maru, but one group of POWs had not arrived, and the ship was ready to sail.  So that the ship could sail, the Japanese switched the POW detachments.  When the final group of POWs arrived at the pier, the POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  The nearly 1800 POWs were packed into the ship's number one hold which was large enough for 400 men.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.  

   The ship sailed on October 11th, but instead of heading to Japan it headed south to Palawan Island.  In a cove of the island, the ship hid from American planes which was not successful since the ship was attacked once by American planes.    
    The POWs discovered that the power to the hold's lighting system had not been turned off even though the lights had been removed.  Some creative POWs figured out a way to wire the ventilation system into the lighting system.  For two days the POWs had fresh air.  When the Japanese realized what the POWs had done, they turned off the power and ended the ventilation.

    A few days later, the Japanese realized that more POWs would die if they did not do something.  Acknowledging the situation in the hold was extremely bad, the Japanese opened the first hold and moved 800 POWs to it.  This hold was partially filled with coal.
    On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila to join a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21, 1944, the Arisan Maru sailed for Takao, Formosa.  The evening of Tuesday, October 24th, twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner.  The ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea.  Suddenly, the Japanese on deck ran toward the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship.  Moments later the Japanese ran to the stern of the ship as another torpedo passed behind the ship.
   Suddenly, the ship shook and came to a dead stop in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships.  The Japanese guards aimed their guns at the POWs on deck to get them back into the ship's holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the roper ladders into the holds and put the hatch covers on the holds, but they did not tie the covers down.  A short time later, the Japanese abandoned ship.
    Since the hatch covers had not been tied down, some of the POWs made their way back on deck.  These men reattached and dropped ropes and rope ladders to the men in the holds.  For the next two hours, the ship remained afloat.  The POWs who could not swim stuffed themselves with food from the ship's kitchen.  Others attempted to find anything that would float.  Some POWs swam to other Japanese ships, but they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs.  At some point the ship split in two.

    Three of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat which had no oars.  In the boat they heard  cries for help, but they could not maneuver the boat to help the men.  As night fell, the cries became fewer until there was just silence.  The next day, the POWs picked up two more POWs.  When a Japanese destroyer approached the boat, the POWs played dead.  Although it appeared the destroyer was going to fire on the boat, it pulled away without firing.

    S/Sgt.Warren Hildebrandt lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  Of the 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.  Since he was lost at sea, S/Sgt. Warren Hildebrandt's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.
    It should be mentioned, Warren's best friend, Roger Heilig, who joined the National Guard with him, also died when the Arisan Maru was sunk.
    It should be mentioned that S/Sgt. Warren A. Hildebrandt was awarded the Silver Star.

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