Hildebrandt

 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.  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 on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, 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 Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
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.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  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 fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.

    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 later 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.  Roger and the other POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  The ship sailed on October 11th to avoid attacks by American planes.  The ship returned to Manila to join the convoy.  For the next twelve days as the ship waited, the POWs remained in the holds until the ship sailed a second time.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944, near dinner time, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China, in the South China Sea.  There was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes.  The ship stopped dead in the water.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S. Snook.

    As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds.  Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and lowered a ladder to those in the first hold.  They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds. 

    Many of the POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue  them.  The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

    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.








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