Cpl. Fred A. Jannisch Jr.
| Cpl. Fred A.
Jannisch Jr. was the only son of Fred A. Jannisch
Sr. & Anna Siegler-Jannisch. He was
born on October 25, 1922. When he was a child,
his father purchased a house at 333 Park in River
Forest, Illinois. Fred's father did this because
he was a River Forest Fireman and wanted to live in
the town where he worked.
Fred attended grade school in River Forest and Oak Park River Forest High School. He was a Boy Scout in Troop #15 which was headquartered in the Euclid Methodist Church. This was the church Fred's family attended. One reason Fred loved scouting was that he loved to camp. This may explain why he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard.
In the fall of 1940, the federal government began federalizing National Guard units. Fred's tank company, the 33rd Divisional Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard, was called to federal duty on his eighteenth birthday. He was known as "Freddy" to the members of his company.
Fred traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with his tank company. To do this, he withdrew from high school in the fall of his senior year. Upon arriving at Ft. Knox, his tank company was designated as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
In early 1941, Fred was transferred into Headquarters Company when it was created with men from the four letter companies of the battalion. It is not known what his duties were.
In the fall of 1941, after taking part in maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, Fred learned that his battalion was being sent overseas. He received a leave home to say goodbye to his parents and friends.
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 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 Thursday, November 20th, the ships entered 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.
On December 8th, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tankers were sitting on their tanks around the perimeter of Clark Airfield. HQ Company remained behind at their quarters. At 12:45 in the afternoon, planes approached the airfield from the north. To avoid being killed from the bombs exploding on the runways the members of HQ Company hid in the ditches
In a letter home which was written during the withdrawal into Bataan, he told his parents, "The first and only mail any of us received was around the last of November. All of it was postmarked October 27."
In addition, he wrote of how smoking had become a luxury. "Before the war, cigarettes were selling at our post for 50 cents a carton. (American money). Then they went up - 50 cents a pack - $1 - $1.50 a package, even to the ridiculous price of $25 in U.S. money for one carton."
Although Fred never saw front line action, he did live with the daily bombings and strafing by Japanese planes. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.
Fred and the other members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac area for two days. They were then ordered out to the road that passed by near their bivouac. Once on the road, they were ordered to kneel facing the center. They also had to put all their possessions in front of them. Japanese troops passing by, took whatever they wanted from the prisoners.
HQ Company then boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, Fred and the other Prisoners of War noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up to the Japanese soldiers in a car. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Fred was moved to a schoolyard in Mariveles. In the schoolyard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum. Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide. Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells.
The POWs were ordered to move by the Japanese. Fred and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march he received no water and little food. At San Fernando, he was put into a steel boxcar and taken to Capas. From Capas, Fred walked the last few miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Fred was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. It is not known at this time if he went out on a work detail. It is known that Fred was transferred to Cabanatuan when the camp opened. After arriving in the camp, Fred was admitted to the camp hospital on August 2, 1942, suffering from dysentery and malaria. It was at this camp that Cpl. Fred A. Jannisch, Jr., at approximately 1:30 PM, that he died of dysentery on October 14, 1942, eleven days before his 20th birthday.
When Fred's parents learned of their son's death on June 29, 1943, they were devastated. During his time as a POW, they had received only one letter from Fred. That was in August 1942. The letter was dated February 24, 1942. It showed signs of having been in water.
On July 24, 1943, a memorial service was held for Fred Jannisch Jr at the River Forest Methodist Church. After the war, Cpl. Fred A. Jannisch Jr. was reburied in Plot J, Row 14, Grave 8, at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.
Upon hearing the news of Fred's death, his former scout master, Mr. Kenneth Rogers, wrote a poem in memory of him. The poem can be read by clicking here.