Jerele

Pfc. Harry Jerele


    Pfc. Harry Jerele was born in February 1, 1916, in Clinton, Iowa, and was one of the seven children of Leo and Mary Jerele.  After leaving Iowa, his family moved to Maywood, Melrose Park, Bellwood, and finally Berkley, Illinois.  Since his father was an employee of the Chicago & North Western Railroad, his family was allowed to live in a house, that sat on railroad property, at the intersection of St. Charles and Wolf Roads.  Harry loved to tinker with mechanical things and to play the guitar.

    Harry attended Melrose Park Grade School and after he graduated, like his father, he worked for the Chicago & North Western Railroad.  At some point, with his friend, Norman Spencer, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to have the opportunity to travel and take pictures.  He also liked the idea of working outside.  Together, Norman and Harry built roads and parking lots in national parks in Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington State.

    Harry returned home and worked as a janitor for the National Youth Administration and joined the Illinois National Guard because his friend, Norman Spencer, wanted to join.  Norman made this decision after talking to an officer in the National Guard who lived across the street from him.  Harry became a member of the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard which was stationed in Maywood. 
    When the tank company was federalized in November 1940, Harry trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  It was there that Harry learned how to drive motorcycles, tanks and half-tracks. What specific training he received is not known.

    In January 1941, Harry was transferred to the Headquarters Company when the company was formed with men from the four companies of the battalion.  As a member of the Headquarters Company, Harry took part in the 1941 maneuvers in Louisiana by maintaining the tanks of the battalion.  Afterwards, the members of the battalion were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected.
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin 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, as part of a three ship convoy which arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  Since the ships 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. 
During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship, was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.     
   
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables, before sailing for Manila.  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.  The ships sailed the next day for Manila and entered Manila Bay at 8:00 A.M. on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 later in the day and the soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  those assigned to trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
  At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but he had only learned of their arrival days earlier.  He made sure that they had what they needed and 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.
    On Monday, December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion was assigned the northern half of the airfield while the 192nd protected the southern half.  At all times, two crew members had two remain with their tank or half-track and received their meals from food trucks.  HQ Company made sure that the companies had what they needed.
    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 up to full strength at Clark Field. 
    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.

    Harry as a motorcycle messenger carried messages between the 192nd Headquarters Company and the different companies of the battalion.  While doing this job, he was twice reported Missing In Action during the Battle of Bataan. 
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."    

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.


    Harry and his company finally boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  At some point, outside of Mariveles, they were ordered by the Japanese out of their trucks.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit.  As they sat, the POWs 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 watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Harry's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little to protect themselves since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the Bataan Death March.  During the march, they received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. 

    Once at San Fernando, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.  During their time in the pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive and when one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.

    The POWs were ordered to form 100 men detachments.  Once this was done, they were marched to the train station in San Fernando and put into a small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing - since they could not fall to the floor - until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  From Capas, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.

    While at Camp O'Donnell, Harry was selected for a work detail at San Fernando, which had the job of recovering vehicles that had been destroyed by the Filipino and American forces before they surrendered.  The POWs would tie the vehicles together, behind an operating vehicle, and drive them the vehicles to San Fernando where they would be loaded onto ships as scrap metal.

    When this detail was completed, Harry was sent to Cabanatuan Prison Camp.  On  which had been opened to lower the death rate among the POWs.  According to medical records kept at the camp, on Thursday, July 9th, Harry was hospitalized suffering from pneumonia.  According to the medical roster and the final report on the 192nd, he died of cerebral malaria and pneumonia, at the age of 27, on Thursday, December 24, 1942, at approximately 1:00 PM.   The medical record also shows that he had dysentery.

    In June 1943, Harry's father made his first attempt to find out if his son was dead or alive.  The family had learned he was a prisoner in March 1943.  Harry's father would make two more attempts before the end of the year.  The family did not know anything about Harry until they were notified of his death on December 28, 1943. 

    The remains of Harry Jerele were buried in the camp cemetery at Cabanatuan in grave 804 with three other POWs.  After the war, the remains of the three other men, who shared Harry's grave, were identified.  For some reason, Harry's remains were never identified, but somehow made their way to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California.

    On December 1, 1949, his remains were returned from Fort Mason to Manila.  The remains were identified as X-846 and buried at the American Military Cemetery, at Manila, as an "Unknown" in Plot L, Row 2, Grave 57.  Although Harry's remains were never identified, his name does not appear on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.  Harry's name does appear on the Cabanatuan Memorial at the site of the former POW camp.

    In October 1946, Berkley renamed Fifty-first Avenue to Jerele Avenue in Harry's honor.  Fifty-second Avenue was renamed in honor of Norman Spencer to Spencer Avenue. 

    At this time, Harry's family is attempting to have these remains exhumed and, through the use of DNA, bring him home. 



 


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