Pvt. Nick Kaplar

    Very little is known about Pvt. Nick Kaplar.  It is known that he was born on May 29, 1915, to Mrs. Cecelia Kohniak in Chicago, Illinois.  It appears that his father may have passed away and that his mother married Joseph Kohniak. He had two sisters and four half-brothers.  After his mother remarried, Nick moved to Lublin, Wisconsin, area.
    Nick was inducted into the Army in Withee, Wisconsin, on April 7, 1941.   He joined the 192nd Tank Battalion while it was training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He was assigned to the Medical Detachment and trained as a medic.  

    Nick took part in the maneuvers of 1941 in Louisiana and was informed at Camp Polk.  The battalion did very well and remained behind at the base after the maneuvers. 
    On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas.  They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. 
    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.A.T. 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.  The general apologized that the men 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.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard the airfield against Japanese paratroopers.  The medical detachment remained in their bivouac.  After the attack on Clark Field on December 8, 1941, Nick and the other medics gave aid to the wounded and dying.

    Nick continued to give aid to the wounded during the four month long Battle of the Luzon.  He then did the same when the Filipino and American forces had withdrawn into Bataan.  When Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942, Nick became a POW.  He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  He was next held as a prisoner at Cabanatuan.

    Nick was sent to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Clyde Maru.  The ship sailed from Manila on July 23, 1943.  It arrived at Santa Cruz, Zanbales, Philippines, the same day.  There, it was loaded with manganese ore.  It remained in port for three days before sailing on July 26th. 
    During this part of the voyage the Japanese allowed 100 POWs, at a time, on deck from 6:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.  Two days later, on July  28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa.  The ship remained in port while a convoy formed.  As part of the convoy, it sailed on August 5th for Moji, Japan, arriving there on August 7th.
    The morning of August 8th, the POWs were disembarked and divided into groups of 100 POWs.  The detachments were marched to the train station and boarded a train.  At 9:30 A.M., the train left and the POWs took a ten hour train ride to Omuta, Japan.  They disembarked and marched eighteen miles to the POW camp.
  Eighteen POWs were taken to the camp by trucks, since they were considered too ill to walk. The camp, Fukuoka Camp #3-B, was near the Japanese town of Tobata.  The POWs in the camp were used as slave labor at the Yawata Steel Mills.  Nick remained in the camp until he was liberated on September 13, 1945.  He was discharged, from the army, on April 12, 1946.

    Nick Kaplar returned to Wisconsin where he married, Lila Oberbillig, in Loyal, Wisconsin, on January 19, 1947.  His brother was his best man.  The couple had met at a Veterans Administration hospital where he was sent to recover from his POW experience.  He became the father of a son.

    Nick Kaplar returned to Wisconsin, and lived at 1559 North Shore Drive in Eau Claire, and spent the rest of his life in Wisconsin.  One of his hobbies was fishing.  He died on October 7, 1968, in Eau Clare, Wisconsin at the age of 53.  He was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Eau Clare, Wisconsin.


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