Keegan

 

Tec 5. Harold Philip Keegan


    T/5 Harold P. Keegan was the son of Raymond F. Keegan & Mary Ellen Conway-Keegan and was born March 22, 1922, in Hanover, Wisconsin.  He was the second of the couple's three sons and also had a younger sister.  Harold also lived in Plymouth, Wisconsin, and attended grade school in Hanover.  He graduated from St. Mary's School in Janesville and later lived at 31 South Main Street in Janesville.  He was a member of the graduating Class of 1940 from Janesville High School. 

    After graduation, he and his siblings were living with an aunt at 312 East Clark Street in Janesville.  To earn money, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Battalion Tank Company in Janesville.  His reason for doing this was that he knew that it was only a matter of time before he was drafted into the regular army since a draft act had just been passed.  Like many young men of his day, he wanted to fulfill his military obligation and get on with his life.

    In November of 1940, Harold's tank company was called to federal service as a Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion.  In January 1941, Harold was transferred to Headquarters Company as a maintenance clerk when the company was formed from members of the letter companies of the 192nd. 

    After training at Ft. Knox, Harold went with the battalion on maneuvers in Louisiana.  Upon completion of the maneuvers, Harold and the rest of the battalion learned they were not being released from federal service but being sent overseas for additional training.
    From Camp Polk, the companies of  battalion traveled west over four different train routes to San Francisco, California.  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.  Men with minor medical conditions were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, on the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott, as part of a three ship convoy which arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover.  The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island.  They sailed again on Wednesday, November 5th, for Guam
but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  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 bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  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 would soon be at war.  About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila later that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded buses and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.

    On December 8, 1941, Harold survived the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  Over the next four months the only word that his parents received was a letter dated January 16, 1942.  In it he stated that except for one really heavy air raid things were not that bad. 
    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.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  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.           

    HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and 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 prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
  
   Later in the day, the POWs were order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. 
Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit.  When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.      
    It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. 
The first five miles of the march was uphill.  They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell. 
    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
  From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp, and as many as 50 POWs died each day.  The living worked day and night to bury the dead.  When they returned to the cemetery in the morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or they were sitting up in the graves.

    When work details were formed, Harold volunteered to to go out one.  Like many other prisoners, Harold realized that staying in the camp could result in his death.  While working on a detail to rebuild runways at Clark Field, Harold became ill with dysentery and was returned to Camp O'Donnell.  It was there that Harold died at the age of twenty on Friday, June 5, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery in Section: M, Row: 5, Grave 2.
     Harold Keegan's family received word of his death in May 1944.  It was after the war, from the surviving members of A Company, that the family learned that he had died of dysentery.   On August 31, 1946, his family held a memorial service for him at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Janesville.

    After the war, at the request of his family, Harold's remains were returned to Janesville, Wisconsin.  He was reburied at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery on February 7, 1949.


 

 

 

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