Paul W. Kliztke
Sgt. Paul W. Klitzke was born on February 8, 1913, in
Milton Junction, Wisconsin. He was the son of
William H. Klitzke & Adele E. Merrifield-Klitzke
and, with his four sisters, grew up in Richmond
Township, Walworth County, Wisconsin. He was a
student in the Knilans School District and attended
grade school in Richmond Township and high school in
Delavan. In early 1940, he was working as a
farmhand in Walworth County.
It was while Paul was working for Henry Knox that he enlisted in the 32nd Division Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville. Henry was already a member of the tank company and convinced him to join.
On November 25, 1940, the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 28th, they traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to join tank companies from Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky. When they arrived there, the tankers found themselves living in tents since their barracks were not finished.
A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30. Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13th, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played. During Paul's time at Ft. Knox, he qualified as a tank driver.
From September 1st through 30th, Paul took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. Afterwards, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they learned they were being sent overseas. He and the other men were given furloughs home to say their goodbyes to family and friends.
The battalion traveled, over different train routes, to San Francisco, California. 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 on Monday, October 27th, at 9:00 P.M. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and 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 but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. After leaving Pearl Harbor, it was joined by the U.S.S. Louisville and the S.S. Calvin Coolidge. During this part of the voyage, on Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up 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 they arrived at Guam the next day, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila on Monday, November 17th. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and 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 entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. 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 as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks. They were informed that their .37 millimeter cannons as anti-aircraft guns.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write called his tank company together and informed them of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. He ordered all the members of tank crews to the perimeter of the airfield. As the tankers set watching, at 8:30 A.M., American planes took off and filled the sky in every direction.
At noon, the planes landed to be refueled, were lined up in a straight line outside the mess hall, and the pilots went to have lunch. Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared in the sky and the tankers had enough time to count 54 planes. At first they believed they were American, but this belief ended when bombs began exploding on the runways. Being that the tankers did not have the right weapons to shoot at planes, there was not much they could do but watch.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, the tankers lived through several more air raids. Most slept under their tanks since it was safer then sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one half years.
The next morning, those members of the company not assigned to half-tracks or tanks walked around Clark Field to look at the damage and saw that there were hundreds of dead. Some were pilots who had been caught asleep in their tents, during the first attack, because they had flown night missions. Others were pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes.
The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it could protect a highway and railroad against sabotage. They remained there until ordered to rejoin the battalion.
In one incident, that took place December 23rd and 24th, the company was sent north of the Agno River. While they were north of the river, the main bridge on the Carmen Road was destroyed. The tank company found itself in danger of being caught behind enemy lines. This resulted in the company having to make an end run to cross the river on one of the two remaining bridges. It successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th. From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible. The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
At Gumain River, the night of December 31st to the morning of January 1st, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga when it was attached to the 194th. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
For the next few months, Paul fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, he became a POW when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.
Paul took part in the death march from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan to San Fernando. He rode a train from there to Capas and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. When a new Prisoner of War camp opened at Cabanatuan, Paul remained behind at Camp O'Donnell which meant that he was too ill to be moved.
On Monday, June 1, 1942, Sgt. Paul W. Klitzke died from dysentery at Camp O'Donnell and was buried in the camp cemetery. After the war his remains were returned to United States and buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in South Minneapolis, Minnesota.