Sgt. John G. Kolesar Jr.

   Sgt. John G. Kolesar Jr. was born on September 9, 1918, to Mr. & Mrs. John G. Kolesar Sr.  With his three sisters and two brothers, he grew up at 315 Hurd Street in Port Clinton, Ohio and was a graduate of Port Clinton High School.  While he was a child, during the 1920s,  his mother passed away. 

    Like many young men of his age, John knew that it was just a matter of time before he was drafted.  In August 1940, to fulfill his military obligation, John joined the Ohio National Guard's H Tank Company headquartered the armory in Port Clinton.

    On November 25, 1940, the tank company was called to federal service as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  For the next ten months, John trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was transferred in January 1941, to Headquarters Company when it was formed.  During this time, he rose in rank from private to sergeant, but his exact duties are not known.

    In July 1941, John came home on furlough for few days. When he returned to Ft. Knox, the battalion was preparing to take part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, without having any idea why.  On the side of a hill, the battalion members learned they were being sent overseas.  Those men  who were married or 29 years old, or older, were given a chance to be released from federal service.  Many of the men received leave home to say their goodbyes to families and friends.

    The battalion traveled by train, over different train routes, to San Francisco, California, and were ferried 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 and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy that 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 Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed 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 heavy cruiser that was escorting the two transports 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.
Arriving at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, vegetables, and coconuts 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 entered Manila Bay at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 later that day, and, at 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and most were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those assigned to trucks drove to the fort, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind 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 pnly learned of their arrival days earlier.  He made sure that they all 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 tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.

    On December 8, 1941, John lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  He spent the next four months making sure that the tanks of the battalion received supplies.  He was reported wounded at one point during the fight.
    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, John 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 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 marched to a school yard in Mariveles and again 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.  
    The tankers made their way north along the east coast of Bataan.  The first five miles of the march was uphill.  They received little food or water.  One night as they were being given a break, it began to rain.  This provided some relief for the men.

    At San Fernando, they were herded into a bull pen.  One corner had a slit trench which was meant to be used by the POWs as a washroom.  The surface of the trench moved because it was covered by maggots.

    At the train station, the POWs were crammed into small wooden boxcars known as, "Forty or Eights," since they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese forced 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since they could not fall to the cars floors.  At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  From there, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men stood in line for days to get a drink of water.  Disease in the camp ran wild because they had no medicine to treat the sick.  The death rate among the POWs rose to as many as 50 men a day so the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  Being considered too sick to move, John remained behind at Camp O'Donnell.
On Monday, June 8, 1942, Sgt. John G. Kolesar Jr. died of malaria and dysentery at Camp O'Donnell.  He was 24 years old.  He was buried at the Camp O'Donnell Cemetery in Grave N-1, and was one of ten POWs buried in the grave.  After the war, his remains were reburied at the American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot G, Row 3, Grave 10.



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