Mahr

S/Sgt. Walter John Mahr


     S/Sgt. Walter J. Mahr was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on March 5, 1922.  He was the son of Conrad Mahr & Anna Miller-Mahr.  With his two brothers and two sisters, he lived at 408 South 13th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois.  He attended St. Paul Lutheran Grade School in Melrose Park and Proviso Township High School in Maywood.  He was a member of the graduating Class of 1940. 

    Walter enlisted in the Illinois National Guard while he was still in high school.  He did this because the National Guard unit in Maywood was a tank company and he loved to tinker with machinery to see how it worked.  The tank outfit seemed perfect for him.  

    In November 1940, when the 33rd Tank Company from Maywood was called into federal duty, Walter went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training.  His unit was now known as Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  

    In June, 1941, when Corporal George Smith was relieved of his duties in ordnance, Walter was promoted to corporal and took over his duties.  Smith wanted to be a member of a tank crew.

    In late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  While taking part in these maneuvers, the members did not know that they had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.  

    In October, 1941, the 192nd left Camp Polk Louisiana with new tanks from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  Men 29 years old or older were released from federal service.  Many of their replacements came from the 753rd.
    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, 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.
   
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.
  It was at this time that
Walter wrote a letter home.  His only complaint about the Philippines was he didn't like the climate.  He also regretted that he would not be home for Christmas.

    A little over two weeks after arriving in the Philippines, Walter  would find himself under Japanese attack just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Walter and his crew were involved in tank action against the Japanese.  Walter was the member of the tank crew of Sgt. Raymond P. Mason and Pvt. Quincey Humphries, and Pvt. LD Marrs.

    Walter's tank was advancing on Japanese positions outside of Tarlec and was a good distance in front of its support troops.  Because of this situation, the Japanese were able to disable the tank by knocking off one of its treads and cutting it off from the support troops.  Walter, Sgt. Mason. Pvt. Marrs, and Pvt. Humphries were ordered out of the tank by the Japanese.  When they left the tank, they were told to run.

    As they ran, the Japanese fired at them with machine guns.  Sgt. Mason was killed instantly, but Walter, Humphries, and Marrs managed to make it to a sugarcane field and hid.  It was in this field that Walter was found, with wounds on his legs, the next day.  Humphries and Marrs were not seen again and believed to have been captured by the Japanese.  Walter was taken to a field hospital for medical treatment.  

    When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, Walter became a Prisoner of War.  He took part in the death march and spent time at Camp O'Donnell.  The camp was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put in to use as a POW camp.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  The death rate among the POWs skyrocketed. 
    To lower the death rate, the Japanese opened a new POW camp Cabanatuan.  Walter was sent to the camp when it opened.  According to records kept by the camp's medical staff, Walter was admitted to the camp hospital on Thursday, June 18, 1942, suffering from cerebral malaria.  The same records indicate that he died, at 20 years old, of cerebral malaria on Tuesday, June 23, 1942, about 6:00 P.M. in the evening.
  His remains were buried in the camp cemetery.

    After the war, S/Sgt. Walter J. Mahr was reburied in Plot L, Row 11, Grave 138, at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.  It should be noted that his cross inaccurately shows him as a member of the 194th Tank Battalion.  This is most likely the result of him being identified as a member of the battalion while he was hospitalized at Cabanatuan. 
    The photo, to the left, shows his name on the memorial wall at Cabanatuan Prison Camp.   The next shows his grave at the cemetery.


 





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