MarcheseN

 

Pvt. Nick J. Marchese


    Pvt. Nick J. Marchese is that he was born on September 15, 1917, in Chicago to Anthony & Palonine Marchese.  With his two brothers, he grew up at 2829 West Congress Street in Chicago.  He left school after completing grammar school and worked at a gas station.

    On April 4, 1941, he was drafted into the Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to do his basic training and was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion when Headquarters Company was formed.  In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  Hq Company did not actively participate in the maneuvers, but kept the tanks of the battalion running.
    It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was told that they were being sent to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was on the side of a hill that the battalion was informed that they were being sent overseas.  The battalion received tanks and half-tracks from the 753rd Tank Battalion which were loaded onto flat cars. 
    Over different train routes, the battalion was sent to San Francisco, California.  Once there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  On the island the men received physicals and were inoculated for service in the Philippine Islands.  Men with medical issues were either replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
   
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii, as part of a three ship convoy.  The ships arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover, so the soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island.  The ships sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam. They took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  At one point smoke was seen on the horizon, the escort cruiser took off after the ship.  It turned out the ship belonged to a friendly nation.  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.  
    It was during this part of the voyage that the ships, in total blackout, passed an island.  Many of the men believed that this was proof that war was coming.  The ships arrived at Manila Bay the morning of Thursday, November 20th and docked at Manila later the same day.  The soldiers did not disembark until 3:00 P.M. and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The maintenance section of HQ Company remained behind to help with the unloading of the tanks.
    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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days, the soldiers worked to ready their equipment for maneuvers that were scheduled with the 194th Tank Battalion.  The men removed cosmoline from their guns which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while the battalion was at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts.

    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 portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  All members of the tank companies were sent to the airfield.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. 
    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled, they were lined up in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps. 

    The morning of December 8, 1941, Nick heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Around noon, he lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Since Hq Company did not have weapons to fight planes, the men took cover to protect themselves.  After the attack they saw the carnage that the attack did.
    The tank battalion remained at Clark Field until it received orders, on December 21st, that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.

    The battalion took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had advanced and been pushed back.  Two pockets of Japanese were cut off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I and only one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks. 
   
    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, and 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 most of the day.

    The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit and wait.  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.

    Nick and the other members of the company rode trucks to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  Just outside the barrio, the Prisoners of War were held at Mariveles Airfield.  While there, the POWs noticed that their guards were forming a line in front of them.  .

    The POWs realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad, and that they were the intended victims.  Just when it looked like the Japanese were ready to take action, a car pulled up in front of the line and a Japanese officer got out.  He spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese soldiers lowered their guns.   

   Nick and the other POWs were marched to a school yard and ordered to sit in the sun without food or water.  Behind them on the field, were four Japanese artillery pieces firing at Corrigedor and Ft. Drum.  The two islands were also firing on the Japanese.  Shells from the American guns began landing among the POWs killing them.  Nick and the other prisoners could do little to protect themselves.  Three of the four Japanese guns were knocked out by the American artillery.

    It was from the school yard that the POWs started what became known as the death march.  On the march, Nick went days without food and received little water.  He slowly made his way to San Fernando.  There he and the other POWs slept in a bull pen and sat on concrete slabs covered in human waste.

    The next day, they boarded a boxcars and rode to Capas.  There, the POWs got out of the cars and the dead fell to the floors of the cars.  The POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. 
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.   There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  The death rate among the POWs skyrocketed, so a new camp was opened at Cabanatuan. 
    Being considered a healthy POW, Nick was sent to the camp.  After entering the camp, Nick became ill and was put into the camp hospital and assigned to Barracks 6.  The exact date he was admitted was not indicated on the medical records from the camp.  It does indicate he was admitted suffering dysentery and with a gangrenous leg.

    It was at Cabanatuan that Pvt. Nick J. Marchese died of dysentery on Wednesday, July 1, 1942, at approximately 10:00 in the morning.  After he died he was buried in the camp cemetery.
    After the war, the remains of Pvt. Nick J. Marchese were identified and reburied at the the new American Military Cemetery outside Manila.


 

 

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