MoczarnyJ

 

                                      Pvt. Joseph A. Moczarny


     Pvt. Joseph A. Moczarny was born in 1913 in Wisconsin to Anton & Victoria Moczarny.   He had two sisters and seven brothers and grew up in Armstrong Creek, Wisconsin.  His father died during the 1920s.  At some point, he moved to Chicago, lived with his sister and her husband, and was employed by the Morton Salt Company.
    Joseph was inducted into the U.S. Army on April 3, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  It was during his basic training that he was assigned to Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  What specific training he received is not known.
    The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers.  After the maneuvers, they were ordered to Camp Polk after the maneuvers without being given a reason.  According to members of the battalion, General George Patton had selected them for overseas duty.  Men, 29 years old or older, were given the chance to resign from federal service, and replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
   The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island after arriving there.  On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    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, and t
he soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  The ships 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 ship was from a friendly country. 
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the next day 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 on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    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.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
    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 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. 
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength around Clark Airfield.  The tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first they thought they were American planes and had enough time to count 54 planes.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    As a member of HQ Company, Joseph remained in the bivouac of the battalion.  After the attack, the tankers saw the carnage done during the attack.  The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps.  The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.

    HQ, B, and C Companies received orders, on December 21st, that they were 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 gasoline 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 192nd
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 been 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 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.  George 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.
   
The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles and walked to Mariveles Airfield, where they were 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.
    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  As he drove away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles, and once again they were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs, who could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group, of POWs, who tried to hide in a small brick building, died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
   
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  Once this was done, they were ordered to march to the train station at San Fernando.  There, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty and Eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that the dead remained standing.  At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  From this barrio, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.

    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep graves.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.
    The rate of death among the POWs was so high that the Japanese knew they had to do something to lower it, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  The Japanese sent the healthier POWs to the camp.

    It is not known if Joseph went directly to the new camp when it opened or if he was sent to the camp after coming in from a work detail.  If he remained at Cabanatuan he worked on the camp farm or went out on local work details. 
    In November, Joseph volunteered to be transported to Japan.  The reason for this was that many of the POWs believed that conditions in Japan could not be as bad as they were in the Philippines.  They were transported to Manila by truck and taken to Pier 7. 
    On November 7, 1942, the POWs were boarded onto the Japanese ship the Nagato Maru which sailed the same day.  600 POWs were put in the ship's holds which were about 30 feet long by 40 feet wide. There was no room for the POWs to lay down.  During the trip, the POWs were fed rice, fish and soup.  At one  point the ship had to avoid American submarines.  The ship arrived in Takao, Formosa, on November 11th, and sailed on November 14th for the Pecadores Islands off Formosa, and arrived the same day.

     The ship dropped anchor and sailed again on November 18th for Keelung, Formosa, arriving the same day.  It remained in harbor for two days before sailing on November 20th, for Moji, Japan, and arriving there on November 26th. 
    The POWs disembarked and broken into detachments to be sent to different POW camps.  By train, Joseph was taken to Tanagawa Camp and arrived there on November 27th as one of 500 POWs sent to the camp.  The POWs were housed in barracks that were 80 feet long by 18 feet wide.  There was little heat since the Japanese gave the POWs very little charcoal.  There were only five blankets in the entire camp.

    The POWs were underfed, mistreated, and beaten daily.  Their job was to tear down the side of a mountain to build a breakwater for a submarine dry dock.  The POWs worked eight to eighteen hour shifts with one day off every two weeks.  Later this was changed to four days off a month.  The death rate in the camp was extremely high.
    The hospital was a wooden shack with little heat and the sick lay on the dirt floors.  No POW could be admitted to the hospital without approval of two American doctors.  Next, a Japanese medic had to approve that the POW be admitted to the hospital.  Since this process was drawn out, many POWs died one or two days after entering the hospital.  Even if they admitted, there was very little medicine available to treat the POWs.  Most of the POWs died from beatings, starvation, lack of hygiene, and pneumonia.  
    According to camp records, Pvt. Joseph A. Moczarny died on Monday, October 4, 1943, from dysentery and malnutrition.  His remains were taken to a crematorium by two officers who had the job as part of their work duties.  After being cremated, Joseph's ashes were given to the camp commandant who kept them in his office.
    After the war, the remains of Pvt. Joseph A. Moczarny were returned to the Philippines.  They were buried at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot B, Row 15, Grave 115.


 

 

Return to HQ Company

 

Next