Sgt. Joseph Henry O'Connell
| Sgt. Joseph H.
O'Connell was son of William & Margaret
O'Connell and born on May 15, 1924, in
Indiana. He grew up on Rural Route #2 in
Harmony Township, Rock County, Wisconsin, with his
three brothers. While in high school,
Joseph joined the Wisconsin National Guard.
He was only sixteen years old when his tank
company was called to federal duty as A Company,
192nd Tank Battalion in November of 1940.
This resulted him leaving high school, at sixteen,
to fulfill his military obligation.
Joseph trained for almost a year at Fort Knox, Kentucky. While he was there, he received his high school diploma in 1941. In February, 1941, Joseph was assigned to Headquarters Company was formed from the four letter companies of the 192nd. He was a clerk for the company.
In the late summer of 1941, Joseph took part in
the Louisiana maneuvers. After these
maneuvers, Joseph and the other members of the
battalion learned that their one year of
military service had been extended from one to
six years. He received a pass home to say
goodbye to his family and friends.
Seventeen days days after arriving in the Philippine Islands, Joseph lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. When the planes appeared over the airfield and the bombs began hitting the ground, Joseph ordered his half track to move about a mile from the runway. It was from that position that his crew began shooting at the planes. It was at this time that he was given command of a half track.
For the next four months, Joseph worked to supply the tank crews with information to fight against the Japanese. On one occasion, Joseph was attempting to locate the A Company tanks. He was not having too much luck since the tanks were constantly on the move. As he sat in his half track he heard tanks approaching, to his surprise, it was his company's tanks. They had received orders to withdraw from the area and head to the south. If they had not ran into him, he would have been left behind and fallen into Japanese hands. Since he had no radio, he had not heard the order to withdraw.
On another occasion, he was at the battalion's headquarters. The tanks were in contact with HQ by radio. As he listened, he heard the conversation between the tanks as they fought a running battle with the Japanese. While they were fighting the Japanese, the tankers were attempting to find a place where they could cross the Agoo River.
In a third incident, Joseph's halftrack was sent to San Jose in the Nueva Ecija Province, as they drove they passed a truck loaded with ammunition stuck in a ditch. They stopped to help the driver. Not too long after they got there, the Japanese began firing on them with mortars. The shelling got so bad that the Americans abandoned their attempt to save the truck and ammunition.
When Philippines were surrendered, Joseph became
a Prisoner of War. From Mariveles at the
southern tip of Bataan, Joseph started what he
and the other POWs called, "The March". At
San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small
wooden boxcars that could hold eight horses or
forty men. One hundred men were packed
into each car. At Capas, the living left
the cars and the dead fell to the ground.
Joseph was held at Camp O'Donnell, Cabanatuan and Bilibid Prison in the Philippines. He would later be taken to Japan on the Clyde Maru. The ship sailed on July 23, 1943, but instead of heading to Formosa, it sailed to Santa Cruz, Zambales. There, it loaded manganese ore. It sailed again, three days later, on July 26th arriving at Takao, Formosa, on July 28th.
On August 5th, the Clyde Maru sailed again. It arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 7th. The next day the POWs disembarked the ship and were taken to a train station. After a two day train trip, Joseph reached the Fukuoka #17. Although the date is unknown, Joseph was transferred to Fukuoka #1.
Joseph O'Connell returned to Janesville after the war and was discharged from the army on June 3, 1946. He went back to school and attended Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin. He then attended Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He married, Jean Ouger on May 16, 1946 in Lake Park, Minnesota. The couple became the parents of four children. Joseph spent much of his adult life as a employment counselor to the disabled. Joseph H. O'Connell died in March 15, 1981, in Galveston, Texas.
Joseph O'Connell is buried at Sam Houston National Cemetery in Houston, Texas, in Section A, Site 764.