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 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 and later a commander of a half-track crew.  

    In the late summer of 1941, Joseph took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  After these maneuvers, the other members of the battalion learned that their one year of military service had been extended from one to six years.  They were also informed that they had been selected for overseas duty by General George S. Patton.  Joseph received a leave home to say goodbye to his family and friends.
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, California, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.  Other men were held back to receive medical treatment and scheduled to rejoin the company at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. 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 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.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 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 countr
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and 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, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. 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 live in tents, but he fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  After making sure the soldiers had their Thanksgiving Dinner, he left to have his own dinner.

    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    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.  
    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 at the perimeter of airfield.  All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.

    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.

    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    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, and 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 half-track 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.

    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, 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 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 order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and 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.    
    It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. 
The first five miles of the march was uphill.  They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell. 
    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
  From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Joseph made his way to Camp O'Donnell an unfinished Philippine Army training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a POW camp.  The death rate at the camp was high with as many as 55 POWs dying each day.  The POWs got their water from one spigot which served the entire camp. 
    The Japanese finally acknowledged that they needed to do something, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  It is not known if Joseph went directly to the camp or if he was sent to the camp after a work detail came to an end.  After arriving in the camp, Joseph was hospitalized on August 14, 1942, suffering from paralysis caused by diphtheria.  It is known he was discharged from the hospital on September 10, 1942, but readmitted on Tuesday, September 24th, still suffering from post-diphtheria paralysis.  He finally recovered and was discharged a second time.

    Joseph went to Japan on the Clyde Maru which sailed on July 23, 1943,  but instead of heading to Formosa, it sailed to Santa Cruz, Zambales, where 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 and 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.  The  POWs in the camp worked in an condemned coal mine.  This camp was also considered the worse of the Japanese POW camps because the strong POWs preyed on the weaker POWs.  Although the date is unknown, Joseph was transferred to Fukuoka #1.
    Joseph was liberated at the end of the war and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  He returned home on the U.S.S. Joseph Dychman arriving at San Francisco on October 16, 1945, almost four years to the day since he had left from San Francisco. 
Joesph 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, and 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, and was buried at Sam Houston National Cemetery in Houston, Texas, in Section A, Site 764. 

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