Plodzien

 

Pvt. Edward F. Plodzien


    Pvt. Edward Plodzien was born on September 24, 1918, in Chicago, Illinois, to Martin Plodzien & Agnes Zachara-Plodzien.  With his two sisters, he grew up at 1320 West Julian Street in Chicago.  He attended high school for one year before leaving and going to work in a tannery as a mill hand.
    With his two friends, Steve Gados and Mike Wepsiec, he joined the Illinois National Guard's tank company in Maywood.  The reason he did this is that a draft act was just passed and the friends knew they would be drafted.  They also knew that the tank company would be federalized and after one year of service, they would be done with their military commitment. 
    In September 1940, the tank company was designated B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  On November 25, 1940, the members of the company reported to the armory in Maywood.  Two days later, they march down Madison Street to Fifth Avenue and north to the Chicago & North Western Train Station.  They traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with the members of A Company, 192nd Tank Company.
    The members of the battalion attended various schools at Ft. Knox and learned to operate the battalion's equipment.  Near the end of the summer of 1941, they were sent  to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they took part in maneuvers.  The maneuvers were suddenly canceled after the Red Army, which they were part of, broken through the Blue Army's lines and on their way to overrun General George Patton's headquarters.
    After the maneuvers, the battalion remained behind at the base instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  The company members had no idea why they were being held at the fort.  On the side of a hill, they were informed they were being sent overseas.  Those men 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The code name for the move was "PLUM."  Within hours, most of them had figured out PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. 
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements for the men released from federal service, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks.  The battalion traveled over three different railroad routes to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. 
    On the island, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals.  Those who had minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. 

         
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  For many, it would be the last time that they would ever see the United States.  The battalion 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.  
Ironically, it was the day the National Guard members of the battalion had originally been scheduled to be released from federal service.

    When they arrived at the fort, General Edward King was waiting for them and apologized that they had to live in tents.  The fact was, that he had only learned  of their arrival days before.  King made sure the tankers received their Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.
    Seventeen days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the members of 192nd arrived in Manila.  The battalion was deployed Fort 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.  They spent the next seven days preparing their equipment for use in the maneuvers they expected to take part in.
   
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were guarding the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  Early that morning, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had reached the Philippines.  As they sat on their tanks, they watched American planes fill the sky.  At noon, every plane landed. 
    The tankers were eating lunch when they saw 54 planes approaching the airfield from the north.  As they watched the planes, they saw what looked like raindrops falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  Most of the tankers could do nothing but watch since their weapons were not meant to fight planes. 

   
The tank battalion 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.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    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.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.
     
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
    
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
    
B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
   
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    The morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, the tankers received the order "crash."  They circled their tanks.  Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks.  Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
    After the Japanese made contact with B Company, the members of the company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  They were now officially Prisoners of War.  At Mariveles, the Japanese took blankets and other items from the POWs that they could use.  The tankers striped anything from their uniforms that indicated that they were tankers.  They heard the rumor that the Japanese were looking for them.     
    The tankers made their way north along the east coast of Bataan.  The first five miles of the march was uphill.  They received little food or water.  One night as they were being given a break, it began to rain.  This provided some relief for the men.
    At San Fernando, they were herded into a bull pen.  One corner had a slit trench which was meant to be used by the POWs as a washroom.  The surface of the trench moved because it was covered by maggots. 
    Near dusk, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station in San Fernando and boarded onto small wooden boxcars used to carry sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas and walked the last ten 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 one water spigot for the entire camp.  Men stood in line for hours just to get a drink.  The lack of medicine meant that disease ran wild among the POWs with as many as 55 men dying each day.  The situation got so bad in the camp that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.   Edward went directly to the camp when it opened.
    After arriving in the camp, Edward became ill.  According to camp medical records, he was admitted to the camp hospital, on June 25, 1942, suffering from malaria and beriberi.  He remained in the hospital for seven months.  He was discharged from the hospital on January 29, 1943.
    On August 15, 1943, he was selected to go out on a work detail to Las Pinas to build runways.  They built the runways with picks and shovels.  Conditions in the camp were bad and a large number of POWs became ill and died.  Edward was returned to Cabanatuan, within a year, due to illness.
    In July 1943, the names of the POWs being transferred to Japan was posted at the camp.  They were taken by truck to Bilibid Prison.   On July 17th, the POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila where they were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru that morning.  The POWs were put into hold three.  Once they were use to the dark, they could see three tiers of shelves ling the aft wall, forward wall, and starboard wall. 
    The Japanese attempted to put all 1600 POWs in the one hold.  When they finally realized that it couldn't be done, they moved 900 of the POWs into the second hold.  At 9:00 P.M., the Japanese fed steamed rice to the POWs.  The ship remained in port until the other ships arrived to form a convoy of 21 ships.
    The ships sailed on July 25th and entered the South China Sea. There, the ships were spotted by three American submarines that made up a wolf pack.  At 2:00 in the morning, the submarines started there attack on the convoy.  One ship, the Tosan Maru, was hit by two torpedoes.  Another ship, the Aki Maru was hit once in its bow.  A third ship, the tanker the Otoriyama Maru, was hit by a torpedo amidships and burst into flames.  The POWs could see the flames shoot over the Nissyo Maru since the hatch was not covered.
    The POWs in the hold panicked and attempted to climb out of the holds. The Japanese kept them in the holds by aiming their guns at them.  In one hold, Fr. John Curran, a Catholic chaplain, calmed the men down by telling them there was nothing they could do so they should pray.  He led them in prayer.
    The Nissyo Maru arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th at 1:00 P.M.  While it was in port the lower part of the second hold was loaded with sugar.  The convoy was reorganized and sailed on July 28th.  The ships arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 3rd.
    The POWs were disembarked and organized into detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station and boarded onto trains.  Edward's POW detachment was taken by train to the Osaka area to Tanagawa Camp.  The POWs were used to tear down the side, with picks and shovels, of a mountain to build a dry dock.
    In March 1945, Edward was one of 69 American POWs transferred to
Fukuoka #8.  At this camp the POWs were used as slave labor by the Yamano Mining Company in a coal mine.  The POWs were housed in twelve barracks that were 10 feet wide by 100 feet long.  None of the barracks were heated and were infested with lice.
    The daily meal for the POWs was rice, between 550 and 750 grams a day, and thin vegetable soup.  Once a month, fish would be added to the soup.
    The Japanese guards were brutal toward the POWs and beat them for any offense.  The treatment the POWs received from the civilian supervisors at the mine was even worse.  Ironically, the Japanese took a good number of precautions to protect the POWs from being hurt in cave-ins.

     Edward remained in the camp until he was liberated in September 1945.  On September 21, 1945, he was taken to the Dejima Docks at Nagasaki and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  In the Philippines he was reunited with his two friends, Mike Wepsiec and Steve Gados.  Both had survived the POW camps.  He returned home on the U.S.S. Marine Shark, on March 16, 1945, at San Francisco, where he received more medical treatment.
    Peter married Estelle Romanek on April 11, 1953, in Chicago and spent the rest of his life in there.  He passed away on September 25, 1966, in Chicago, and was buried at Rosehill Cemetery.


 



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