RatayP

Pvt. Paul A. Ratay


    Pvt. Paul A. Ratay was the son of Julia Hruska-Ratay and John Ratay and was born in March 23, 1918, in Mahonig County, Ohio and grew up in Youngstown.  It is known that he had four sisters and two brothers.   In 1940, he was living, with his brother, John, at 177 West Chalmers Avenue.  Both brothers worked in a steel mill.

    On March 25, 1941 in Cleveland, John was inducted into the U. S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Upon arriving there, he was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The battalion was made up of National Guardsmen from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky.  It is not known what training he received or what duties he performed.

    In the late summer of 1941, Paul took part in maneuvers in Louisiana for additional training.  After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and informed that it was being sent overseas.  Those members of the battalion 29 years old or older, or married, were given the opportunity to be reassigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  To replace these men, members of the 753rd had their names drawn to fill the vacancies in the 192nd. 

    Traveling west over four different train routes, the 192nd arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried to Angel Island.  Once on the island, the battalion members received physicals and inoculations.  Those found to have medical minor conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some men were simply replaced.  A few days later they boarded a transport bound for the Philippine Islands.
   The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii, as part of a three ship convoy which arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th 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 the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. 
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 would soon be at war.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  
    About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay at 8:00 A.M.  After arriving at Manila later that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked.  Many of the tankers rode buses to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila, while the maintenance section remained behind to unload 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 live 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, before leaving to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    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 8, 1941, the members of the 192nd were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Many of the men believed that this was the start of the maneuvers.

    Around 12:45 in the afternoon, while Paul and the other men were having chow, planes appeared over the airfield.  At first, the men believed the planes were American.  It was only when they saw the bomb bay doors opening and the red dots on the wings that the men knew the planes were Japanese.

During the attack on Clark Field, Paul and the other men in HQ Company could do little but take cover.  After the attack, they and the other men saw the carnage that had been done.

    HQ, B, and C Companies received orders on December 21st 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. Paul 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 were 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 sat there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the 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 was driving away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Paul's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  In the school yard, they found themselves sitting in a field between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs were killed from incoming American shells.  The American guns did succeed at 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 he received no water and little food.  When they reached San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen and left there in the sun.  They remained there until ordered to form 100 men detachments.  Once this was done, they were marched to the train station and put into a small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.
    The cars were known as "Forty or Eights" since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men in each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floor until the living left the cars.  The surviving POWs left the cars at Capas and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.  

     Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for 12,000 POWs.  Men stood for days for a drink of water.  Some died while waiting for their drink.  Disease in the camp was out of control resulting with as many as 50 POWs dying each day.  The situation got so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. 
    Paul was sent to Cabanatuan when it opened, and it appears that not too long after arriving in the camp, Paul was admitted to the camp hospital with dysentery. 
According to U. S. Army recorders, Pvt. Paul A. Ratay died of dysentery, at approximately 3:00 in the morning, on Thursday, June 24, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery.  The causes of death were listed as dysentery and malnutrition. 

    After the war, the remains of Pvt. Paul Ratay were buried identified and reburied in Plot J, Row 6, Grave 9, at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.  His name also appeared on a memorial headstone for the members of Saint Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church who died in WWII.  After the church closed, the headstone was moved to Sacred Heart Catholic Church. in Barberton, Ohio


 

 

Return to HQ Company

 

Next