Sgt. Harvey Herbert Riedeman
Sgt. Harvey Herbert Riedeman was born in Milwaukee on August 17, 1918, to Erick A. & Selma Riedeman. With his sister, he grew up at 746 West Main Street in Watertown, Wisconsin and attended Lincoln School. He was a 1936 graduate of Watertown High School. After high school, he worked in a bank as a clerk.
On January 27, 1941, Harvey was inducted into the U. S. Army. He was sent to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois, and next sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. His hometown newspaper reported that he was a messenger and clerk for the Farmers and Citizens Bank in Watertown before being inducted into the army.
Upon arriving at Ft. Knox, Harvey was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion which had been formed from National Guard units from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky. It was during his basic training that Harvey became friends with Ed DeGroot.
After basic training, Harvey was assigned to A Company, 192nd, which had originated as a Wisconsin National Guard tank company from Janesville. He trained as a tank driver. After being assigned to the company, Harvey and Ed DeGroot became good friends with Sgt. Owen Sandmire.
In the late summer of 1941, Harvey took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers, on the side of a hill, the he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.
Harvey and the
other men, who were shipping out, were given
leaves home to say goodbye to their families and
friends. He then returned to Camp Polk,
traveled by train to San
Francisco. By ferry, they were
taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. On the island, they
received inoculations and
physicals. Those members of the
battalion who were found to have
treatable medical conditions remained
behind on the island. They were
scheduled to join the battalion at a
A little over
two weeks later, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor. Ten hours later, he
and the other tankers lived through the Japanese
attack on Clark Air Field. The tankers were
eating lunch when they saw planes approaching the
airfield from the north. They had enough
time to count all 54 planes in the
formation. It was only when bombs began
exploding on the runways that they knew the planes
were Japanese. Every bomb dropped on the
tanks landed between them.
For the next
four months Harvey fought to slow the Japanese
conquest of the Philippine Islands. A
Company remained at Clark
field for about a week before
they were ordered to the
barrio of Dau so it would be
near a road and
railroad. For the next
four months, the tankers held
positions so that the other
units could disengage and form
a defensive line. At
south bank of
It was there
high on drugs
Among the dead
able to hold
The night of April 8th, the tankers received the order "crash." They circled their tanks and each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The crews opened the gasoline cocks and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. The next morning, April 9, 1941, Harvey became a Prisoner of War.
From Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, Harvey started what became known as the death march. He made his way to San Fernando. From there, he rode a train to Capas where he and the other POWs disembarked. He then walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
It is known
that he was sent to Cabanatuan after the new camp
opened. At some point, he went out on a work
detail to Bataan. What the POWs did on the
detail is not known, but in all likelihood, they
worked at an airfield. While on the detail,
Harvey became ill and was sent to the Naval
Hospital at Bilibid. According to records
kept by the staff, Harvey was admitted on October
10, 1943, and discharged the same day. The
medical staff observed him to see if he had
dysentery. Two days later, on October 12th, he was
admitted to the hospital and discharged to Ward
12. Later the same day, he was readmitted to
the hospital and discharged on October 26th.
He was readmitted again on November 8th with
In late 1944, the Japanese began evacuating POWs to Japan or another occupied country. Their reason for doing this is that they did not want the men to be liberated by the advancing American forces. On October 14, 1944, Harvey was sent to Bilibid Prison outside of Manila.
On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out. The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued. The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them. The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, the POWs were awakened.
By 8:00, the POWs were lined up roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called. The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in." The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
The Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports. There were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked. One was a old run down ship, the other two were large and in good shape. They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship.
It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon. They were awakend about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
Harvey was put into the ship's rear hold. 800 POWs were put in the hold. They were then fed fish and barley. The sides of the hold had two tiers of bunks that went around its diameter. The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from it.
The ship left Manila on December 14th, at about 3:30 AM, as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water. The POWs received their first meal at about 3:30 that afternoon. Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, and water. Three fourths of a cup of water was shared by twenty POWs.
The prisoners had just eaten when they heard the sound of guns. At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling since they had not heard any planes. It was only when the first bomb hit that they knew it was no drill. The POWs heard the change in the planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy. Explosions were taking place all around the POWs. Bullets from the planes ricocheted in to the hold causing many casualties. In all, the POWs would have to sweat out five air raids. The one result of the raid was no evening meal.
At four-thirty in the afternoon, the ship experienced its worse attack. It was hit at least three times, by bombs, on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs were wounded by ricocheting bullets or shrapnel from explosions. Bombs that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water over it. Bullets from the fighters hit the metal hull plates at an angle that prevent most from penetrating the hull. Somewhere on the ship a fire had started but was put out after several hours.
After the first raid, the ship was left alone by "playing possum" in the water. The fighters went after the other ships in the convoy. The moaning and muttering of men who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night. That night 25 POWs died in the hold. The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning. It was a suitable landing place.
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard noise on deck as women and children were unloaded. During the night, the medics in the ship's hold were ordered out by a Japanese officer to tend to the Japanese wounded. One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying and wounded were everywhere.
The ship steamed in closer to the beach and its anchor was dropped. The POWs were told, at 4:00 in the morning, that they would be disembarked after daybreak. It was December 15th. The POWs sat in the hold four hours after daybreak when the sound of planes was heard. When the U.S. Navy planes resumed their attack, the attacks came in waves. The POWs would live through three more attacks. During one attack, a bomb came through the side of the ship blowing a large hole in the aft hold and resulting in the deaths of many POWs. The other POWs noted that attack was heavier then the day before.
At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the POWs, "All go home; Speedo!" He also shouted that the wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing many.
About a half hour later, the ship's stern started to really burn. Harvey made his way on deck and went over the side. He swam to shore near Olongapo, Subic Bay, Luzon. As he swam to shore, which was about 300 to 400 yards away. Japanese soldiers fired on the POWs to keep them in the water so they would not escape. As they swam to shore, four American planes flew over them at a low altitude. The POWs frantically waved to them hoping to prevent them from strafing. The planes veered off and returned flying lower over the POWs. This time, they dipped their wings to acknowledged they knew they were Americans. Once on shore, the POWs were herded onto tennis courts at the Olongapo Naval Station at Subic Bay. It was noted by the POWs when they reached shore that much of the ship's stern was blown away.
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. What was learned is that these men were taken to a cemetery and executed. They were buried at a cemetery nearby. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts for five or six days. During that time, they were given water but not fed.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time on the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
The evening of December 16th, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs. About half of the rice had fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English, "No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid." The guard knew as little as the POWs. The POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater. Since it was dark, the POWs saw as a dungeon.
During their time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
December 23rd, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24th, the POWs were taken to the train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25th, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM and disembarked. They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December 25th until the 26th. The POWs were held in a school house. The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of those men died.
The remaining prisoners at San Fernando La Union where they boarded onto another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards. During the night od December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and docked around 11:30 AM.
After arriving at Takao, Formosa, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat. This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water.
The Enoura Maru also came under attack by American planes the morning of January 9th. The POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machineguns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard. The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship. One bomb hit the ship exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 258 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in in the hold for three days with the dead. The stench from the dead filled the air. The dead were unloaded from the ship and a POW detail of twenty men took them to a large furnace where they were cremated. These men reported that 150 POWs had been killed. Their ashes were buried in a large urn. Even after this had been done, there were still dead in the ship's holds.
The Japanese formed another POW detail. This detail took the bodies of the dead to a mass grave on a beach at Takao. They buried the dead in the grave. After the war, the remains of these POWs were reburied at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
The POWs were transferred to the Brazil Maru on Saturday, January 13th. The ship sailed at dawn on the 14th. Sometime afternoon, the POWs received their first meal of a quarter cup of red rice for each POW. The POWs found the first night on the ship was extremely cold. What made it worse was that most of the POWs had dysentery. The POWs received two meals a day which consisted of each man receiving a third of a cup of rice and eight teaspoons of tea. During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day. The ship also towed one or two other ships which had been damaged.
During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day. Their bodies were removed from the hold by rope and thrown into the sea. Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan.
Harvey may have been wounded when the bomb exploded in the hold of the Brazil Maru, since he was taken to Moji POW Hospital. According to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion written by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield, Sgt. Harvey H. Riedeman died on Sunday, February 4, 1945, at the Moji Military Hospital in Moji, Japan. The official cause of death was listed as dysentery.
After Harvey died, his remains were cremated and interred in the Charnel House at Moji. The Japanese combined the ashes of the POWs who had died and buried them in a common grave. The first photo below is of the original grave.
Sgt. Harvey H. Riedeman's remains were interred at the Yokohama Commonwealth War Cemetery after the war. This is a British Military Cemetery. The urn contains the remains of 335 British, Australian, Dutch and Americans who died while POWs. On the walls of the memorial, appear the names of the known POWs whose remains are contained in the urn.
Harvey's name appears on the headstone of his parents' grave at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Watertown, Wisconsin.