|Pvt. Charles G.
Pvt. Charles Riedmiller was born on May 15, 1917, in
Columbus, Ohio, to Frederick Riedmiller & Marie
Taylor-Riedmiller. He was known as
"Chuck" to his family. With his sister and
four brothers, he grew up in Milford Center,
Ohio. He graduated from Fairbanks High School
in Milford Center.
After high school, he worked in a restaurant until he was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 30, 1941, at Fort Hayes, Ohio. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. It was at that time he was assigned to C Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. It was during this training that he qualified as a truck driver.
In late August 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. When the arrived there, they had no idea that they had already been selected for duty overseas. After the maneuvers, on the side of a hill, many of the men of the battalion expected to hear the news that they had completed their military duty, and that they were being sent home. Instead, they heard their time in the military had been extended from three to six years, and that they were being sent overseas. Many of the men returned home, got their affairs in order, and married.
The battalion was sent west by train to San Francisco. After arriving there, they were ferried to Angel Island. After receiving physicals and inoculations, the soldiers were boarded onto transports and sailed for the Philippine Islands.
The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King. King 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 love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. 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. At about four in the morning on December 8, 1941, the tankers were awakened and told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that had started just two hours earlier. They were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. As they watched the sky, it was filled with American planes. At twelve noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. At first the men believed the planes were American. It was only after bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese. Since they had no weapons to use against planes, they watched as the bombs destroyed the Army Air Corps. After the attack, they saw the destruction done by the Japanese planes.
That evening the tankers left Clark Airfield to never return. Charles spent the next four months driving a truck delivering gasoline and ammunition to C Company's tanks. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. They made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
From Mariveles, the tankers made their way north to San Fernando. At one point, they had to run past Japanese artillery which was firing at Corregidor. The guns on the island, returned fire. Charles and the other POWs went days without food or water.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed each car with 100 POWs. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. They then fell to the floor of the cars.
Charles walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. This Filipino Army training base was pressed into service as a POW camp. There was only one water spigot for 5000 POWs. Many men died in the camp because of the conditions. Charles became ill and remained in the camp until August 1942. After recovering, he was sent to Cabanatuan POW Camp where most of the other POWs had been sent in June.
The Japanese had opened Cabanatuan in an attempt to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell. The death rate dramatically dropped when the POWs were given their first Red Cross packages. He remained in the camp until December 6, 1942. It was at that time he was sent out on a work detail to Nichols Airfield. The detail was known as the "Las Pinas Detail."
The POWs on the detail built runways with picks and shovels and literally removed a mountain to build the airfield. Carts, pushed by two POWs, were used to remove rubble from the work site. They were housed in Pasay School which was several miles from the airfield. Meals for the POWs were the leftovers from the Japanese kitchens.
One day, in June 1943, while working at the airfield, Charles saw two POWs executed by the Japanese. Both men were part of his POW detachment. The two men were weak and sick and could not do much work. They decided to crawl to a tree and rest. The Japanese discovered one man leaning against the tree and killed him by order of the detail's Japanese commanding officer Captain Kazuki.
When they found the second POW, the Japanese made six POWs dig his grave and stand at attention around it. As they watched the Japanese shot the second man. His body fell into the grave and the other POWs covered it with dirt. Charles recalled that the man was a redhead.
Charles witnessed the death of a second POW in February 1944. According to Charles, the POWs had lined up for morning assembly. One POW had lined up incorrectly causing the POWs to be late in leaving to work at the airfield. Captain Kazuki, who was known as "The Wolf" to the POWs, ordered the guards to beat the POW. They proceeded to beat the man on his head and back for twenty minutes. After they were done, the man was taken back to the compound and never seen again.
The rumor spread in the camp that the man had died from a broken back. The Japanese ordered the American doctor to list the cause of death for the man as malaria. Having little choice, he did so.
On July 6, 1944, the detail ended and Charles was sent to Bilibid Prison. He was held there for ten days. On July 16th, he and other POWs were taken to the Port Area of Manila. They were boarded onto Nissyo Maru which sailed on July 17th. It arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th. It took the ship this long to reach Formosa because it was avoiding American submarines. The ship sailed from Takao on July 28th for Moji, Japan. It arrived at Moji on August 3rd.
In February 1945, Charles was already a POW in Japan when his mother received a POW postcard stating he was in good health and a POW at Cabanatuan.
In Japan, Charles was sent to Oeyama POW Camp. The POWs worked at the Hachidate Branch Nickel Refinery which manufactured corrugated metal. They also were marched nearly six miles and worked in a nickel mine. In early 1945, the POWs began to be used as stevedores at the docks at Miyazu.
On July 30th, B-29s bombed Miyazu. Since their bombing run went over the camp, two POWs were killed in the raid. Two weeks later the planes returned and bombed the town all night half way through the next day. A short time later, many of the POWs witnessed the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. Charles remained in the camp until he was liberated on September 9, 1945. When he was liberated, he weighed 92 pounds.
Charles was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. On September 20th, he arrived in San Francisco and sent to Letterman General Hospital. He was also promoted to the rank of sergeant. On September 24th, he gave testimony in an affidavit against Capt. Kazuki. He was then sent to Fletcher General Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio.
Charles returned home to Ohio and visited his family in October 1945. He was discharged from the army on May 13, 1946, and married Mildred Fladt on February 14, 1947.
The couple resided in Marysville, Ohio, where Charles worked as an electrician owning his own business. They remained married until Mildred's death on May 18, 2000. A little over a year later on May 2, 2001, he married Brenda Stanforth.
Charles Riedmiller died on April 3, 2005. He was buried at Saint John's Lutheran Cemetery in Marysville, Ohio.