Pvt. Orvis Lyle Rinehart
Pvt. Orvis L. Rinehart was born November 9, 1916, to Ray Rinehart & Grace Hoffmister-Rinehart in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin. With his brother, he was raised at 1416 South Osborne Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin, and worked with his father and brother on a small farm just outside of Janesville.
At some point,
Orvis joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd
Tank Company located in Janesville. On
November 25, 1940, Orvis was called to federal
duty when the tank company was federalized.
The tank company was now known as A Company, 192nd
Tank Battalion, and left Janesville on November
28th for Fort Knox, Kentucky.
After a year
of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the company
was sent on maneuvers in Louisiana from September
1st to 30th. After the maneuvers, the
battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
instead of returning to Ft. Knox. Orvis and
the other members of the battalion learned that
they were being sent overseas on the side of a
hill. He was given a ten day pass home
before reporting to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to
prepare for duty overseas.
The tankers were eating lunch when planes were
seen approaching the airfield from the north at
about 12:45. Many of the tankers counted 54
planes. The planes approached the airfield
and watched hat was described as "raindrops"
falling from the planes. When the raindrops
began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew
the planes were Japanese.
During the attack, they could
do little since their guns were not made to
use against planes. For some
reason, not known to the tankers, the
Japanese did not attack the
tanks, and the few that did had their bombs
land between the tanks.
22nd, A and C Companies were sent north to support
B Company. The Japanese had landed troops at
Lingayen Gulf, and B Company was sent to the area
so the U. S. 26th Calvary could disengage from
action with the Japanese. Orvis's job was to
lead the column of tanks and half-tracks.
Since the Americans had no air cover, they had to
do this at night. Orvis's biggest fear was
that one of his own tanks was going to run him
On January 5th, while attached to the 194th Tank
Battalion, A Company withdrew from the line.
Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield received orders to launch a
counter-attack against the Japanese on a tail
picked by Provisional Tank Group command.
Bloomfield, while attempting to attack, radioed
the tank group that the trail did not exist.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat
everything they could get their hands on to
eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were
cooked long enough they could be eaten. They
also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th
U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the
soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March
1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two
meals a day.
first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell and next
held at Cabanatuan where he remained until he was
selected to be sent to Japan. 800 POWs
gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were
given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice
ball. After eating and packing their kits,
the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and
received two buns as they marched through the gate
to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at
6:00 A.M. There, 50 men were boarded onto
each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them
at about 9:00 A.M. The trip to Manila lasted
until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the
cars, many POWs passed out.
Before boarding the ship, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off. This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00
A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at
noon. In addition, there were sick Japanese
and soldiers on the ship. That night some
POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept
on the deck. Each day, the POWs were given
three small loaves of bread for meals - which
equaled one American loaf of bread - which most
ate in one meal, but the men rationed their
water. The ship was at sea, when torpedoes
fired at by an American submarine but the
torpedoes missed the ship. The ship fired a
couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but
these also missed. A while later, the ship
passed a mine that had been laid by the
submarine. The POWs were fed bags of buns
biscuits, with some candy, and received water
The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao,
Formosa, on October 12th. The ship remained
at Takao for four days before sailing on the
16th. It returned to Takao, at 10:00 P.M.,
the same day because the Japanese believed submarines
were in the area. It sailed again on
October 18th and reached the Pescadores Islands,
where it dropped anchor and remained off the
islands until October 28th, when it returned to
Takao. During this stay, the POWs were so
dirty that they were disembarked and washed down
with fire hoses. The holds of the ship were
The ship sailed again on October 30th and on
October 31st, stopped at Makou, Pescadores
Islands, before continuing its trip to Pusan,
Korea, as part of a seven ship convoy.
During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon
which took five days to ride out and protected the
ship from submarines. On November 5th, one of
the ships was hit by torpedoes from an American
submarine and the other ships scattered.
After 31 days on the ship, the Tottori Maru
docked at Pusan, Korea, on November 7th.
1300 POW's were issued heavy clothing and
fur-lined coats after they got off the ship.
They sent on a four day train trip north to
Mukden, Manchria. Those who were ill
remained behind at Pusan and sent to Mukden at a
later date. Those who died were cremated and
their ashes were place in small white wooden boxes
and sent to Mukden.
Life in the camp was hard with and beatings were
common for breaking camp rules that often changed
from guard to guard. Meals for the POWs
consisted of a soup made from soy beans with sweet
potato vines that the POWs received three times a
day with buns. The POWs learned to make
snares to catch the wild dogs that roamed into the
camp. They did this until a detachment of
POWs saw a dog eating the body of a dead Chinese
Orvis recalled that the weather was extreme at the camp. During the winter, the temperature dropped to 62 degrees below zero. The POWs grew beards to protect their faces against the cold. The moisture from their breath froze to the beard because of the cold. Since Japanese only gave the prisoners socks once every four months, Orvis's feet often froze during the winter. If a POW died during the winter, his body was put in a warehouse until the spring came and the man was buried. In his opinion, the summers were the opposite and extremely hot.
Most of the
POWs who died in the camp died because the
Japanese would not distribute the Red Cross boxes
to them. When the boxes were received the
Japanese looted them before storing them in a
At the end of the war, Orvis was liberated by the Russian Army. The Russians made the Japanese go through a formal surrender ceremony in front of the former POWs. The POWs were the guests of honor at the ceremony.
In a letter home, he wrote that during his time as a POW, he saw a great deal of death, and that death was something that he lived with everyday. The one thing that he hoped to do was learn to smile again.
After he was
liberated, Orvis suffered from his years as a
prisoner. He would have vision problems the
rest of his life because of the lack of vitamins
while a POW, and it was later discovered that he
had tuberculosis. He also had to have all
his teeth pulled out because of damaged done to
them while a POW.
After being liberated, Orvis wrote a letter home.
"You asked about the Luther boys. There is not much hope for them. They were aboard a Japanese prisoner and troop transport that was sunk two days out of Manila. We have a few survivors here in this camp with us."
"I am the only member of A
Company at this camp. Life was pretty
rough as a prisoner. But it's all over now
and I have many things to look forward to."
He married Dora Lee Hurst on November 9, 1945, in Owensboro, Kentucky. She was a cousin of Arch & Edwin Rue of D and HQ Companies. Orvis returned to Janesville and was discharged from the army on July 9, 1946. He and his wife resided in Janesville where he spent the rest of his life and worked as a machinist at Gibbs Manufacturing Company.
Orvis Rinehart passed away on January 3, 1973, after a long battle with tuberculosis. He was 56 years old and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville, Wisconsin.