Rinehart

 

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.

    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.  During his training, Orvis qualified as a motorcycle messenger for A Company.

    After a year of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the company was sent on maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, Orvis and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.  He was given a ten day pass home before reporting to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to prepare for duty overseas.
    
    The battalion 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 later date.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, 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. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that they 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.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.
     
   The morning of Monday, December 8th, they alerted of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just ten hours earlier.  At 8:30 in the morning, American planes took off and patrolled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots parked them, in a straight line, outside their mess hall.  The pilots went to lunch.

    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.
    Sometime after the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position.       

     On December 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 down.
    
The tank companies were in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that A Company lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the battalion's tanks made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed.  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.

    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Reed.  The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
    On January 28th, the tank battalions 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.
    A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese Marines 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 had left 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. 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.

    On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War.  Elmer made his way to Mariveles where he started what became known as the death march.  The POWs walked out of the barrio heading north toward San Fernando.  The first few miles it was all uphill and many of the prisoners quickly had a hard time keeping up with their group.

    Orvis took part in the death march and was first held as a Prisoner of War at Camp O'Donnell.  He was next held as a POW at Cabanatuan.  At 2:00 AM in the morning on October 5th, Bill and other POWs were awakened and transported to Pier 7 in Manila.  Once there, they were housed in a warehouse on the pier.  They remained there for two days.  On October 7, 1942, Bill boarded a Tottori Maru

    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 were indescribable, but the POWs in the hold were worse off than those on deck.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed.  Many POWs died during the trip.

    Shortly after leaving Manila, on October 8th, the Tottori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine.  The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes.  The ship also avoided a mine that had been laid by a American submarine. 

    The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 12th.  The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing.  It returned to Takao the same day and sailed again on October 18th.   When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao.  During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.

   The ship sailed again on October 30th.  On October 31st, the ship stopped at Makou, Pescadores Islands before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea.  During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.

    After 31 days on the ship, the Tottori Maru docked at Pusan, Korea on November 7th.  1300 POW's got off the ship and sent on a four day train trip north to Hooten Camp, Mukden, Manchria.  There, they worked in a sawmill or a manufacturing plant.  From the main camp, he was assigned to Shenyang Sub-camp.  In the camp, he worked as a mechanic for a Japanese company.
    Meals for the POWs consisted of a soup made from soy beans that the POWs received three times a day.  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 civilian. 

    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.  Then, the man was buried.  In his opinion, the summers were the opposite and extremely hot.
    As the war went on the POWs saw American planes.  On one occasion, a formation of B-29s bombed Japanese ammunition dumps that were in line with the camp.  One bomb hit a barracks in the camp killing twenty POWs.  Later, teh POWs learned that this was because the ammunition dumps were close to the camp.

    At the end of the war, Orvis was liberated by the Russian Army.  The Russians made the Japanese go through a formal surrender ceremony.  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.  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.  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."
   
After receiving medical treatment, Orvis was boarded onto the S.S. Simon Bolivar and arrived at San Francisco on October 21, 1945.  He was sent to Letterman General Hospital for further medical treatment before returning home.

    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.  He 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.  He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville, Wisconsin.


 

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