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.
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 halftracks. 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.
Orvis would take part in the defensive battle against the Japanese. Since the tanks were the rear guard, he was one of the last Americans to enter the Bataan Peninsula. It was at this time that he suffered a small shrapnel wound in his right leg. It would bother him the rest of the war. He and other members of his battalion would continue to fight the Japanese until the Filipino and American forces were surrendered on April 9, 1942.
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.
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.
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."
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.