Pfc. Ardell O. Schei
Pfc. Ardell O. Schei was born
in Hinton, Wisconsin, on June 27, 1918. He
was the son of Johan and Cora Schei and was raised
on a farm outside of Hixton with his brother and
sister. He attended Curran Grade School and
was a 1936 graduate of Hixton High School.
In 1937, he attended the Minneapolis Business
On April 7, 1941, Ardell was drafted into the U. S. Army. He traveled to Milwaukee to a Wisconsin National Guard Armory for his physical. He remembered walking into a room to take his physical and discovered that everyone in the room, except the doctors, were naked. Having passed his army physical, he was officially inducted into the army on April 11, 1941.
Ardell was sent to Camp Grant outside of Rockford, Illinois, and then traveled by train to Fort Knox, Kentucky. On his trip to Kentucky, he met Marvin Jaeger, who became his best friend in the army. At Ft. Knox, Ardell was assigned to the medical attachment of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The detachment was composed of eighteen men.
Basic training for Ardell lasted three weeks. Then he was sent for medical training. Since he could type, he was made the clerk for the medical detachment. This meant the he had to establish medical records for the 600 men of the battalion. A task that took up most of his time at Ft, Knox.
The battalion was sent to Louisiana in the later summer of 1941 for maneuvers. In his opinion, the maneuvers were best described as nothing but rattlesnakes, coral snakes, tarantulas and insects. These maneuvers lasted one month after which the battalion was informed they were being sent overseas. The destination was suppose to be a secret, but Ardell and most of the other members of the battalion assumed they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
After a ten day leave, Ardell and the battalion traveled west to California. In his detachment's case, they were sent along the southern route. On Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, Ardell received his inoculations. He remembered boarding the ship, on Monday, October 27, 1941, and going under the Golden Gate Bridge. He also remembered that he quickly became seasick.
The ships arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii. During Ardell's four days in Hawaii, he traveled to Maui and Oahu. After leaving Hawaii, his transport was joined by the ship. The ships were escorted the rest of the way by the U.S.S. Louisiana.
Arriving in Manila, on Thursday, November 22nd, Ardell and the rest of the battalion were sent to Fort Stotsenburg by train. On December 8, 1941, he lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. During the attack he hid behind a footlocker. He remembered watching men running across they airfield. To him, they looked like a bunch of chickens running around a farmyard. After the attack, he and the other medics worked to help the wounded and dying.
For the next four months, Ardell and the other members of the medical detachment worked to meet the medical needs of the battalion. On April 9, 1942, Ardell and the other members of the medical detachment became Prisoners Of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.
Ardell took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernanado. The first thing that Ardell that stood out for him about the march was that a guard gave the POWs permission to get water. As he stood in line, another guard came up and began beating him for attempting to get water.
The second event that took place on the march was that one night the POWs were herded into an area to sleep. Ardell took off his shoes and went to sleep. When he woke up, he found his shoes had been taken by another American, and that he was left a pair of shoes with holes in the soles. How Ardell was able to finish the march was something he never understand. The only explanation he had was that the Lord was with him.
At Capas, Ardell and the other POWs boarded boxcars, they rode the cars to San Fernando. There they disembarked and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. He arrived at the camp on April 23, 1942. This was his mother's birthday.
At Camp O'Donnell, Ardell worked in the malaria and surgical wards. He and the other medics attempted to help the sick with little to no medicine.
In June, Ardell was sent to Cabanatuan, there he was once again assigned to work in the hospital. The men in the hospital were so ill, that the Japanese refused to go near the sick. Since they had to count the prisoners, they counted the medics twice a day.
Ardell remained in Cabanatuan from June 1942 to November 1944. It was then that the Japanese sent him to Fort McKinley. He was held there from November, 1944 to January, 1945, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison.
Like the other prisoners, Ardell only had rumors of the advancing American forces. The one story he and the other prisoners heard was those men who were still at Cabanatuan had been liberated by American forces at the end of January 1945. They hoped that this would soon happen to them.
February 3rd was a normal day for the POWs. They took part in roll call that evening and notices the sound of artillery. Then, the sound of machine gun fire grew closer and closer. Unknown to the POWs, American forces were closing in on the prison.
The Japanese commander of Bilibid Prison informed the POWs that he and his troops were withdrawing from the prison. He told the prisoners that they should stay inside the prison's walls. The POWs posted their own guards and waited for the American soldiers.
Early the next morning of February 4th, soldiers in funny looking uniforms appeared at Bilibid. Ardell recalled that the windows of the buildings were boarded up and that the soldiers broke into the building to see what was behind the boarded up windows. When the Americans broke in, they were surprised to find the POWs. At first, the POWs thought the soldiers were Germans because of their helmets and uniforms. It was only when the soldiers spoke to them in English that the POWs knew that they had been liberated. Ardell recalled the feeling of joy that filled his body.
The POWs remained in the prison. Since the possibility existed that the Japanese may attempt to retake the prison, the soldiers moved the former POWs to a brewery. Ardell recalled him and the other freed men drinking beer at the brewery. He and the other former POWs were now members of the 12th Replacement Battalion.
It seemed to the POWs that each day another American unit would come to visit them. The soldiers were more than happy to share their cigarettes and K rations with the former POWs.
At 9 P.M. of February 5th, enemy fire could be heard on three sides of the prison. The decision was made to move the freed men to the Ang Tibay Shoe Factory. The factory was being used as a hospital.
After receiving medical treatment at Santo Tomas, Ardell returned to the United States on March 14, 1945. He returned home to Hixton and remained there on sick leave. During this time he was promoted to sergeant. It was while he was on leave, that he heard of the Japanese surrender. Ardell was discharged from the army on November 18, 1945 and went to work for the Internal Revenue Service.
Ardell Schei remained friends with Marvin Jaeger until Marvin's death. After he retired, Ardell Schei resided in Wapaca, Wisconsin. He passed away on June 19, 2006, at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, Wisconsin.
Return to the Medical Detachment
Ardell Schei's Interview