Schmidt_E

 

Pvt. Emil Otto Schmidt


    Pvt. Emil O Schmidt was born on September 14, 1915, in Illinois to Otto & Shirley Schmidt.  He was the third oldest of the couple's seven children.  As a child his family moved to Sturtevant, Wisconsin.  He would later live at 124 Corn Exchange and 1020 Laurel Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin.  He worked as a maintenance worker for the park district.

    Emil joined the Wisconsin National Guard on November 11, 1939, and was called to federal duty on November 25, 1940, as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  With his company, he traveled by train Fort Knox, Kentucky.  There, he trained for nearly a year and went on maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of 1941.  After the maneuvers, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.

    After returning to Louisiana from a furlough, 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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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 Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men 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.

    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two tank crew members remained with their tank at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.  At 8:30 A.M., American planes took off to intercept any Japanese planes.  Sometime before noon, the alert was canceled and the planes landed and were lined up, in a straight line, near the pilots' 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.

    The members of A Company lived through the bombing of Clark Field.  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.
    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 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers 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.

    While A Company was bivouacked, they were attacked by Japanese soldiers who only had small arms.  The tankers could not get their guns low enough to return fire.  While the company was withdrawing from the area, a Japanese soldier places a magnetic bomb near the port gun.  When it exploded, part of Emil's leg had been taken off from the calf down.

    On April 9, 1942, Emil received the word of the surrender of Bataan.  He made his way to Mariveles and from there started what became known as the Bataan Death March. 

    Emil and the other members of A Company made their way to San Fernando.  There, they boarded boxcars and rode to Capas.  As they got out of the cars, the bodies of the dead fell to the ground.  The Prisoners of War walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a death trap with men dying daily.  To lower the number of deaths among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  According to medical records kept at the camp, Emil was hospitalized in July 1, 1942, and tested for tuberculosis.  Emil was known to still be a POW in the camp up to August 1943.

    In September 1943, Emil was sent out on a work detail to Las Pinas.  There, he and the other POWs were used as laborers to build runways for an airfield.  He remained on this detail until September 22, 1944.  The detail was disbanded when American planes appeared over the airfield on September 21st, for the first time, and bombed and strafed the airfield. 

    Emil was sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila in October 1944.  Emil had been selected to be transferred to Japan.  This was done to prevent the POWs from being liberated.  The ship that Emil's POW detachment was suppose to sail on was the Arisan Maru.  His entire detachment had arrived but their ship was not ready to sail.  Another ship, the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail so the Japanese switched POW detachments.
    The ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater.  It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy.  The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men.  To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
    As part of a ten ship convoy it sailed again on October 4th and stopped at Cabcaban.  The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts. The ships stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6th, two of the ships were sunk.

    The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for Hong Kong when it was informed American planes were in the area.  During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships.  The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th.  On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.

    It should be noted that Emil's original ship, the Arisan Maru,  never reached Japan.  The ship was sunk by an American submarine on October 24, 1944, in the South China Sea.  Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.

    On November 8th, the Japanese decided the POWs were too ill to continue the trip to Japan, so they were disembarked.   Emil was held at Toroku Camp on Formosa.  On January 14, 1945, he was transported by Melbourne Maru to Moji, Japan, arriving there on January 23rd.  In Japan, he was held at Maibara Camp #10-B.  At this camp, the POWs built canals.  Emil remained in the camp until he was liberated in September 1945.  He was discharged, from the Army, on May 5, 1946.

    Emil O. Schmidt returned to Janesville and spent the rest of his life in Wisconsin.  He passed away on March 16, 2003, at the Veterans Administration Hospital  in Tomah, Wisconsin.  He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Anitgo, Wisconsin.


 

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