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
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 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
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.
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
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.