Pvt. Anthony J. Shrelnes
| Pvt. Anthony
J. Shrelnes was born on March 25, 1909, in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was called "Tony" by
his family and friends. Little is known
about Tony, except it is known that he had a
brother. He completed two years of high
school before leaving school to go to work, and he
lived in Cleveland, Ohio.
Tony was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 27, 1941, in Cleveland, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion, which had been sent there from Fort Bragg, South Carolina. While the battalion was at Camp Polk, maneuvers were taking place, but the battalion did not take part in the maneuvers.
The 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers and performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the battalion's members had any idea why they were being kept there.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. They were told that this decision had been made by General George S. Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. It was at that time that Anthony was joined the 192nd and assigned to A Company.
The battalion's companies traveled, over different train routes, to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals by the battalion's medical detachment. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and the S. S. Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents. During th
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
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 prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members, or half-track crew members, remained with each vehicle at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, the tankers lived through several more air raids. Most of the men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one half years.
A Company remained at Clark Field until December 12th, when it was ordered to teh Barrio of Dau to guard a railroad and road against sabotage. On December 21st, they were ordered to join the rest of the 192nd which had been ordered to the Lingayen Gulf were the Japanese were landing troops.
On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where 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 but 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 were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held it until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easily seen since they were wearing white t-shirts. It was there that the tankers found that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked. Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three tanks.
On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape. It was also at this time that the daily rations were cut in half. Not too long after this was done, malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began to spread among the soldiers.
While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops. The morning of January 27th, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it. That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn. While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Mariveles and looking out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die." The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks. Each tank fired a armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The tankers opened up the gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into each crew compartment. The next morning, at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill. At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. They received little water and little food. When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom. The surface of the trench was alive with maggots. How long they remained in the bull pen is not known.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base. There was one water faucet for the entire camp. Men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day. The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. Often, when they returned the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
A new POW camp was opened at Cabanatuan and the healthier POWs were sent to the camp. It is not known if Tony was sent to the camp when it opened or if went there after returning from a work detail when it ended.
Medical records kept at Bilibid Prison suggest that Shrelnes went out on a work detail and became ill. He was admitted to the Naval Hospital at the prison in October 1942, suffering from malaria and dysentery. He remained in the hospital until October 13, 1943, when he was discharged because he was being sent to Japan.
The POWs were boarded onto the Rykuyo Maru and sailed on October 13, 1943, and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 15th. It is not known how long it stayed. The ship arrived at Moji, Japan, on November 1, 1943.
Tony and the other POWs disembarked and were taken to the train station where they were sent to Kobe House. The POWs in the camp worked as stevedores at the Kobe Docks. In late 1945, the camp was moved.
The POWs knew that the war was going bad for Japan because their food rations grew smaller each day. They also were sent to work, but they did nothing since there were no ships at the docks. On several occasions. the POWs saw ships blown up in the harbor having hit mines dropped by B-29s. Tony was still at the camp when the war ended.
Tony was returned to the Philippines for medical care. When it was determined he was healthy enough, he was returned to the United States. He was discharged from the Army on July 26, 1946. He married Alice M. Strnad and spent the rest of his life in Cleveland.
Anthony J. Shrelnes passed away on January 14, 1985, at Euclid General Hospital in Cleveland, At this time, his place of burial in not known.