Sorensen

 

Capt. Robert S. Sorensen


    Capt. Robert S. Sorensen was the son of John & Nora Sorensen.  He was born on April 5, 1903, and grew up at 215 West Second Street in Port Clinton, Ohio, with his two sisters and brother.  He was called "Bob" by his family and friends.

    Robert attended Port Clinton Schools and was a 1920 graduate of Port Clinton High School.  While he was still in high school, Robert joined the newly organized tank company of the Ohio National Guard in April 20, 1920, as a private.  After graduation from high school, he worked in his father's grocery store and enrolled at Ohio State University.  While he was a student, he became a member of the Theta Chi Fraternity.  On July 16, 1923, he was promoted to corporal and held the rank until July 15, 1924, when it appears he left the National Guard.  He graduated in 1925, from Ohio State, and married Marjorie Beerman. 
    On November 17, 1925, Robert rejoined the National Guard as a private and held the rank for two days when he resigned as an enlisted man.  He was commissioned a second lieutenant on December 2, 1925.  He held the rank until July 1, 1930, he was promoted to first lieutenant. 

    In 1940, the tank company was called to federal service.  It was now known as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  At this time, Robert held the rank of first lieutenant.  With the other members of C Company, Robert trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  When the commanding officer of C Company failed to pass his physical. Robert assumed command of the company.  With the command, he was also promoted to captain on February 13, 1941. 

   In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was at the end of these maneuvers that the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  Those men who were 29 years old or older, or married, were allowed to resign from federal service. 

    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Calvin Coolidge and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  For many, it would be the last time that they would ever see the United States.  The battalion arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, 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.   Ironically, it was the day the National Guard members of the battalion had originally been scheduled to be released from federal service.

    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Robert and his men lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  It appears that the first time the company went into action against the Japanese that he was wounded within an hour and relieved of his duties. 

    Sometime during the fight for the Philippines, Robert was hospitalized because he had received a shrapnel wound to his abdomen.  When he was released, he was reassigned to Headquarters Company.  He would later assume command of B Company.  According to members of the company, he was an excellent commander.  He was in command of the company when the order to surrender came on April 9, 1942.

    On April 8th, a plan was put in place to have B Company, D Company, and A Company of the 194th Tank Battalion launch a suicide attack against the Japanese to stop their advance.  As the tankers were preparing to attack, at midnight, the order was revoked.

     The next morning, the order "crash" came, Robert was with his tanks and ordered the crews to destroy them.  The tank crews cut the gas lines and threw torches into the tanks.  Within minutes, the ammunition inside the tanks began exploding.  After this was done, Robert and Major John Morley in made their way, in Bob's jeep, to Bayacaguin Point which was the command post for the tank group.  Behind them in halftracks were the tank crews of B Company.

    On April 10th, the Japanese arrived and ordered the HQ personnel onto the road.  In a letter home, Robert witnessed "Japanese Discipline."  If a prisoner fell, he was kicked in his stomach and hit in the head with a rifle butt.  If he still did not get up, the Japanese guard determined that the man was exhausted.

     Once on the trail, the soldiers reached the main road, the first thing the Japanese did was to separate the officers from the enlisted men.  They now were Prisoners of War. The first thing the Japanese did was to leave them sitting in the sun for the rest of the day.  That night they were ordered north.  The march was difficult in the dark since they could not see where they were walking.  Whenever they slipped, they knew they had stepped on the remains of a dead soldier.

    The POWs made their way north against the flow of Japanese troops who were moving south.  At Limay on April 11th, they were put into a school yard and told that the officers would be driven to the POW camp. 

    At 4:00 AM, the officers were put into trucks for an unknown destination.  They were taken to Balanga, disembarked, and ordered to put their field bags in front of them for inspection.  During the inspection, one officer was found to have an automatic gun in his bag.  As punishment the POWs were not fed.  They set in a paddy all day and were ordered to move near sunset.  They were made to march as punishment for the gun being in the bag.  They reached Orani on April 12th at three in the morning.

    At Orani, Robert and the others were put into a bin.  They were ordered to lay down.  In the morning, Robert and the other men realized that they had been lying in the human waste of POWs who had already used the bin.  At noon, he received his first food.  It was a meal of rice and salt.  Later in the day, other POWs arrived in Orani.  One group was the enlisted members of the tank group.  They had walked the entire way to the barrio.

    At 6:30 that evening, Robert resumed the march.  This part of the march was different, since the POWs were marched at a faster pace.  The guards also seemed to be nervous about something.  This time they made the POWs made their way to Hormosa.  There, the road went from gravel to concrete.  When the POWs were allowed to sit down, those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets. 

    The POWs continued the march.  For the first time in months, it began to rain.  For the exhausted POWs the rain felt great.  At 4:30 PM on April 13th, he arrived at San Fernando.  The POWs were once again put into a bin.  

    At 4:00 in the morning, the Japanese woke the POWs and marched them to the train station.  They were packed into small wooden boxcars and rode the train to Capas.  There, they disembarked from the cars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Robert was first held at Camp O'Donnell.  While he was there, he suffered another illness which he survived.  He was next imprisoned at Cabanatuan.

    In the Fall of 1942, Robert was sent to Bilibid Prison.  He was then sent to the Port Area of Manila for shipment to Japan.  On November 7, 1942, he was boarded onto the Nagato Maru for a seventeen day trip to Japan.  After a stop at Formosa, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan, where the POWs were split into three groups.

    In Japan, Robert was held at Umeda Camp, outside Osaka. The POWs in the camp worked as stevedores on the docks of Osaka.  While he was there, he once again became ill and was sent Itchioka Hospital Camp.  The hospital was the original POW camp which opened in June of 1942.  It was there that Capt. Robert S. Sorensen died on Monday, June 22, 1943 of dysentery.  He was 40 years old.  In early August 1943, Robert's wife, Majorie, received word of his death.

    After his death, the body of Capt. Robert Sorensen was cremated, and his ashes were placed in a box.  After the war, his family requested that his remains be returned to Port Clinton.  Sometime later, his family appears to have changed their minds.  Capt. Robert S. Sorensen was finally buried at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.

   The Sorensen Family also had Robert's name put on the headstone of his parents in Lakeview Cemetery in Port Clinton after the war. 


 

 

 

 

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