Sgt. Edmund Foster Van Galder
| Sgt. Edmund F. Van Galder
was the son of Oscar B. Van Galder & Mary F.
La Chance-Van Galder and was born on February 5,
1914, in Janesville, Wisconsin. He was one
of eight children born to the couple.
As a child, Edmund grew up at 1409 Wheeler Street in Janesville, Wisconsin. He attended Jefferson and Roosevelt Schools and although he attended Janesville High School, he like many others of the time, did not finish high school. Edmund worked as a truck driver for the City of Janesville.
Edmund enlisted in the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard during the summer of 1940. On November 25, 1940, Edmund traveled with his company to Fort Knox, Kentucky. There the company was designated A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
It was during his training at Ft. Knox that Edmund received his high school diploma from Janesville High School as a member of the Class of 1934. In January, 1941, Edmund was reassigned to Headquarters Company when the company was formed. There he worked in maintenance repairing the tanks, trucks, jeeps and motorcycles of the battalion.
In the late summer of 1941, Edmund traveled to Louisiana with the 192nd to take part in maneuvers. After the maneuvers were completed, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana. There the members were gathered on a hillside and informed that their time in the regular army had been extended from one to six years. They also received the news that they were being sent overseas.
Edmund and the other members of the battalion
received leaves home to say their
goodbyes. When the day came for Edmund to
return to Camp Polk, his father did not want him
to leave. If his father could have stopped
him from going, he would have. The reason
his father acted this way was that he had the
feeling that he would never see Edmund again.
Being a mechanic, Edmund's job was too keep as many of the tanks running as possible. To do this he and the other mechanics often were scavengers and took parts off tanks that had been disabled. These tanks were often recovered after battles against the Japanese.
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ
company's encampment. A Japanese officer
ordered Edmund, and the rest of his company,
with their possessions, out onto the road that
ran in front of their encampment. Once on
the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel
along the sides of the road with their
possessions in front of them. As they
knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing
them, went through their possessions and took
whatever they wanted from the Americans.
They remained at the sides of the roads for
The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were told to sit. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Edmund's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide and some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs made their way north to San Fernando.
When Edmund arrived at
there, he and the other prisoners were packed
into small wooden boxcars
known as "Forty or Eights," since each car could
hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put
100 POWs in each car and closed the doors.
They were packed in so tightly that those who
died remained standing until the POWs left the
cars at Capas. As the living left the
cars, the bodies of the dead fell out of the
cars. The surviving prisoners walked the
last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The Japanese finally acknowledged that they
needed to do something to lower the death rate
among the prisoners, so they opened a new camp
at Cabanatuan. It is not known if Edmund
was transferred to there when the camp opened or
if he went there after a work detail.
Conditions in the camp were bad, but not as bad
as conditions at Camp O'Donnell.
It is known that in 1946, his remains were disinterred from the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery and given the designation as C-1424. He was reburied in United States Armed Forces Cemetery #2 at Manila, with eight other POWs, in Grave 101, Row N, Plot 7 on February 21, 1946. All the remains were given "X" numbers. Edmund's remains were given the new designation of X-2997.
On November 12, 1947, the remains of the POWs were disinterred an attempt to was made to identify them. Edmund's remains were now designated as X- 2672. It appears that at one point the recovery team believed they had identified the remains of X-2672 as Edmund's. For some reason, those higher up, with more authority, denied the identification. Edmund's remains and those of five other POWs who had not been identified were buried in Plot 3, Row 18, Grave 2283 at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila on February 5, 1952, which would have been his 37th birthday.
It was at this time that Edmund's remains fell through the proverbial, "cracks in the floor." Although he was buried in the American Military Cemetery at Manila as an unknown, his name was somehow missed on the Tablets of the Missing and was later added to the tablets at the cemetery.