VanGalder_E

 

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.
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and rode a ferry 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 and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
   
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy that arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  Since they had a two day layover, the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam
but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.   
    Arriving at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water before sailing for Manila.  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 would soon be at war.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, at 8:00 A.M. and docked at Manila later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M. most of the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
Those assigned to trucks drove them to the base, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind and unloaded the tanks.     
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field., but he had only learned of their arrival days earlier.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they all 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.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.  
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield.  All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks' machine guns, were useless against planes.  After the attack, the tankers saw the damage done to the airfield.  They remained at the airfield for a week before being sent north.
    The  battalion was sent to Lingayen Gulf,, on December 21st, were their job was to hold a position until the Filipino and American forces had established another defensive line.  They would then disengage and fall back.

    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."   

    On April 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 hours.

    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.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Disease ran wild in the camp because of the lack of medicine.  As many as 55 POWs died each day. The burial details work all day to bury the dead.   When they returned to the cemetery the next day, wild dogs had dug up the dead or they were sitting up in their graves.

    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. 
    Medical records kept at the camp show that he was admitted to the camp hospital, but no date is given.  The records show that Sgt. Edmund F. Van Galder died of dysentery and malaria while a POW at Cabanatuan on Thursday, July 30, 1942 at approximately 12:30 P.M.  He was 28 years old.  Edmund was buried in Grave 212, Row 0, Plot 2,  with seventeen other POWs who died on that date.
    On July 2, 1946, the family of held a memorial service for Edmund at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Janesville.  Many of the surviving members of A Company were in attendance.

    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.










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