Vandenbrouke

Sgt. Raymond J. Vandenbroucke


     Sgt. Raymond J. Vandenbroucke was born on April 15, 1916, and lived at 812 South 9th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois.  He was the son of Cyril & Dorothy Vadenbroucke and attended St. James Catholic School in Maywood and was a 1934 graduate of Proviso Township High School.  In high school, he was on the swimming team.  After he graduated, he worked in the Proviso Rail Yard's machine shop, of the Chicago & North Western Railroad, as an apprentice.

     In September, 1940,  Ray enlisted in the Illinois National Guard  33rd Tank Company with his boyhood friends James Bainbridge and Bob Peterson.  All three had grown up on the same block.  The three friends knew that the draft was coming and decided to join the Illinois National Guard to fulfill their military duty. 

    On November 25, 1940, Ray was called to federal duty when the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard from Maywood, Illinois was federalized.  At Fort Knox, Kentucky, his outfit was renamed Company B of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  Raymond was trained to operate motorcycles, half-tracks and tanks.

    In the late summer of 1941, Ray took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    Ray received a leave home to say his goodbyes to his family and friends. 
Before leaving for the Philippine Islands, Ray married Evelyn Floor. The couple bought a house in Maywood two days before he was sent to California.    
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on October 29th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    On December 22, 1941, Ray's tank was a member of Lt. Ben Morin's tank platoon which had been sent to the Lingayen Gulf area to relieve the U.S. 26th Cavalry.  The Japanese had landed troops and the 26th had been in heavy action against them.  They engaged the Japanese, which allowed the 26th to withdraw from the area, but during the battle Morin's tank was lost with its crew.

    On another occasion, while his tank was on a reconnaissance mission, they encountered a Japanese tank.  The Japanese tank was able to get off the first round and knocked out Ray's tank which was the first American tank in the platoon.  Ray survived this engagement but was wounded. 

    Ray would survive two other tank engagements with the Japanese in which each one of his tanks was lost.  In one of these engagements, Ray lost his entire tank crew and found himself involved in hand to hand combat with a Japanese soldier.  Although Ray would kill other men in the line of duty, this event haunted Ray the rest of his life. 

    When the Filipino and American soldiers on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese, Ray became a Prisoner of War.  On the Death March, Ray and Bob Peterson "piggybacked" James Bainbridge, their boyhood friend, to keep him from dropping out.  Ray and Bob knew that if Jim was allowed to drop out, he would be killed.  Despite their efforts, James Bainbridge would later die from illness while a POW.

    Ray was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell until late April 1942.  Then he was sent to Camp Calumpet.  The POWs were expected to rebuild a bridge with picks and shovels.  The diet of the POWs was fed rice and fish.  Many also were suffering from beriberi, malaria, and dysentery.  At one point only twenty of the 120 men on the detail were able to work.  The extremely ill were returned to Cabanatuan and replaced by healthier POWs.  Ray may have become too ill to work since he was only on the detail until June 15, 1942.

    Ray was then held at Cabanatuan.  While Ray was a POW at Cabanatuan, he worked in the rice paddies.  One time, Ray was beaten for stealing rice which was found by the guards when they did a search.  To steal the rice, the prisoners had sewn hidden pockets into their clothes.  Ray was also hospitalized on March 22, 1943, in the camp's hospital.  The records kept by the staff do not indicate what he was suffering from or when he was discharged.

    The final camp Ray was held at in the Philippines was at Las Pinas.  He was on the detail until September 22, 1944.  The day before, American planes plastered the airfield.  He was then taken to Bilibid Prisoner and then the Port Area of Manila for shipment to Japan.  

    On October 1st, Ray was boarded the Hokusen Maru.  The POWs remained in the hold until the ship sailed for Formosa on October 3, 1944.  To avoid American submarines, the ship zigzagged on its way to Hong Kong.  It arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  The Hokusen Maru  remained at Hong Kong for the next ten days.  

    On October 13th, American planes bombed the ships in Hong Kong Harbor.  None of the bombs hit the Hokusen Maru.  The ship sailed again  on October 21st arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 24th.  While on its trip to Formosa, the convoy the Hokusen Maru was in was attacked by American submarines and four ships were sunk.  Arriving in Takao, it remained in harbor until November 11th.  At that time, Ray and the other POWs were disembarked.

    On Formosa, Ray was held at Toroku Camp until January 1945.  He was then sent to Japan on the Enoshima Maru.  The ship sailed from Keelung, Formosa, on January 25, 1945.  The ship arrived at Moji on January 30th.  He was sent Kobe, Japan. He remained there until March of 1945 when the damage to the camp from American bombings caused the Japanese to move the POWs.  Ray was sent to Maibara 10-B.  There he did farm and field work.  

    At Maribara 10-B, most of the guards treated the POWs fairly well.  The only exception was a guard named Eiicho Ito.  This guard seemed to be involved in every beating of a prisoner.

    One night, Ray had to use the latrine.  He entered the hall of the prisoners' barracks and asked Fiicho Ito for permission to go to the latrine.  Ito told Ray, "No. One minute."  After five minutes, Ray asked again.  Ito gave him permission to use the latrine, but Ray never got there. As he passed Ito, Ito picked up a prisoner's shoe and beat Ray in the head with it.  Ray counted eight hits on the head before he passed out.  Ray was badly bruised for days.

    Ray also recalled that another POW, Pvt. R. B. Carnell of Homedale, Idaho, who was caught stealing food from the Japanese mess,  was taken to the guard house and beaten.  It was Ray's belief that most of the camp guards were involved in the beating which lasted almost 24 hours.  After the beating, Pvt. Carnell was put on half rations and not allowed to receive his cigarette ration.

    The POWs had a good idea of how the war was going by the change in the attitudes of the guards.  As the Americans got closer to Japan, the guards became friendlier.  One morning, the Americans did not see the guards or other military personnel.  All had disappeared during the night.  The prisoners' belief that the end of the war had come was confirmed when American soldiers appeared at the camp.

   After Ray had been freed, he would learn that his boyhood friend, Sgt. Bob Peterson, had also survived the war.  The two men were reunite in the Philippines. 

   Sgt. Raymond J. Vadenbroucke returned home to Maywood and was discharged on December 5, 1946.  He married, Marie, and was the step-father to three sons and two daughters.  He passed away on March 17, 1981, and was buried at Chapel Hill Garden West in Elmhurst, Illinois.



 


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