Walsh E.

 

T/Sgt. Ernest George Walsh


    T/Sgt. Ernest G. Walsh was born on May 7, 1919, in Janesville, Wisconsin, to Arthur M. Walsh & Florence Dickson-Walsh.  With his three brothers, he grew up at 514 South Third Street and attended grade school and high school in Janesville.

    With his brother, Stanley, Ernest joined the the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Division Tank Company, in the fall of 1939, and was called to federal service when the company was federalized in November 1940.  He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky and was transferred to Headquarters Company when the company was created in January 1941. 
    In the fall of 1941, he then participated in maneuvers in Louisiana.  HQ Company did not actively take part in the maneuvers but had the job of maintaining the tanks and keeping them running.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the men were informed that they were being sent overseas and had been selected for the duty by General George S. Patton.  Those men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.  He was given a leave home to say goodbye to his fiends and family.

    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California., where they were taken, by 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.
   
The 192nd was 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 and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  Since the ships had a two day layover, the soldiers were given shore leave 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. 
    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, the truth was that he had only learned of their arrival days earlier.  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.

    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, while they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
 
   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.  

    On December 8, 1941, Ernest lived the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  This attack successfully destroyed the Army-Air Corp.  The tankers watched from the perimeter of the airfield where they had been stationed to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers.  Although they attempted to fight back, many of the weapons available to them were useless against planes.

    As a member of Headquarters Company, Ernest was not involved in combat, but worked to keep the tankers supplied with food, gasoline and ammunition for the tanks. He did this until the Filipino and American forces were surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. 
    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.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the 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 along the sides of the road for hours.           

    HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered 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 prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
  
   Later in the day, the POWs were order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. 
Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit.  When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.
    It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. 
The first five miles of the march was uphill.  They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell. 
    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
  From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell

    Camp O'Donnell was filled with disease with as many as fifty men dying a day.  It was while he was there that Ernest developed dysentery.  In addition, he was already suffering from malaria.  When Cabanatuan was opened in May 1942,  Ernest was diagnosed as being "too ill" to move.  He would remain at Camp O'Donnell until he died on Thursday, June 4, 1942.  The official cause of death was dysentery and malaria.  He was 23 years old.  

    After the war, the remains of T/Sgt. Ernest G. Walsh were identified in June, 1947 and returned to Janesville.  On Saturday, July 31, 1948, he was buried at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Janesville.  Lloyd Ricter and Lester Buggs, of A Company, served as two of his pallbearers.

    Today, T/Sgt. Ernest G. Walsh lies next to his brother, Stanley, who also died while a Japanese Prisoner of War.


 

 

After the war, the Walsh family had this headstone made.  It stands behind the two military headstones that lie at the head of each son's grave. 

 

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