Pfc. Martin L. Wasserman
Pfc. Martin Wasserman was
born on June 15, 1918. He was the son of
Lewis Wasserman & Fanny
Litton-Wasserman. With his
brother and sister, he grew up at 734 North
Hamilton Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. He
attended college for three years and worked as a
janitor for the Chicago Public Schools.
In April of 1941, Martin was drafted into the U. S. Army and joined the 192nd Tank Battalion as a replacement after Headquarters Company was created in January 1941. Being from Illinois, he was originally assigned to B Company. According to members of B Company, Martin was selected by Lt. Donald Hanes for training as a medic. It seems that Hanes noticed that Martin had a giift for giving medical aid.
Martin was reassigned to the medical detachment of the 192nd and received training as a medic. Although he was reassigned to the medical detachment, Martin, Charles Jensen and Curtis Massey were assigned to live in the B Company barracks.
Like the other members of the battalion, Martin
took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.
After the maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, he
learned the battalion was being sent overseas.
The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tankers learned about the attack. That morning, they were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against paratroopers. The medics remained behind in the bivouac. At 12:45 P.M., the Japanese attacked the airfield. During the attack, the medics took cover since they had no weapons. After the attack he and the other members of the medical detachment provided aid to the wounded and dying.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Martin and the other medics heard the news about Pearl Harbor. As they worked, American planes flew overhead. Around 11:30 in the morning, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 11:45 A. M., more planes appeared over Clark Field. Only when bombs began exploding did Martin and the other medics know that the planes were Japanese. After the attack, Martin and the other medics worked to prepare their equipment for use since the tanks were going to be sent out to protect strategic positions.
During the Battle of Bataan, Martin did his best to give first aid to the wounded members of the various companies of the battalion. The medical detachment bivouacked in an area next to HQ Company, 192nd, on the west side of the Bataan Peninsula. Around 3:00 A. M. in the morning on April 9, 1942, Martin with the rest of the medical detachment were informed of the surrender. He and the other members of the detachment stayed in their bivouac area until 5:00 P. M., then they were ordered to Mariveles.
The members of the medical detachment boarded their trucks and began to drive to Mariveles. With Martin were medics Ardell Schei and Paul Moser, Moser was the driver of the truck. The three men rode in the last truck of the convoy. On their way to Mariveles, the trucks were stopped by Japanese soldiers. The soldiers took their watches.
The Prisoners Of War continued on and ran into two Japanese soldiers. Neither knew what to do with them, so one went to get their commanding officer. While they waited, the remaining Japanese soldier began bragging to them how Japan had conquered the Philippines and would conquer Australia and the west coast of the United States.
When the Japanese commanding officer arrived, he had the Americans disembark from the trucks and go into a open field. Martin and the other men remained in the field the remainder of the day and all of the next day. Sometime during the day, they received rice.
After dark, Martin and the other POWs were ordered to move. They were marched to Mariveles were they joined other American POWs. It was from Mariveles that Martin started what became known as the Bataan Death March. With him on the march was Ardell Schei.
Martin and the other medics remained together on the march. As they walked, they passed the bodies of Japanese soldiers who still had not been buried. At one point, their group was stopped and a Japanese soldier began going through their wallets. When he got to Martin, the soldier looked at the photo of Martin's girlfriend and said to him, in perfect English, that she was "Hot-stuff". The Japanese soldier told Martin and Ardell that he had gone to school at the University of Santa Clara in California. He had returned to Japan and was drafted into the army.
At San Fernando, Martin and the other members of the medical detachment were housed in a cockfight stadium. The next day, he boarded a boxcar. The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing.
At Capas, Martin disembarked the boxcar and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. At the camp, Martin worked in the hospital attempting to make the lives of the sick and dying as comfortable as possible. Since the medics had no medicine, there was little that they could do for the men. Martin was next sent to Cabanatuan after the new camp opened.
In early 1944, the Japanese decided that they
needed to transfer doctors and medics to Japan
to treat the sick POWs in Japan. Martin
was sent to the Port Area of Manila for
transport to Japan. It was at this time
that he was reunited with Donald Norris of the
medical detachment. The two men were
boarded the Kenwa Maru on March 6,
1944. The ship sailed the same day and
arrived at Takao, Formosa, on March 13th.
It sailed again on March 15th and arrived at
Moji, Japan, on March 22nd.
While he was a prisoner, Martin kept a diary. It would become three volumes long and deal with his life as a prisoner.
Martin remained at Bibai Machi until he was liberated by American troops in September, 1945. Martin returned home to Chicago and married Shirley Bergman on May 3, 1948.
In July 1947, Martin and his brother opened a dry cleaning business at 226 West 47th Street in Chicago. It was one of thirteen cleaners that they owned. One day, Marie Washington, a woman who worked for the brothers at the store, told Martin that the man she was living with, Eddie Washington, had beaten her. While she was working, Eddie Washington entered the store and began slapping her. In an attempt to stop the abuse, Martin stepped between the man and woman. The two men got into a fight. Washington became so enraged he shot Martin with the gun he was carrying.
Martin L. Wasserman was shot in the heart and died, at the age of 30, on July 17, 1948. Eddie Washington was found guilty of his murder.