Wickord

Lt. Col. Theodore Francis Wickord


     Lt. Col. Theodore F. Wickord was born on August 2, 1907, in Chicago, to Peter & Julia Wickord.  With his wife, Marie, he lived at 1839 South 7th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois.  He was the father of two sons.  He was employed as a Field Engineer by the Public Service Company which supplied gas and electric power to the Chicago area. 
    On June 9, 1927, he joined the Illinois National Guard in Maywood, Illinois.  He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on April 14, 1936.   He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on May 3, 1937.  On November 7, 1940, he was promoted to captain and became the commanding officer of 33rd Tank Company when they were called to federal service on November 25, 1940.

    When Headquarters Company was formed, in January, 1941, with soldiers from the four letter companies of the 192nd Tank Battalion,  Capt. Theodore Wickord became the Executive Officer of the battalion.  In early September, the battalion traveled to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.  After the maneuvers, they remained behind instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was at this time, officers of the battalion, too old for their rank, were released from federal service.   This included the battalion's commanding officer. 
    The command of the battalion was offered to Capt. Walter Write of Janesville, Wisconsin, who turned the command down to remain with A Company.  As a captain, Wickord assumed the command of the 192nd Tank Battalion as it prepared for duty in the Philippine Islands.  He was also promoted to major.
    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco.  The soldiers were ferried to Angel Island where they received inoculations and physicals.  Those who did not pass the physicals were transferred out of the unit, or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
   
The soldiers boarded the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott which sailed on Monday, October 27th and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd at 8:00, and the soldiers received shore leave.  The ship sailed on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  Arriving there, the ship took on water, bananas, vegetables, and coconuts.  Sailing, the ship arrived in Manila Bay the morning of November 20, 1941, at 8:00.  The soldiers disembarked the ship about three hours after it docked.  Most took buses to a train station and rode a train to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were greeted by Col. Edward King who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He remained with the battalion until every member had had Thanksgiving dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own.

    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Major Wickord lived through the attack on Clark Field.  Having heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, his tanks had been deployed around the perimeter of the airfield.  This was done to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers to capture the field.

    When the planes approached the airfield, Wickord took his camera, that he had bought so that he could film his time in the Philippines, and filmed the planes.  He stood like the other men in awe of the planes.  It was only when he saw the bombs falling from the planes, through the magnification of the camera lens,  that the spell was broken.  He threw the camera down and ordered his men into action.

    Sometime around December 21st, Wickord was promoted to Lt. Colonel.  On that day, he was given orders to send a platoon of tanks north to Lingayen Gulf .  As it turned out, the tanks he sent were from B Company his original company of Illinois National Guardsmen.

    Under Lt. Col. Wickord's command, 13 tanks of the 192nd were deployed as the rear guard of the North Luzon Force as it retreated into the Bataan Peninsula.  His battalion was the last American unit to withdraw into the peninsula.  

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, Wickord crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  He wanted to see if all Allied forces had crossed the bridge.  On the other side of the bridge, he discovered a platoon of his tanks parked along the road.   The crews were asleep inside the tanks.  Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  

    For five days, during the Battle of the Anyasan Pocket, American tank forces had attempted to recover a tank as salvage.  It was during this battle that  Lt. Col. Wickord, personally led an effort to recover a tank.

    On February 6, while under heavy fire, Lt Col. Wickord took his own command tank into combat to tow out the disabled tank.  The crew of the tank had been killed and the tank was being used by the Japanese as a hostile strong point.  Lt. Col. Wickord's actions inspired the supporting tank maintenance and tank troops to make the salvage possible.  For his actions on this day, Lt. Col. Wickord received the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

    When Bataan surrendered to the Japanese, Lt. Col. Wickord became a Prisoner of War.  He was aware like the other members of the battalion that the Japanese had promised that the Americans would be loaded onto ships and sent to San Francisco.  Smelling something rotten, he attempted to get his men taken to Manila.  Unfortunately, when the trucks they were riding in stopped, they found themselves at Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  It was from there that Lt. Col. Ted Wickord began what was to become know as the "Bataan Death March."  

    On the march, Lt. Col. Wickord witnessed the kindness and great courage that the Filipino people showed by throwing food to the starving POWs.  The Filipinos would make balls out of rice and throw them to the marchers.  The marchers had to catch the rice balls "just right" or they would disintegrate and the POWs would get nothing to eat.  

    It took Lt. Col. Wickord four days to complete the march and reach San Fernando.  It was there that a Japanese officer told the American prisoners that all American cities had been blown off the face of the map.  The officer would say, "Chicago - boom,  boom! No more!  Detroit -boom, boom! No more! " One prisoner shouted, "Baloney!" The officer answered, "Baloney-boom, boom! No more!"  

     As a POW, Lt. Col. Wickord was first imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell.  While at Camp O'Donnell, he was selected to be the American commanding officer of a work detail that was being sent out to rebuild bridges near the town of Calaun.  Upon arriving in Calaun, the work group was divided into two details of 75 men each.  One detail would build a bridge at Calaun while the other detail would work at a sawmill.  

    Lt. Col. Wickord filled as many of the worker positions on this detail with men of his own battalion to get them out of the Camp O'Donnell.  Since at this time, as many as fifty men a day were dying in the camp, it was his hope that doing this would save some of their lives.  On the detail, he was also given the authority to decide which prisoners were strong enough to work that day and which ones were not strong enough to work.  

    While in command of this detail, one POW assigned to the sawmill detail escaped during the night.  Because of this, Lt. Col. Wickord was informed by the ranking Japanese officer that he was being sent to the sawmill to witness the execution of ten prisoners because the one POW had escaped. 

    The American commanding officer of the sawmill detail was told by the ranking Japanese officer that he had to select ten prisoners for execution. The officer first considered a lottery to select who would die, but later decided that the five men who had slept nearest to the escapee's left or right would be executed.  No matter what decision the officer made, he could not win.

    The morning of the execution all the POWs were silent.  Finally, one of those selected to be executed asked the American commanding officer if there was some way he could stop the execution.  The officer simply said, "No."  Another of the chosen men simply said, "I guess I'll never see Denver again."  Still another of the "selected" POWs was the brother of another POW on the detail.  Even though other POWs offered to take his place, the Japanese would not allow the switch.  The prisoners were offered blindfolds but refused them.  They were lined up next to their grave and shot.

    After the execution, Lt. Col. Wickord was shown the grave and told that he had to tell his men what had been done because one POW had escaped.  He was told to inform his men that if they attempted to escape the same thing would be done to them.  

    As it turned out, a prisoner on the bridge detail attempted to escape.  The man made a break and ran down the main road in Calaun before being stopped by a guard.  The Filipino doctor who provided medical treatment to the Americans convinced the Japanese that the POW was mentally ill and could not be held accountable for his actions.  By doing this, the doctor saved the lives of the ten other prisoners.  The POW who had tried to escape was returned to the main camp.

    After the bridge building was completed at Calaun, the POWs were sent further south to Batangas.  Again, the prisoners rebuilt a bridge that had been destroyed.  There the Sisters of the Good Shepherd invited twelve POWs for a dinner.  The Japanese commanding officer gave his permission and allowed Lt. Col. Wickord to pick the twelve men.  Lt. Col. Wickord picked six Catholic and six Protestant POWs who were the most emaciated.  The thirteen men were allowed to attend this meal with only one guard.
    Wickord stated that one day while on the detail, someone found a tube of  Colgate toothpaste.  The toothpaste was the start of a meal that Wickord said, "didn't taste bad at all."  They filled a bowel with about a half inch of water grated in some orange peals they had found, and then squeezed in the toothpaste.  The toothpaste gave the mixture a peppermint taste.

    Again the prisoners were moved to build another bridge.  This time they were moved north to Candelaria.  The prisoners slept in an old coconut mill which was surrounded by fencing.  Again, the Filipino people showed their courage by aiding the prisoners.  Twice a week two Filipinos would bring bread and food to the POWs to supplement their diet.

    While working on the detail, Wickord told of a Japanese guard who was somewhat decent to the POWs.  The guard told Wickord he could go to the PX and get himself unsweetened gelatin.  Wickord knew from having it before that it had no taste, but it would provide him with some nourishment. 

    When Wickord had eaten it, he thought of the other fourteen men he was working with and bought fourteen packs of cigarettes and took them to the men.  The guard that sold him the cigarettes at the PX reported him to his commanding officer.  Another guard asked Wickord if he had purchased the cigarettes. When Wickord stated he had, he was taken to the commandant's office and questioned.  The Japanese were angry because he had bought so many cigarettes.  Wickord was marched out of the office by three guards, two with fixed bayonets.  The three guards led him to a wall and beat him unconscious with their fists. 

    The guard who was relatively nice to the POWs came up to Wickord, the next day, and offered him a little doll that was dressed like his sister had been at her wedding.  The guard was extremely upset about the beating.

     When this detail was completed in September of 1942, Lt. Col. Wickord was sent to Cabanatuan and would remain there until November of 1942.  At that time, he was selected to be sent to Japan.  At Manila, he was boarded onto the Japanese "hell ship" Nagato Maru in early November.  On the ship he was reunited with Capt. Ruben Schwass, Lt. Richard Danca, Lt. Tom Savage and Lt. Ben Morin.  It was during this trip that Lt. Richard Danca died and was cremated on Formosa.  Lt. Col. Wickord was given his ashes for safe keeping after the cremation.  But, they would later be lost in a Japanese POW Camp.

    Upon arrival in Japan, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord was assigned to Umeda Bunsho on November 26, 1942.  In August of 1943, he was sent to Zentsuji Camp on Shikoku Island.  There he was reunited with 2nd Lt. Ben Morin of Company B.  Lt. Col. Wickord was next sent to Rokuroshi on Honshu on June 25, 1945.  The POWs there farmed to feed themselves.

    Of his time in the camps he recalled, "We had rice for every meal, regardless of what camp we were in; once in awhile we were given some 'vegetable' soup.  The soup had the roots of weeds, leaves of sweet potatoes, horse bones, and sometimes cucumbers in it.  Afterwards, the meatless bones would be carefully saved and used a few more times.  Finally, they would be raffled, and the lucky winner could then break open the bones and scrape out the marrow to eat."
Wickord remained a prisoner at Rokuroshi until he was liberated at the end of the war.   He was returned to the Philippines before being sent home to Maywood. 
Wickord was promoted to the rank of colonel in September 1945.  Col. Ted Wickord returned to Maywood to his wife and two sons.  He was discharged from the army on November 15, 1946.  Col. Ted Wickord passed away in October 16, 1967.  He was buried at Saint Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois.   



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