2nd Lt. Richard Emmanuel Danca
2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca was born on October 23, 1918, to Joseph and Sarah Danca in River Forest, Illinois. He was known as "Emmanuel" to his family and friends. With his brother and sister, he grew up at 26 Lathrop Avenue in Forest Park, Illinois, and attended grade school there. He was a graduate of Proviso Township High School as a member of the Class of 1935.
On February 13, 1935, Richard joined the Illinois National Guard while he was a senior in high school. He was honorably discharged as a private later that year. He reenlisted and was discharged again in 1938. Richard again reenlisted in the National Guard. During his time in the National Guard, he worked as a company clerk, truck driver and mechanic.
Richard married Elenore Drexler on March 11, 1940. His family resided at 815 Marengo Avenue in Forest Park. He worked for the U. S. Post Office as a postal clerk at Hines Veterans Administration Hospital. He was also a good father to his infant son, Richard, who was born at Fort Knox, while Danca was training there. He was a devoted husband to his wife.
On November 25, 1940, the Maywood Tank Company was called to federal duty as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. It was at this time that "Dick," as he was called by his friends, was promoted to 1st Sergeant. This made him the "Top Kick" or highest ranking enlisted man in B Company.
With the creation of Headquarters Company in January, 1941, B Company was in desperate need of officers. To fill the vacancies, Richard, along with Matthew MacDowell and Ed Winger, was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. Each of these new officers went to a service school to help them learn the skills of administering a tank company. Richard was given command of the first tank platoon of the B Company.
After training at Fort Knox, Kentucky was completed, Richard went with the 192nd to take part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was called together at Camp Polk and informed that they were being shipped overseas.
The battalion's men and equipment were loaded onto trains and headed west to San Francisco. On the train, Capt. Donald Hanes called his platoon commanders together to select combat numbers for their tanks. Richard being third in seniority picked third. These numbers were to painted on the tanks after they arrived in the Philippine Islands.
Upon arriving in San Francisco, the battalion was taken to Angel Island. There they received the necessary shots and were boarded onto transports and sailed for the Philippines.
On December 8, 1941, Richard lived through the
bombing of Clark Field. Before the attack and having received word of the attack on
Pearl Harbor, the tanks had been dispersed along the perimeter of Clark Field on December
1st. This was done to prevent enemy paratroopers from landing at the field. At
all times two tank crew members remained with their tank.
After the Japanese landed troops on Luzon, Richard led his tanks into action against the Japanese. Often this meant providing coverage so the Filipino and American forces could fall back and form new lines. He was wounded during one of these engagements.
The last news that Richard's family received from him was in a letter dated February, 1942. They did not receive the letter until August, 1942.
On April 9, 1942, Richard became a Prisoner of War when the defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. The tankers destroyed their tanks before making their way to Mariveles. It was from there that Richard began the Death March.
From Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, the POWs made their way to San Fernando. At one point, they had to run past Japanese artillery that was firing at Corregidor. Corregidor returned fire. At San Fernando, they were held in cattle bins that were covered in human waste.
The POWs were then boarded onto small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. At Capas, the POWs disembarked the boxcars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnel l.
As a POW, Lt. Richard Danca was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. He was then sent to Bilibid Prison for transport to Japan. Sometime during these imprisonments, he developed an infection which resulted in his developing blood poisoning.
It was on the Hell Ship, Nagato Maru, that 2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca died. His date of death was November 13, 1942. It is known that he died after the ship had docked at Tokao, Formosa.
According to other members of B Company, Richard's body was taken ashore and cremated. His ashes were returned to the ship and given to Lt. Col. Ted Wickord. Upon the ship's arrival in Japan, the Japanese authorities took Richard's ashes at Umeda POW Camp. At the end of the war, no one knew what had happened to his remains. His wife learned of his death on September 2, 1943.
Since the final resting place of 2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca is unknown, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.