Pfc. Earl O. Burchard was the son of Orrin Burchard and Villa Johnson-Burchard and was born
on October 22, 1917, in Superior, Wisconsin. With his two sisters and two brothers, he grew up at 413 South
Linn Street in Janesville, Wisconsin.
In October of 1940, Earl enlisted in the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National
Guard, because he wanted to fulfill his military obligation. He also knew that the unit was being called
to federal service which would fulfill his military obligation, and if he had to serve in the army, he would
like to serve with friends from his hometown.
Earl, with the other members of the Janesville Tank Company, arrived at Fort Knox,
Kentucky, on November 28, 1940. There the company was now A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. For the
following months, they would train in tank tactics. In his opinion, this training was helpful in what lay
ahead of them. During his time at Ft. Knox, Earl trained as a motorcycle messenger.
Earl next took part in maneuvers in Louisiana during the late summer of 1941.
According to members of the battalion, their tanks, as members of the Red Army, broke through the Blue
Army's defenses and were on their way to capture it's command center when the maneuvers were suddenly
canceled. The commanding general of the Blue Army was George S. Patton.
After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion was ordered to remain
behind at Camp Polk. None of it's members had any idea why they this order had been issued. It
was on the side of a hill that the members of the battalion received the news that they were being sent overseas
as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many had determined that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon,
Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.
They were replaced with volunteers, or men who had their names drawn, from the 753rd Tank Battalion. The
192nd also received the 753rd's tanks.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes. Arriving in
San Francisco, California, 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 major health issues were released
from service and replaced, while those with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the
battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott
and sailed on Monday, October 27th.
During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered
they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP
The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so t
he soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam
but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the
heavy cruiser, the
and, another transport, the
S. S. Calvin Coolidge
. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date
Line. On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville
revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It
turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam
on Sunday, November 16
, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.
At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the
soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.
The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that
morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove
trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who 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 live in tents, but he had only learned about their arrival days earlier. After making sure
they received Thanksgiving Dinner, he left to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from
The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition
belts and did tank maintenance.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank or half-track crew members remained with each tank at
all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On December 8, 1941, the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed Clark
The 192nd was still guarding the perimeter of Clark Field. At 8:30 A.M., planes took off and the sky was
filled with American planes all morning. At noon, all the planes landed and were parked in a straight line
outside the mess hall. The pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the
north. The tankers on all 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.
As a motorcycle messenger, Earl's job was to carry messages between A Company
headquarters and battalion headquarters. He also was expected to scout enemy positions.
For the next four months, Earl and the other members of A Company fought to slow the
Japanese advance in the Philippines. His battalion was the last American unit to withdraw into the Bataan
Peninsula. During the Battle of Bataan, Earl recalled that it seemed the Americans could never see the
enemy, but the Japanese seemed to always be able to see them.
On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of
Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped
out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. When
General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the
Japanese. That morning, Earl was trying to get some rest and was laying on the ground outside the
Battalion Headquarters of the 192nd. He heard the news as it came in from General King's
headquarters. Earl was ordered to take the surrender message to Companies A and C of the 192nd.
Earl took part in the death march and did the march alone. During the march, he never
saw another member of his tank company. At San Fernando, he and the other POWs were put into small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed
100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those men who died remained standing since the dead could
not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished
Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.
When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to
return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were
taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the
camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to
eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the
next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation
improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when
it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp
and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing
since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the
POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American
doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he
was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese
commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the
camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six
medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the
Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to
the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried
in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground
under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed
in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a
list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to
work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate
among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something,
so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to
Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard
where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been
the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp.
The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed,
while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil,
and sweet potato or corn. Since the POWs were underfed, many became ill and died of malnutrition.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Other
POWs worked in rice paddies. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to
get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. While working in the
fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud
and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs
bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though
they were searched when they returned.
The barracks used by the POWs were built to hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put from 60
to 120 POWs in each one. There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on bamboo strips. In
addition no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was provided which resulted in many becoming ill.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was
known as "Zero Ward," which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted.
Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. The
sickest men slept on the bottom tier. Most of those who died, died from diseases their malnourished bodies
could not fight.
During his time at Cabanatuan, he was a member of Barracks #9, Group 2. Each barracks
was built to house 50 POWs, but most had anywhere from 60 to 120 POWs in them. POWs slept on beds made of
bamboo slats without bedding or covers, which resulted in many becoming sick. He was also admitted to the
camp hospital on Saturday, February 20, 1943, suffering from an undisclosed illness. When he was discharged
from the hospital was not recorded.
In July, a list of POWs who were being sent to Japan was posted in the camp.
Earl's name was on it. On July 15, trucks arrived at the camp and the POWs were boarded. The POWs
arrived at Bilibid seven hours later. Their dinner was rotten sweet potatoes. Since it was night,
they had to eat in the dark. They remained at Bilibid until July 17 at 8:00 A.M. and walked to Pier
7. They were boarded onto the
. The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of
the POWs were put into the read hold.
The ship was moved and remained outside the breakwater, at Manila, from July 18 until July
23 while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy. The POWs were fed rice and vegetables. They also
received two canteen cups of water.
The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island
at 2:00 P.M. It remained off the island overnight and sailed at 8:00 A.M. the next day. The ship
sailed north by northeast. On July 26 at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large fire off the
ship. It turned out that the one of the ships, the
Otari Yama Maru
had been hit by a torpedo from the
U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack. On July 28, the ship arrived at
Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M. The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. and continued its northward trip all
day and night of July 29. On July 30, the ship ran into a storm. The storm finally passed by August
2. The POWs were issued clothing on August 3 and arrived at Moji on August 4th at midnight.
At 8:00 in the morning, the POWs disembarked the ship. They were taken to a theater and
were held in it all day. The POWs were divided into different groups and sent to different camps. The
POW detachment Earl was in was taken to the train station. The train left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at the
town at 2:00 A.M., they were unloaded and walked the three miles to the camp.
Earl was assigned to
which consisted of a mess hall, a hospital, six unheated barracks located on top of a hill with a ten foot
high wooden fence around it. In the barracks, the POWs slept in 15 foot by 15 foot bays which were each
shared by six POWs who slept on straw mats with a blanket and quilted coverlet. During the winter, the
average temperature was 14 degrees, and there was no heat, so the POWs slept together for heat. At 6:00
A.M., 6:00 P.M., and 9:00 P.M. the Japanese took row call. For the first two weeks in the camp, the POWs
learned the Japanese words for mining equipment.
The POWs received their jobs from the camp commandant who spoke adequate English. The
POWs were divided into two groups of miners. The "A" group mined during the day, while the
"B" group mined at night. Every ten days the groups would swap shifts.
"We used to work ten days on the day shift and ten days nights and the only time we got off was when
we switched shifts-then we got the extra time until the alternate shift. It was a
When the POWs arrived at the mine, they were turned over to civilian supervisors who in Burchard's opinion
treated the POWs worse than the guards.
Other POWs in the camp worked topside, at the mine, as coal dust diggers, others POWs
made brickets, while some remained in the camp to work. It is not known what work the POWs who worked in
the camp did.
In the mine, the POWs worked in teams of 5 men and quickly learned the more they did the
more these supervisors wanted from them. If they filled five mining cars, the next day the supervisor
wanted six. The POWs threw rock and timbers into the cars to fill them and covered them with a layer of
coal. When the cars were dumped into the grinder, the rocks and boards damaged it. After awhile, the
supervisor and POWs came to a reasonable agreement on how many cars they would load each day.
The one good thing about working in the mine in the winter was the temperature was about
Earl recalled that working in the mine was scary because conditions in the mine. The mines the POWs
worked were often mines that Japanese engineers had determined to be unsafe for Japanese miners.
During his time in the camp, the worst atrocity Earl witnessed was an American who was shot
to death by a firing squad. This was done because the soldier had stolen a piece of bread. The
POWs were always hungry.
"Rice, and more rice-only it was never enough."
The POWs were fed boiled sea weed, sweet potato tops, and even grass. The meals, which was what was
described as a gumbo and rice for breakfast, a bento box of dry rice for lunch that the POWs took to the mine
with them, and dry rice for supper with 10 or 15 soybeans in it. Once a week, their supper could also
contain a fish head.
During 1945, things got worse for the POWs, so they knew the Japanese were losing the war.
At 5:00 P.M. on August 15th they learned the war was over. The POWs did not believe it. The next day
the camp commandant, at 10:00 A.M., informed the POWs that the war was over. He also told them that they
had to stay in the camp. On August 24th, the Japanese gave the POWs paint and canvas and told them to paint
"POW" on the canvas and put it on the barracks' roofs.
On August 28th, B-29s appeared over the camp. Two of the planes circled and dropped fifty gallon
drums to the POWs. For the first time, the POWs knew they were now in charge. Most of the
guards quickly disappeared. On September 15th, Americans arrived in the camp. The POWs were taken by
truck to the train station. They road the train to Nagasaki, where they were given physicals, deloused, and
the seriously ill were boarded onto a hospital ship. The rest were taken by the
to Okinawa. It was while he was on the ship that he wrote home which was mailed from Okinawa. In
the letter he said
, "I am a free Yank!"
He also told them
"You're going to have to do plenty of cooking for me when I get home. There's one thing
you can practice on, graham cracker crust pie with a banana cream filling. Practice on Dad, he won't
mind a bit."
He also said
"This is my first chance to write you a letter."
the seven POW postcards they received, he said
, "Those other things weren't real."
They were then flown back to the Philippines.
Earl was returned to the Philippine Islands and assigned to Clark Field. It was also
at this time that he was promoted to sergeant. He returned to the United States on the
, on October 19, 1945, and was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. From there, he was sent to the Veterans
Administration Hospital in Clinton, Iowa. He was discharged from the army on May 22, 1946. The one
lasting effect of his captivity is that he had a hard time being around other people.
Pfc. Earl O. Burchard returned to Janesville and married Rita McGuire on April 26, 1947,
and the couple became the parents of six sons and three daughters. He went into business for himself doing
body work on cars and next worked for a car dealer in Janesville.
In the early 1960s, Earl moved his family to California where he was employed as a body and
fender repairman. One of his sons, Mark, was Killed in Action when his helicopter was brought down on
November 17, 1969, in Cambodia, during the Vietnam War.
Earl O. Burchard passed away on October 5, 2002, in Carmichael, California, and was buried at Saint
Patrick's Cemetery in Placerville, California.