Pfc. Edward Clemente DeGottardi
C. DeGottardi was born on August 14, 1909, in
Santa Monica, Cailfornia, to Patrick and Adelina
DeGottardi. When he was four, his family
moved to Salinas, California, where he grew up
with his sister and brother.
In the late summer of 1941, the 194th received
orders for duty in the Philippines because of an
event that happened during the summer. A
squadron of American planes was flying over
Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots - who was
flying at a lower altitude - noticed something
odd. He took his plane down and identified
a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in
the distance. He came upon more buoys that
lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the
northwest, in the direction of an Japanese
occupied island, hundred of miles away, that had
a large radio transmitter. The squadron
continued its flight plan and flew south to
Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.
By the time the planes landed, it was too late
to do anything that day.
The morning of December 8, 1941, ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks of the Provisional Tank Group were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At 12:30 the planes landed and their pilots went to lunch.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runway did the tankers know the planes were Japanese.
It was on December 12th that C Company was
ordered to support forces in southern
Luzon. The company proceeded through
Manila. Since they had no air cover, most
of their movements were at night. As they
moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares
being shot into the air. They arrived at
the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time their
attempting to catch 5th columnists.
On December 26th, the five tanks of Ed's platoon were sent to an area on the east coast of Luzon near Lucban. The Japanese had landed troops in the area. The American Command wanted to see what the strength of the enemy was in the area.
The tanks of Ed's platoon were ordered by a major to proceed, without reconnaissance, down a narrow trail. Since the area was mountainous, the tanks had a hard time maneuvering on the trail. As they went down the trail, the tanks attempted to keep their spacing so that the driver of each tank could each see the tank in front of him. At one point, the trail made a sharp turn. Ed's tank made the turn. After making the turn, the tank's driver realized that he could not see the lead tank. In an attempt to find the lead tank, the driver sped his tank up.
As it turned out, this maneuver saved the lives of the tankers. Just behind them a shell exploded. The shell had been fired by a Japanese anti-tank gun. Ed's tank driver drove faster to prevent the gun from getting off another shot. At the same time he zigzagged the tank. Ed's tank crashed into the log barricade that the Japanese had built across the road and took out the gun.
The tank continued forward until they reached a opening at a rice paddy where the tank could be turned around. Ed's tank commander realized that the only way out of the situation was the same way the tank had come in, so he sent his tank back the way it had just come.
As the tank approached the destroyed barricade, the tank crew members saw the lead tank off to the side of the road. It had taken a direct hit from the gun his tank had knocked out. The fire from the gun had knocked the hatch coverings off the front of the tank. From what the tankers could see, the Japanese had machine-gunned the crew while they were still in the tank.
Believing they were safe, the members of Ed's crew began celebrating their good luck. Suddenly, they took a direct hit from another Japanese anti-tank gun. The shell knocked off one of the tank's tracks causing to veer off the road and go over an earthen embankment. The tank came to a stop in a rice paddy. The crew members had no idea that their little reconnaissance patrol had taken them straight into the main Japanese staging area.
As Ed and the other men in the tank played dead, the Japanese tried to open up the tank hatch. When a new group of Japanese arrived later in the day, they to tried to get into the tank. The tankers sat quietly in the tank, without food or water, until seven the next morning. At that time, they tank crew determined that the Japanese had left the area, so they left their tank and attempted to make their way to the American lines.
The tank crew, with the help of Filipino guides, walked for the next six days attempting to reach their lines. At Nagcarlan, a Catholic priest gave them food and warned them that the Japanese were approaching the barrio. He also told them which trail to take to reach the coast.
The tankers made their way to the coast where
they were able to get a boat to take them to
Manila. There, Ed was operated on for his
wound. The tank crew caught the last boat
leaving Manila for Corregidor. From
Corregidor, the tankers were taken by boat to
Mariveles and rejoined their tank battalion.
General Edward King announced at 10:30 that
night that further resistance would result in
the massacre of 6000 sick and wounded and 40,000
civilians. He also estimated that less
than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to
continue to fight and would hold out for one
more day. He ordered his staff officers to
negotiate terms of surrender.
On June 1, the POWs formed detachments of 100
men and were marched to Capas, where they were
put into steel boxcars. Each car had two
Japanese guards. During the trip at
Calumpit, the train was switched onto a track
that took it to Cabanatuan. When the POWs
left the cars, they were herded into a
schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and
onions soup. They were marched to the new
camp which was a former Philippine Army Base and
had been the home of the 91st Philippine Army
As American forces began to retake captured territory from the Japanese, the Japanese began to evacuate the POWs from the Philippines. At Bilibid, the POWs would receive a physical and it was determined if they were healthy enough to be sent to Japan or another occupied country.
On March 23, 1944, Ed, with 307 other POWs, was boarded onto the Taikoku Maru. The ship sailed the same day for Takao, Formosa. How long the ship remained at Takao is not know. The ship sailed for Moji and then Osaka, Japan. It arrived at Osaka on April 10, 1944. From Osaka, Ed and the other POWs were taken to Hitachi POW Camp about nine kilometers from the town of Hitachi.
Ed and the other POWs were used as slave labor in the Hitachi copper mines. He remained in the camp until August 14, 1944, when 230 POWs were sent to Ashio #8-D. In this new camp, Ed once again found himself working in a copper mine.
Ed remained at Ashio until he was liberated by
American forces. He was returned to the
Philippines for medical treatment.
Boarding the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze,
he sailed for the United States on September 26,
1945, and arrived at San Francisco on October
16, 1945. He was sent to Letterman General
Hospital for further medical treatment.
The photo at the bottom of this page was taken by the Japanese while Ed was a POW in Japan. Ed DeGottardi passed away on January 20, 1995, in Salinas, California.