Pfc. Edeard 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 December 1940, Ed enlisted in the California National Guard at Salinas. A
little over a month later he was inducted into federal service on February 10, 1941, at Salinas Army Air
Base. With his company, now designated C Company, 194th Tank Battalion he traveled to Fort Lewis in
Washington state. Three months later, he was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky to attend radio school and
qualified as a radio operator.
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 next day another squadron
was sent to the area, but the buoys had been picked up
by a fishing boat which was seen making its way to
shore. Since radio communication between the Air Corps
and Navy was poor the fishing boat escaped. It
was at that time the decision was made to build up the
American military presence in the Philippines.
In September 1941, the 194th,
minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco,
California, for transport to the Philippine
Islands. The tankers were taken by train to Ft. Mason in San
Francisco, and ferried on the
U.S.A.T. Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell, on Angel Island, where they received physicals and inoculations
by the battalion's medical detachment.
The soldiers boarded the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September
8th at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine
Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship's
holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on
them and were removed from the tanks. They
arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13th at
7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off
ship to see the island but had to be back on board before
the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping
lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the
U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser and an
unknown destroyer which were its escorts. During this part
of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on
the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of
the smoke. Each time it was found that the
smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila
several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark
Field. The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to
unload the battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and
Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed. They
were met by Colonel Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they
needed. On November 15th, they moved into their barracks.
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.
They remained in the area
until December 24th, when they moved over the Taal Road to
San Tomas and bivouacked near San Paolo and assisted
in operations in the Pagbilao-Lucban Area supporting the
Philippine Army. One of the most dangerous
things the tanks did was cross bridges with a ten ton weight
limit. Each tank weight 14 tons, so they
crossed the bridges one tank at a time.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
It was at this time that the tank battalion commanders received this order
, "You will make plans, to be communicated to
company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy
within one hour after receipt by radio, or other
means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat
vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios:
reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as
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.
Between 6:30 and 6:45 A.M. on
April 9, 1942, the order "CRASH" was
issued. The tankers destroyed their tanks and
waited for orders from the Japanese. The members of the
194th were ordered the next day, to move to the
headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group, which was at
kilometer marker 168.2.
At 7:00 P.M. on the 10th, the
POWs were ordered to march. They made their way from
the former command post, and at first found the walk
difficult. When they reached the main road, walking
became easier. At 3:00 A.M., they were given an
hour break before being ordered to move again at 4:00
A.M. The column reached Lamao at 8:00 A.M.,
where the POWs were allowed to forage for food before marching
again at 9:00.
During this part of the march
to reach the main road out of Bataan, the POWs noted that
they were treated well by the Japanese who were combat
hardened troops. Their guards were surprised
that they had surrendered and treated them fairly
well. It was at Limay that the treatment they received
When the POWs reached Limay,
officers with ranks of major or higher, were separated from
the enlisted men and the lower ranking officers.
The higher ranking officers were put on trucks and driven
to Balanga from where they march north to Orani.
The lower ranking officers and enlisted men reached the
barrio later in the day having march through Abucay
At 6:30 in the evening, the
POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. Once
this was done, they resumed the trip north, but this
time they were marched at a faster pace and were given few
breaks. When they did receive a break, they had
to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.
When they were north of
Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march
easier. At 2:00 A.M., they received an hour
break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a
bayonet. After the break, they were marched
through Layac and Lurao. It was at this time that a heavy
shower took place and many of the men opened their
mouths in an attempt to get water.
The men were marched until 4:00
P.M., when they reached San Fernando. Once there,
they were herded into a bull pen, surrounded by
barbwire, and put into groups of 200 men. One POW from each
group went to the cooking area which was next to the
latrine, and received a box of rice that was divided among
the men. Water was given out in a similar
manner with each group receiving a pottery jar of water to
At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese woke
the men up and organized them into detachments of 100
men. From the compound, they were marched to the
train station, where they were packed into small wooden
boxcars known as "forty or eights." Each boxcar
could hold forty men or eight horses, but the
Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the
doors. The POWs were packed in so tightly that the
dead could not fall to the floor. At Capas, as
the living left the cars and those who had died - during the
trip - fell to the floors of the cars. As they
left the cars, the Filipino civilians threw sugarcane and
gave the POWs water.
The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell. The camp was an unfinished
Filipino Army Training Base. The Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp.
For 12,000 POWs in the camp, there was only one water spigot. Men literally died
for a drink of water. Conditions in the camp were so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at
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
The camp was actually three camps. Camp One was where the men who captured on Bataan
and taken part in the death march where held. Camp Two did not have an adequate water supply and was
closed. It later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp Three was where those men captured when
Corregidor surrender were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the
surrender came were sent to the camp. Camps One and Three were later consolidated into one camp.
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 POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals
on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or
corn. The POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the
evening. Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them. Other POWs worked in rice
paddies. What details Joe took part in from the camp is not known.
The POW barracks were built
to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120
men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without
mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. In addition,
the lack of proper bathrooms contributed to many
Each morning, the POWs lined
up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it
wasn't uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of
their heads. In addition, one guard frequently
kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots.
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. 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 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. The name soon meant the place where
those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward
had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but
often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two
foot wide by six foot long area to lie in. The
sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms
had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve
themselves without having to leave the tier.
While a POW at Cabanatuan, Ed
was admitted to the camp hospital. According to
the camp medical records, he was in the camp
hospital on September 3, 1942. The records do not indicate
what his illness was or when he was
discharged. On February 4, 1943, his family received word that he
officially a Japanese POW. He remained at
Cabanatuan until he was selected to be sent to Japan.
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
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
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
On June 15, 1946, he
married. Ed remained in the army and retired on June 28,
1966. After his military career, he worked as
an assistant vice-president at the Bank of America until he
retired on September 30, 1972.
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.