| Pfc. George R.
Dietrich was the son of Joseph F. Dietrich &
Eva Venemann-Dietrich. He was born on August
27, 1914, in Hibbing, Minnesota, and grew up at
409 Godfrey in Louisville, Kentucky, with his two
sisters and brother. Before he was drafted
into the U. S. Army on March 5, 1941, he worked
for his father's contracting company as a
After being drafted into the army, he was sent
to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic
training. Upon arriving there, he was
assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion. The
reason for this is that he was from one of the
four states that the National Guard companies
that made up the battalion were from.
George was assigned to D Company and worked in
supplies. In this capacity, he went to
Louisiana with the company to take part in
maneuvers from September 1st through 30th.
After the maneuvers, the
battalion members were ordered to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as
was expected. At the fort, they learned
that their battalion was being sent overseas as
part of Operation PLUM. The soldiers
received furloughs home to say their goodbyes
before they returned to Camp Polk.
The reason for this move was
an event that took place in the summer of
1941. A squadron of American fighters was
flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots
noticed something odd. He took his plane
down and identified a buoy in the water.
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,
with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles
away. The squadron continued its flight
plane and flew south to Mariveles and then
returned to Clark Field. When the planes
landed, it was too late to do anything that day,
and the next day - when a Navy ship was sent to
the area - the buoys had been picked up.
It was at that time the decision was made to
build up the American military presence in the
The battalion's new tanks
came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were
loaded onto flat cars, on different
trains. The soldiers also cosmolined
anything that they thought would rust.
Over different train routes, the companies were
sent to San Francisco, California, where they
were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M.
Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On
the island, they were given physicals by the
battalion's medical detachment and men found
with minor medical conditions were held on the
island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at
a later date. Other men were simply
The 192nd was boarded onto
the U.S.A.T. Gen. 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. They arrived
at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and
had a two day layover, so the soldiers were
given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th,
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 U.S.S. Louisville and, the
transport, S.S. President Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to
bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11th. During the night,
while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Date Line. On Saturday,
November 15th, 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 16th, 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 20th,
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. The fact was he had
not learned of their arrival until days before
they arrived. He made sure that they had
Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his
The members of the battalion
pitched the tents in an open field halfway
between the Clark Field Administration Building
and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set
up in two rows and five men were assigned to
each tent. There were two supply tents and
meals were provided by food trucks stationed at
the end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days
the tankers spent much of their time removing
cosmoline from their weapons. They also
spent a large amount of time loading ammunition
belts. The plan was for them, with the
194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
After arriving in the
Philippines, the process was begun to transfer D
Company to the 194th Tank Battalion, which had
left for the Philippines minus one
company. B Company of the battalion was
sent to Alaska while the remaining companies, of
the battalion, were sent to the
Philippines. The medical clerk for
the192nd spent weeks organizing records to be
handed over to the 194th.
On December 1st, the tank
battalions were ordered to the perimeter of
Clark Field to guard against Japanese
paratroopers. The 194th, with D Company,
was assigned northern part of the airfield and
the 192nd guarded the southern half. Two
members of each tank and half-track crew
remained with their vehicles at all times and
received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8,
1941, just hours after the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor, the company was brought up to full
strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.
All morning long, the sky was filled with
American planes. At noon, the planes
landed to be refueled and the pilots went to
lunch. The planes were parked in a
straight line outside the pilots' mess hall.
At 12:45, two formations,
totaling 54 planes, approached the airfield from
the north. When bombs began exploding on
the runways, the tankers knew that planes were
Japanese. Being that their tanks could not
fight planes, they watched as the Japanese
destroyed the Army Air Corps.
When the Japanese were
finished, there was not much left of the
airfield. The soldiers watched as the
dead, the dying, and the wounded were hauled to
the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything
else, that could carry the wounded, was in
use. When the hospital filled, they
watched the medics place the wounded under the
building. Many of these men had their arms
and legs missing.
That night, most men slept
under their tanks since it was safer than
sleeping in their tents. They had no idea
that they had slept their last night in a bed.
One of the results of the
attack was that the transfer of D Company, to
the 194th, was never completed. The
company retained its designation of being part
of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon and
the Battle of Bataan.
The 194th, with D Company,
was moved, the night of the 12th, to an area
south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge
arriving there at 6:00 A.M. On December
13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers from
Clark Field to do reconnaissance and to guard
beaches. On the 15th, the battalion
received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some
over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine
Scouts. These were used to test the ground
to see if it could support tanks.
The tank battalions were sent
to the area around the Lingayen Gulf. The
company was near a mountain, so many of the
tankers climber to the top. On the
mountain, they found troops, ammunition, guns
but were just sitting there watching the
Japanese ships in the gulf. They had
received orders not to fire.
The tankers walked down
the mountain and waited. They received
orders to drop back from the mountain and let
the Japanese occupy it. They watched as
the Japanese brought their equipment to the top
of the mountain. The Americans finally
received orders to launch a counterattack which
On December 22nd, the
companies were operating north of the Agno River
and after the main bridge was bombed, on
December 24/25, made an end tun to get south of
the river and not be trapped by the
Japanese. The tanks held the south bank of
the river from west of Carmen to the
Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road with the 192nd
holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug
(northeast of San Quintin).
Christmas Day, the tankers
spent in the night in a coconut grove. As
it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to
eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942,
both day and night, all the tanks did was cover
retreats of different infantry units. The
tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and
The tanks formed a new
defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo
Tomas- San Jose line on December 26th.
When they dropped back from the line, all the
platoons withdrew, except one which provided
cover, as the other platoons from the
area. One tank went across the line
receiving fire and firing on the Japanese.
At Bayambang, Lt. Petree's
platoon lost a tank. It was at this time
that D Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks,
except one, because the bridge they were suppose
to cross had been destroyed. The company
commander, Lt. Jack Altman, could not bring
himself to totally destroy the tanks, and the
Japanese repaired them and used them on
Bataan. The sergeant of the one tank, that
had not abandoned, found a place to ford the
river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
The tankers were at Santo
Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at
San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th
and 29th. On January 1st, conflicting
orders were received by the defenders who were
attempting to stop the Japanese advance down
Route 5. Doing this would allow the
Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward
Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of
the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's
chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there
was confusion among the Filipinos and American
forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga
River. Due to the efforts of the Self
Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and
a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion
the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd
to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San
Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces
At 2:30 A.M., the night of
January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus
in force and using smoke as cover. This
attack was an attempt to destroy the tank
battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese
withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6th/7th
the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the
192nd holding its position so that the 194th
Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross
the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw
over the bridge. The 192nd was the last
American unit to enter Bataan, before the
engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
It was at this time that the tank companies were
reduced to three tanks each. This was done
to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews
still without tanks were used as replacements,
At Gumain River, on January
5th, D Company and C Company, 194th, were given
the job to hold the south riverbank so that the
other units could withdraw. The tank
companies formed a defensive line along the bank
of the river. When the Japanese attacked
the position at night, they were easy to see
since they were wearing white t-shirts.
The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
The night of January 6/7, the
194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge
over the Culis Creek and entered Bataan.
This was the beginning of the Battle of
Bataan. At this time, the food rations
were cut in half.
General Weaver also issued
the following orders to the tank battalions
around this time. "Tanks will execute maximum
delay, staying in position and firing at visible
enemy until further delay will jeopardize
withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it
will be fought until the close approach of the
enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously
taking positions outside and continuing to fight
with the salvaged and personal weapons.
Considerations of personal safety and expediency
will not interfere with accomplishing the
greatest possible delay."
A composite tank
company was created on January 8th under the
command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Company,
192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road
north of Hermosa. Its job was to keep the
north road open and prevent the Japanese from
driving down the road before a new battle line
had been formed. The Japanese never
lunched an attack allowing the defensive line to
be formed. The tanks withdrew after they
began receiving artillery fire.
The remainder of the tanks
were ordered to bivouac south of the
Aubucay-Hacienda Road. While there, the
tank crews had their first break from action in
nearly a month. The tanks, which were long
overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th
Ordnance. It was also at this time that
tank platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with
three tanks in each platoon. This was done
so that D Company, 192nd, would have tanks.
The 194th was sent to reopen
the Moron Road so that General Segunda's forces,
which were trapped behind enemy lines, could
withdraw. Attempting to do this two tanks
were knocked out by landmines planted by
ordnance, but recovered, and a Japanese
anti-tank gun was destroyed. The mission
was abandoned the next day. Gen. Segunda's
forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
The next action the tanks saw
was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve
the 31st Infantry's command post. On the
24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda
Road to support infantry, but again could not
accomplish their mission because of landmines
planted by ordnance.
The 194th was holding a
position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac
Road on January 26th with four self-propelled
mounts. At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down
the road and warned the battalion that a large
Japanese force was coming down the road.
When they appeared the tanks opened up on them.
At 10:30, the Japanese withdrew having lost 500
of 1200 men. This action prevented the new
line of defense from being breached.
On January 28th, the tank
battalions were given the job of guarding the
beaches so that the Japanese couldn't land
troops. The 194th guarded the coastline
from Limay to Cabcaban. During the day,
the tanks hid under the jungle canopy. At
bight they were pulled out onto the
beaches. The battalion's half-tracks had
the job of patrolling the roads. At all times,
the tanks were in contact with on-shore and
For most of March, the
situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the
Japanese had been fought to a standstill.
On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in
the mud, and the crews were working to free
them. While they were doing this, a
Japanese regiment entered the area. Lt.
Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire
on the Japanese at point blank range. He
also ran from tank to tank directing the crew's
fire. The Japanese were wiped out.
On March 21st, the last major battle was fought
by the tanks.
Having brought in combat
harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese
lunched a major offensive on April 4th.
The tanks were sent to various sectors in an
attempt to stop the advance. On the 6th,
four tanks were sent to support the 45th
Philippine Infantry, Philippine Scouts. One tank
was knocked out from anti-tank fire at the
junctions of Trails 6 & 8, and the other
tanks withdrew. On April 8th, the 194th
was fighting on the East Coast Road at Cabcaban.
It was at this time that Gen.
King knowing that the situation was hopeless
sent officers to negotiate the surrender of
Bataan. The tanks were instructed that
they would hear the order "bash" on their
radios, or that it would be given to them
When the order was given, the
tankers circled their tanks, fired an armor
piercing shell into the engine of the tank in
front of their tank, and opened up the gasoline
cocks in the crew compartments. They
dropped hand grenades into each crew compartment
setting the tanks on fire. Later in the
war, the Japanese dragged the tanks out of the
jungle to send to Japan as scrap metal.
When Bataan surrendered to
the Japanese, the tankers became a Prisoners of
War. The POWs were ordered to the bivouac
of the Provisional Tank Group. It was from
there that they were marched to join the main
column of POWs on the march out of Bataan.
On April 10th, the Japanese
arrived and ordered the Prisoners of War onto
the road. They quickly stripped the POWs
of their watches, pens, and sun-glasses.
The POWs were taken to a trail and found that
walking on the gravel trail was difficult.
They immediately witnessed "Japanese Discipline"
toward their own troops. The Japanese
apparently were marching for hours, and when a
man fell, he was kicked in his stomach and hit
in the head with a rifle butt. If he still
did not get up, the Japanese determined that the
man was exhausted and left him alone.
The trial the POWs were on
ended when they reached the main road. The
first thing the Japanese did was to separate the
officers from the enlisted men and counted
them. The POWs were left in the sun for
the rest of the day wondering what was going to
happen. That night they were ordered north
which was difficult, on the rocky road, in the
dark, since they could not see where they were
The POWs made their way north
against the flow of Japanese horse artillery and
trucks which were moving south. At times,
they would slip on something wet and slippery
which were the remains of a man killed by
Japanese artillery the day before. When
dawn came, the walking became easier but as the
sun rose it became hotter and the POWs began to
feel the effects of thirst. It was
at this time that the POWs saw a group of
Filipinos being marched by the Japanese.
Looking at them, they realized that they had
been hungry, but the Filipinos had been
When the men crossed the
Lamao River, they smelled the sweet smell of
death. The Japanese had heavily bombed the area
causing many casualties and many of the dead lay
partially in the river. The air corps POWs
in front of them ran to the river and
drank. Many would later die from dysentery
at Camp O'Donnell.
At Limay on April 11th, the
officers with the rank of major or above, were
put into a school yard. The officers were
told that they would be driven the rest of the
march. At 4:00 AM, the officers were put
into trucks for an unknown destination. It
was there that the lower ranking officers and
the enlisted men joined the main column of POWs
being marched out of Bataan. For the first time,
they began to witness the abuse of POWs as they
walked through Balanga to Orani.
At Orani, the men were put
into a bull pen where they were ordered to lay
down. In the morning, the POWs realized
that they had been lying in the human waste of
POWs who had already used the bullpen. At
noon, they received their first food.
When they resumed the march
they were marched at a faster pace. The
guards also seemed to be nervous about
something. The POWs made their way to just
north of Hormosa. where the road went from
gravel to concrete, and the change of surface
made the march easier. When the POWs were
allowed to sit down, those who attempted to lay
down were jabbed with bayonets.
The POWs continued the march
and for the first time in months it began to
rain which felt great and many men attempted to
get drinks. When they arrived at San
Fernando, the POWs were put into another bull
pen and remained until they were ordered to form
detachments of 100 men.
At some point marched the
POWs were marched to the train station, where
they were packed into small wooden boxcars known
as "forty or eights." They were called
this since each car could hold forty men or
eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men
into each car and shut the doors. The heat
in the cars was unbearable and many POWs died
but could not fall to the floors since there was
no room for them to fall. The POWs rode
the train to Capas were they disembarked the
cars. As they left the cars, the dead fell
to the floors. The POWs walked the last
eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an
unfinished Filipino army base that the Japanese
pressed into use as a POW camp. There was
only one water faucet for the entire camp and
men stood in line for days for a drink.
Conditions in the camp were so bad that as many
as fifty men died each day. The burial
detail worked continuously to bury the
dead. Since the water table was high, they
could only dig shallow graves which quickly
filled with water. Poles were used to hold
the bodies down until they were covered with
dirt. The next morning, when the burials
resumed, the dead were often found to be sitting
up graves or dug up by wild dogs.
He was later held as a POW at Cabanatuan and
remained in the camp until he was selected to go
out as a replacement on a work detail at Las
September 1943, George was selected for a
work detail to Las Pinas where the POWs
built a runway at Nichols Field. The
detail was also known as the Pasay School
Detail since the POWs were housed in the
school. There were eighteen rooms in
the schoolhouse and 30 POWs were assigned to
sleep in each one.
in the morning, the POWs had reveille and
"bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of
100 men. After this came breakfast
which was a fish soup with rice. After
breakfast, there was a second count of all
POWs, which included both healthy and sick,
before the POWs marched a mile and half to
the airfield. Only 50 POWs were
allowed to be sick each day, so the
healthier POWs carried the weaker POWs
The detail was under the
control of the Japanese Navy and welfare of
the POWs was of no concern to them.
They only concern they had was getting the
runway built. If the number of POWs
identified as being sick was too large, the
Japanese would simply walk among the POWs,
at the school, and select men who did not
display any physical signs of illness or
injury. Men suffering from dysentery
or pellagra could not get out of work.
ranking American officer, Captain Henry
Schutte Jr., protested the use of the POWs
to build runways, since it was in violation
of the Geneva Convention. The result
of his protest was that he was told that
they would work, and he was beaten for
protesting the order by the Japanese
commanding officer who was known as "The
White Angel" by the POWs. The Japanese
commanding officer was given this name
because he always wore a spotless white
Each morning the POWs got
up and did calisthenics and were counted
before they fed breakfast which was a fish
head soup. They were counted again and
marched a mile to the airfield. While
they marched, the Filipinos along the road
showed sympathy for the Americans whose
clothing had deteriorated to rags.
This sympathy shown by the Filipinos angered
the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on
using construction equipment. Instead, they
intended the POWs to do the work with picks,
shovels, and wheel barrows. The first
POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.
The work was easy until the extension
reached the hills. When the extension
reached the hills, some of which were 80
feet high, the POWs flattened them by
hand. The Japanese replaced the wheel
barrows with mining cars that two POWs
pushed to the swamp and dumped as
land-fill. As the work became harder
and the POWs weaker, less work got
done. This resulted in the brutality
against the POWs to increase.
After arriving at the
airfield, they were counted again.
They went to a tool shed and received their
tools; once again they were counted.
At the end of the work day, the POWs were
counted again. When they arrived back
at the school, they were counted
again. Then, they would rush to the
showers, since there only six showers and
toilets for over 500 POWs. They were
fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice
and than counted one final time. Lights were
turned out at 9:00 P.M. The detail
ended in July 1944.
The POWs arrived at Bilibid and remained at
Bilibid until July 17th at 8:00 A.M., when they
were walked to Pier 7. They were boarded
onto the Nissyo Maru. 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 remained outside the
breakwater, at Manila,
from July 18th until July 23rd while the
Japanese attempted to form a convoy. The
POWs were fed rice and vegetables, which were
cooked together. 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 26th 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 28th, 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 29th. On July
30th, the ship ran into a storm. The storm
finally passed by August 2nd. The POWs
were issued clothing on August 3rd 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. They
were than taken to the train station. The
train left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at the camp
at 2:00 A.M., they were unloaded and walked the
three miles to the camp.
George was held at
Fukuoka #23 at Keisen. He and the
other POWs were used as laborers in a coal
camp 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 X 15 foot
bays. Six POWs shared a bay. 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
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. When the POWs arrived at the mine,
they were turned over to civilian
supervisors. The POWs quickly
learned the more they did the more these
supervisors wanted from them. 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 70 degrees.
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 9:00 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
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. When he was
liberated, John weighed less than 80
pounds. The POWs were taken by truck to
the train station. They road the train to
Nagasaki. Once there, they were given
physicals, deloused, and the seriously ill were
boarded onto a hospital ship. The rest
were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to
Okinawa. They were than flown back to the
Philippines and later returned to the
When George was considered healthy
enough, he was boarded onto the Dutch ship, S.S.
Klipfontaine, and arrived at
Seattle, Washington, on October 27, 1945.
He returned to Louisville and was discharged on
April 20, 1946. George
R. Dietrich passed away in October 19, 1985,
in Louisville, Kentucky.