Dravo

 

Cpl. George Emery Dravo


 

    Pfc. George E. Dravo was born on June 6, 1920, in Chicago RIdge, Illinois, to Eugene Dravo & Catherine Kreton-Dravo.  The family moved to Maywood, Illinois, and as a child and lived at 1508 South Fourth Avenue and attended the local schools.  He was a  1938 graduate of Proviso Township High School.

    Since a federal draft act had just been passed, George knew that it was just a matter of time until he was inducted into the army.  Like other men from the area, he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Division Tank Company in Maywood.  His reason for joining the company was that it was about to be called into federal service, and he knew that if he served one year, with the company, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he would fulfill his military obligation.

  On November 25, 1940, the tank company members readied to their equipment.  On November 28th, they traveled, by train, to Ft Knox for one year of military service.  The tank company was now known as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  In January 1941, George was assigned to Headquarters Company when it was formed with men from the four letters company of the battalion.  George was a motorcycle messenger for Headquarters Company.

    From September 1st through 30th, the battalion took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the George and the other members were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was on the side of a hill that the battalion learned that they were not being released from military service but being sent overseas.  He and the other men received leaves home to say their goodbyes.
    The decision to send the 192nd overseas -  which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, 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 which was hundred of miles away.  The island had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
    When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore.   Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd 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.   The ship 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, another transport, the 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, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.  

    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength around Clark Airfield.  The tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first they thought they were American planes and had enough time to count 54 planes.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.  At some point during the fighting, George was promoted to corporal and put in command of a half-track.
    HQ, B, and C Companies received orders on December 21st to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.  After the attack, the tanks were repeated sent on wild goose chases against factious Japanese paratroopers.      
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.  The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.   
    On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing 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 bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing.  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 could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night 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.
    The night of January 7th, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa.  Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver, "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."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
    The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.  Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack. 
   It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile.  Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    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 accomplished."     
    The evening of April 8, 1942,
Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."   
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.           

    HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.         
    As they prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
  
    Later in the day, the POWs were order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. 
Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit.  When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.   

    The lack of food and water were two of the most difficult things that the prisoners had to deal with on the march.  In addition, the hot temperatures made the situation worse.  In George's opinion, the problem was that the Japanese had no tradition, in their culture, to handle prisoners, since they had been taught to die and not surrender.  They simply were not prepared to take and keep prisoners.  It was his belief that this was the cause of so many of the atrocities on the march and later in the camps.

    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.  From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a unfinished Filipino Army Training Camp.  The entire POW population had only one water faucet for the entire camp. It was while a POW there that George is credited with saving the life of his friend, Jack Swinehamer.  Jack had been declared dead and taken to the cemetery at the camp.  After he had been laid is the mass grave, George saw Jack move.  George pulled Jack from the grave and returned him to the camp.  To help Jack regain his strength, George shared his food with him.

    George was selected to go out on a work detail to rebuild the bridges that the Americans had destroyed during their withdraw into Bataan.  The detail was divided into two groups.  George's group was sent to a sawmill to cut the lumber that would be used during the construction.  George loaded trucks with lumber and stacked boards to dry.

    On this detail, George witnessed the execution of ten POWs.  One night, one POW escaped from the detail.  The Japanese had instituted a "Blood Brother Rule."  If a POW escaped the five POWs who slept on either side of the man would be executed.  Five POWs to the right of the man, and five POWs to the left of the man were executed.  The Japanese reasoned that these men could have stopped the man from escaping.

    George also witnessed the death of Ralph Hite of HQ Company.  According to George, Ralph and five other POWs ate "Pony Candy" and became ill.  Ralph quickly developed dysentery and died.  He was buried in a hardwood coffin that the Japanese allowed the POWs to make.  After the war, George wrote to Ralph's mother about Ralph's death. 

    After the detail ended, George was sent to Cabanatuan, and according to medical records from the camp, George entered the camp hospital June 19, 1942.  No illness was indicated or a date of discharge indicated. 
    In September 1943, George was selected to go out on a work detail to Las Pinas.  On this detail, the POWs built runways for an airfield. 
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.

    The POWs were divided into two detachments.  The first detachment drained rice paddies and laid the ground work for the runway, while the second detachment built the runway.  When most of the work was done in July 1944, most of the POWs were returned to Cabanatuan.  Forrest was one of 300 men that remained at the airfield.

    On September 21, 1944, while the POWs were working, they saw American diver bombers.  This was the first time they had seen American planes since the surrender of Bataan.  Watching the planes attack the Japanese caused the POWs to cheer.  The next day the detail was ended.

  On September 22nd, the Japanese closed the camp and sent the POWs to Bilibid Prison.  In October of 1944, the Americans began bombing Manila.  The Japanese knowing that it was just a matter of time until the Philippines were liberated, began to transfer the prisoners to Japan or an Japanese controlled country.  George was sent to the Port Area of Manila as part of this process.

    When George's group of POWs arrived at Manila, they found their ship was not ready to sail.  It turned out there was another POW detachment whose ship was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in his group had not arrived from the POW camps.  The Japanese flipped detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.  The ship George was suppose to sail on, the Arisan Maru, was sunk by an American submarine on October 24, 1944.

    The POWs were boarded onto the ship, on October 1st, and it sailed on October 3rd, the ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater.  It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy.  The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men.  To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
    As part of a ten ship convoy it sailed again on October 4th and stopped at Cabcaben.  The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts.  The convoy stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6th, two of the ships were sunk.

    The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for Hong Kong when they received word American planes were in the area.  During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships.  The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th.  On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.

    The POWs were in such bad shape that the Japanese took them ashore, on November 8th, and sent them to Inrin Temporary.  The camp was specifically opened for them and they only did light work and grew vegetables to supplement their diets.  The healthier POWs worked at a sugarcane mill.

    On January 14, 1945, he was boarded onto the Melbourne Maru for Japan.  During the trip, the POWs found that below the hemp the ship was carrying were sacks of sugar and canned tomatoes; they helped themselves to the canned tomatoes.   The ship arrived at Moji on January 23rd and the POWs were marched to a schoolhouse, where the Japanese made them strip off their clothes since they were infested with lice.  From Moji, the POWs rode a train to Sendai #7, where the POWs worked in a copper mine.

    George and the other POWs were issued winter clothing which was inadequate.  The real problem was that the shoes they were given to wear were made of straw and froze when they got wet, which meant many of the POWs suffered from frostbite.  The POWs also did not received adequate food or medical treatment.
   After his arrival in the camp, the Japanese began having the prisoners stand at attention for long hours, without food or water, in near freezing temperatures because a camp rule had been broken.  This went on until July when it was stopped.

    George remained at the camp until he was liberated and returned to the Philippines to be fattened up before he was returned home. While in the Philippines, he was promoted to sergeant.   He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze arriving San Francisco on October 16, 1945, and hospitalized.  Because of health issues, he was not discharged from the army until June 21, 1946.

    After returning home, George married Helen May Feister and became the father of two children.  He lived most of the remainder of his life in the Maywood area.  During this time, he worked as a policeman and machinist. 

    In 1989, George moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he passed away on December 3, 1993, of a heart attack.  During the autopsy, the doctor noted that George's heart had scar tissue from an earlier heart attack which he most likely suffered while POW.

    George E. Dravo was buried in Section H, Site  263 at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Park in Boulder, Nevada, on December 8, 1993. 


 

Return to B Company

Next