Ehrhardt

 

Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt


    Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt was born on August 9, 1917, in Wheatland, Wyoming, and was the son of Jacob & Elizabeth Ehrhardt.  It is known that he had a half-brother, and that the family would move to Saginaw, Michigan, where his father had a farm.  Clyde moved to Bellwood, Illinois, with his friend, Art Campbell, to work on the construction of a subway in Chicago.  Since Clyde's brother was married and living in Bellwood, the two men resided with him.  Clyde was known for having a good sense of humor and playing the accordion at family parties. 

    In 1940, Clyde was working as a press operator at a company that made milk cans.  When it became apparent that a draft act was going to be passed, Clyde joined the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard in Maywood, Illinois, because the company was going to be federalized for one year.  In the fall of 1940, the tank company was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28, and designated as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  During this time, Clyde trained as tank driver.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the battalion learned that they were not being released from federal service but being sent overseas as part as Operation PLUM.  Within hours, most men had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.  Afterwards, many of the soldiers were allowed to return home to say their goodbyes.

    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, 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 medical 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 27.  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 2 and had a two day layover, so the 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 U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. President 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 Dateline.  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, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    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 which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea.  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.
    
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.  The morning of December 8, the officers of the battalion's officers met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  Most of the men believed this was the start of the maneuvers, and laughed when told of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  At noon, all the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers had enough time to count 54 planes in formation.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. 

    After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  During this time, they lived through several more attacks on the island.  The battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese had landed.  Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough gasoline for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23 and 24, 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 at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25, 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 had been asked to hold the position for six hours, they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when they withdrew following the Philippine Army.

    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.    On December 31/January 1,  the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge.  The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew.  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 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, 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 6/7 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.
    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 25.  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 25, 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 26/27, 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 28, 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 Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7, 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.
    On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  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 starving.
    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, 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 Training Base that the Japanese pressed 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 Japanese lieutenant.
    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.  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.
    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.  The result was many became ill.
   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.

    Clyde was selected to work on a detail at the Bachrach Garage in Manila to repair equipment for the Japanese.  Also on this detail were Daniel Boni, Roger Heilig and Warren Hidebrandt of B Company.
    On August 14, 1944, Clyde was admitted to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison suffering from the cornea ulcer.  Because of the poor condition of the records, a date of discharge was not shown, and it is not known if he returned to the detail or remained at the prison.

    When it became apparent to the Japanese that it was just a matter of time until the Americans would invade the Philippines, they began transporting the POWs to Japan or other parts of the empire.  Clyde and the other members of the Bachrach Garage detail were sent to Bilibid Prison to await shipment.

    In early October, Clyde was marched to the Port Area of Manila, where his POW detachment was scheduled to board the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail.  Not all the POWs in the detachment had arrived at the pier so the Japanese put another POW detachment, which had completely arrived, on the ship so it could sail. 
    Clyde's detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11th and nearly 1800 POWs were

packed into the ship's number one hold.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks.  The bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while laying down, while those who were standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans, but the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans, so the floor of the hold was covered with human waste.

    On October 11, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp, so that during the night, the POWs were in total darkness. 
   Being in the cove prevented the ship from being attacked by American planes during the air raid on Manila.  But, on one occasion, the ship was attacked by American planes when they flew a mission against the airfield at Palawan.

    Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice.  Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights.  Some of the prisoners were able to hot-wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines.  This allowed fresh air into the hold.  The power was turned off when the Japanese discovered what had been done.

    When the POWs began to develop heat blisters, the Japanese finally acknowledged that if they didn't do something many of the POWs would die.  To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs to it.  At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.

     The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20, where it joined a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs making them targets for American submarines.  In addition, American Military Intelligence was reading Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese, but did not want to  tip off the Japanese of this, so they did not inform the submarines that there were transports carrying POWs.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru,  on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard signaling that submarines had been spotted.  The men in the holds began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.

    The Japanese, on deck, ran to the bow of the ship.  As they watched, a torpedo passed in front of the bow of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in its third hold where there were no POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    The Japanese guards took their rifles and used them as clubs on the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on but did not tie them down.  When they were done, they cut the rope ladders into the holds and abandoned ship.

    The POWs had stopped chanting since they now knew they were facing death.  Some of the POWs in the first hold were able to climb out and reattach the rope ladders which allowed the POWs to climb onto the deck.  Once on deck, an America major spoke to the men.  He said, "Boys, were in a hellva jam - but we've been in jams before.  Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers.  Let's play it that way to the very end of the script.  Right after he spoke, a chaplain

    For the next few hours, the ship remained afloat, and many of the POWs raided the ship's food lockers because they wanted to die with full stomachs.  The ship slowly sunk lower in the water, and when the stern began taking on water, the ship split in two, but both halves of the ship remained afloat.  Many POWs took to the water and attempted to find anything that would float, while other POWs swam to other Japanese ships but were pushed underwater with poles to drown them or clubbed by Japanese sailors.

    Three of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles and the sea was rough, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru sank sometime after dark.  As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer and fewer until there was silence.

    Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  Of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.  Eight of these men would survive the war.  Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Clyde D. Erhardt's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.   


 

 

 

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