Pvt. Richard W. Graff was born on February 17, 1913, to Frank Graff and Frances Prusvoscky-Graff.
With his two brothers and sister, he grew up in Chicago at 4354 South Princeton Avenue. He left high school
after one year and was employed by the
Chicago Tribune as an advertising order clerk for eleven years. He was known as "Rick" to
his family while his friends called him "Dick.".
Richard was married to Cecelia Fleischer. On January 21, 1941, knowing that it was
just a matter of time until he was drafted, Richard enlisted in the United States Army. He had always had
a desire to serve his country. At the time, he had no idea how fateful this decision would be for
After enlistment, Richard was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic
training. His drill sergeant was Ben Morin. At the same time, Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank
Battalion was formed creating vacancies in the rosters of the tank companies. Since B Company had been an
Illinois National Guard Company and Richard was from Illinois, he was assigned to B Company as a radio man, but
he was also qualified as a tank driver.
During this training, Richard and the other new members of the 192nd
were housed in tents. Being it was late winter, the heaters did not always keep them warm. It was
while living in the tent that Richard became friends with
Ed DeGroot who had been assigned to A Company.
Richard finished his training as a radio operator and with Company B and
was assigned to a tank.
From September 1 through 30, the battalion took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of
returning to Ft. Knox. None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.
On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.
Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
The decision for this move - 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 company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken
by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated
for overseas duty. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. 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
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. 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 Date Line. 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
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.
During the trip to the Philippines, Rick wrote to his wife,
"Our letters will take longer to reach each other from now on because of the distance.
I'll bet it is 10,000 miles. Don't worry. I don't believe I would want a furlough after
all. It costs too much from where we are going, and I don't like the idea of traveling too much. If I
do go home, I want it to be for good."
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.
King 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 love in tents. The fact was he had not
learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
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.
The morning of December 8, the officers of the battalions 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. At noon, all the
planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the
north. The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the
men knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers
watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything 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. They lived through two more
attacks on December 10th and 13th.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was 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
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they
were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river
and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang
Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River
with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
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
held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27, when they withdrew following the Philippine Army, to
the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
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
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.
A composite tank company was formed, the next day, 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
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.
To prevent the Japanese from locating the tanks and half-tracks
assigned to guarding the beaches, the tankers would move their tanks out onto the beaches at night and into the
jungle during the early morning. Every morning a Japanese reconnaissance plane known to the Bataan
defenders as "Recon Joe" would fly over the jungle trying to locate the tanks. Since the
jungle canopy was so thick, the Japanese had no idea where the tanks where or how many tanks the Americans
One morning, an attempt was made by a
Sgt. Walter Cigoi to end the daily flyovers of Recon Joe. Sgt. Cigoi pulled his
half-track out, from under the jungle canopy, onto the beach and started shooting at the reconnaissance plane,
but his attempt to shoot down the plane failed. As a result of this decision, the Japanese now had a good
idea where the tanks were located. Twenty minutes later, four Japanese dive bombers flew to the location
and pasted the tanks and half-tracks.
According to Frank Goldstein, when the bombs began
Richard and he
were about five feet apart. To hide from the bombs, Frank dove into a hole, while Richard attempted to
hide beside his tank, which unfortunately, provided very little protection. The falling bombs exploded upon
contact with the tree canopy high above the tanks creating shrapnel which flew in every direction.
When the bombing ceased, Richard was found, by Frank and other member of
B Company, crouching beside the side of his tank with his hands shielding the sides of his head. Frank
recalled that Richard had a "peaceful" look on his face.
Since they did not see any wounds at
the time, they did not know that Richard had been hit in the back of the head by a small piece of
shrapnel. Richard was 28 years old when he died. It should be mentioned that Richard was also the
first former employee of the Chicago Tribune to die in WWII, and the flag on top of the Tribune Tower was flown
at half-staff in his honor.
Pvt. Richard W. Graff was reported Killed In Action on Tuesday, February
3, 1942. He was buried in the Cabcaban Army Airfield Cemetery
in Plot B, Row 1, Grave 8 .
His mother received word of his death on February 7, 1942. When his wife, Cecilia, learned of his
death, later the same day, she told a reporter of the Chicago Tribune,
"Rick wanted to go last January and be a radio operator with the army. I was proud at the time and
am prouder now."
A memorial service was held at Saint Cecilia's Church, in Chicago, on February 11,
1942. On April 11th, the Chicago Tribune dedicated an employee service flag to honor its former employees
serving in the military. Richard's wife and mother were present at the ceremony.
On November 15, 1942, a service flag was also dedicated in his neighborhood on
Chicago's south side. Over 1000 people were present for the ceremony. The flag had 194 blue Stars
and two Gold Stars to indicate the two men from the neighborhood who had died in service.
After the war, in 1946, his remains were recovered at Cabcaben Army Airfield Cemetery, and
his family had his remains returned to Chicago. He was buried at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery on
October 19, 1948. Today, he lies next to his mother and father at the cemetery on the southwest side of