Sgt. Howard L. Hasselkus


    Sgt. Howard L. Hasselkus was born July 17, 1918, to Fred A. Hasselkus & Myra Hoeflinger-Hasselkus at 402 Toledo Street in Elmore, Ohio.  His mother died, and his father married Helen Hard, which resulted in Howard becoming the half brother of two sisters and a brother.  He graduated from Harris-Elmore High School in 1936, and after high school, he worked as a draftsman for the Multiplex Concrete Machinery Company in Elmore.

    Howard was inducted into the U. S Army on February 2, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he trained for almost year.  After arriving at Ft. Knox, Howard was assigned to Headquarters Company when the company was formed.  Being that the company was newly formed, Howard quickly rose in rank.  It is known that he received leave home on April 8th through 10th, in June, and again from August 8th through 10th.

    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion traveled to Louisiana and continued their training at Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the form of maneuvers.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana.   It was there that they learned they had been selected for duty overseas.  
    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.
     Howard received a furlough home and visited his family the first week of October before returning to Camp Polk and prepared for overseas duty.  Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by ferry to Angel Island.  On the island the soldiers received physicals and inoculations.  Men who did not pass the physicals were replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.

    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and was ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Fort McDowell on Angel Island, where the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment.  Those who had medical issues were replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    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, the tankers were met by Gen.
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 remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterward, he went to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been covered in the grease to prevent them from rusting.  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 tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on Monday, December 1st, to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank and half-track crews remained with their vehicles at all times.  The morning of December 8th, the battalion's officers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and ordered to their units.  Howard was assigned to one of the half-tracks of HQ Company, used for reconnaissance, which meant he was at the perimeter of the airfield.  Howard can be seen in a half-track photo, that often appears in books on the Battle of Bataan.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st 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 Cavalry.
    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.
    The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River.  The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
    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. Edward 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."
   After the surrender, the members of the company remained in their bivouac until April 11th, when the first Japanese soldiers appeared at their encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered the company members, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their bivouac.  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. 
    After this, the company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  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 sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out.  He spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  After he drove off, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns. 

    Later in the day, Howard's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  In the school yard, they once again sat and waited until they were again ordered to move.  This time when they were ordered to rest, they found themselves sitting in the middle of a artillery battle between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs were killed from incoming American shells.  One group died when they attempted to hide in a small break shed which took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed at knocking out three of the four Japanese guns. 

    The POWs were again ordered to move and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  They made their way north to San Fernando, where they were put in a bull pen and left in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form detachments of 100 men.  After this was done, they were marched to the train station. 
    At the train station, they were packed into wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold eight horses or forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  At Capas, the POWs still living climbed out of the boxcars and the bodies of the dead fell out of boxcars.  The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell, was an unfinished Filipino training camp, pressed into use, by the Japanese, as a prison camp.  The conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as fifty POWs died each day.  There was only one water fountain for the entire camp.  The death rate got so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan which had been a Filipino Army Base.  

     While a POW in the camp,  Howard worked as a draftsman.  It is known that Howard was admitted to the camp's hospital on Thursday, August 6, 1942, suffering from malaria, scurvy, and pellagra.  According to U. S. Army records, Sgt. Howard L. Hasselkus died on Sunday, November 22, 1942, at 11:00 P.M. at Cabanatuan Prison Camp from malaria.  It was only after his death that it was learned that he had secretly married Evelyn Smith, from Port Clinton, Ohio, on July 4, 1941.  Howard had met her through another member of HQ Company who was from the town.

    After the war, Howard's remains could not be identified.  He shares a grave, with other POWs who died on the same date, marked "Unknown" at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.  His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.


 

 



 


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