Pfc. William Anthony Hauser
Pfc. William A. Hauser was born on December 3, 1920, in Chicago, Illinois, to Frank J.
Hauser & Carrie Martern-Hauser and was the youngest of the couple's five children. With his two sisters
and two brothers, he was raised at 30 South Thurlow Street in Hinsdale, Illinois, and attended Hinsdale High
School. He worked at International Harvester, as a mechanic, in the manufacturing of farm
Bill joined the Illinois National Guard in September of 1940, and was called up to active duty on November 25, 1940. At Fort Knox, Bill trained with the other members of B Company until he was transferred into the newly formed Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion in January 1941. During his time at the fort, he trained as a motorcycle messenger.
In the Summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent on maneuvers in Louisiana. Bill believed that these maneuvers helped to prepare the battalion for the Philippines because the soldiers learned to get on the road and move out within the time limit given to them.
After the maneuvers the battalion members expected to return to Ft. Knox, but received orders to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana. It was on the side of a hill the battalion learned that they had been selected by General George S. Patton to go overseas. Bill and the other members of the battalion were given leaves home to say their goodbyes. They returned to Camp Polk and prepared for duty overseas. They were given M3A1 tanks to replace their M2A2 tanks and half-tracks to replace their reconnaissance cars.
After loading the tanks and half-tracks onto flat cars, the battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California. Arriving there, they were taken by ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they were given physicals and inoculated. 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.
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 9th, 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 Colonel Edward King who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that had what they needed and that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner, which was stew thrown into their mess kits, 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.
During the next two weeks, Bill and the other men assigned to reconnaissance cleaned their guns, loaded ammunition belts, and made reconnaissance runs up to North Luzon. In Bill's opinion, the greatest problem facing the soldiers assigned to the half-tracks was that they did not receive enough training to drive the vehicles. This would later lead to a great number of them being lost in combat.
On Monday, December 1, 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.
On December 8, 1941, Bill and the other members of Headquarters Company had just finished eating and returned to loading their machine gun belts with ammunition. The soldiers were well aware of the attack on Pearl Harbor and took note of the planes that had appeared above them. Bill's commanding officer gave the signal that the planes were Japanese, and his platoon was on the go within seconds.
They had gone about one quarter of a mile when the first bomb exploded. Bill's platoon proceeded to an assigned position ringing Clark Field to stop a possible Japanese paratrooper drop. The tankers would remain at these positions for several days.
After three days of guarding the airfield, Bill's half-track was ordered to "high ground" located north of the BanBan River. This was done so that these soldiers could provide an early warning to the American troops of attacking Japanese planes. Performing this duty, of reconnoitering the enemy, resulted in Bill's half-track being reassigned almost daily to the different tank platoons of the 192nd.
As a reconnaissance half-track driver with Headquarters Company, Bill's duty called for him to scout Japanese positions. This duty brought him and his crew under enemy strafing and bombing. It was on such duty that Bill's half-track came into contact with the Japanese for the first time on Christmas Day, 1941.
While assigned with Lt. William Gentry's C Company platoon, Bill's half-track came under fire while attempting to find a location to cross a river. His crew was ordered to retire and tanks were sent in to meet the enemy. The tanks had gone less than a mile when they ran into a Japanese ambush. Bill recalled that his half-track was fired upon by Japanese mortars. Later in another battle, Bill watched as seven or eight Japanese tanks were destroyed in a tank battle just east of Cabanatuan.
Despite suffering from dysentery and fever, he continued to fight until Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. One morning, after post-guard duty, Bill and the other soldiers returned to their base and learned of the surrender. Not too long afterwards, his platoon was strafed by low flying Japanese planes.
The night of April 8, the tankers were ordered to disable their tanks and half-tracks. Bill's crew did so. Leaving their camp, the reconnaissance platoon walked until they met trucks from A Company. They would stay in A Company's area until they drove the trucks to Mariveles. It was there that they were stripped of everything they had.
As a Prisoner of War, Bill started the "Death March" on April 10, 1942, and was subjected to enemy brutality and inhumane treatment. On the march, Bill was threatened and hit, but he never came close to being bayoneted or shot. At one point, he also helped Robert Parr who was having difficulty keeping up with his group.
Bill saw the dead bodies of hundreds of POWs lying along the road. He also witnessed 30 soldiers executed by the Japanese. Bill recalled that the lack of food and water were two of worse things that the POWs who were still alive dealt with on the march. What little water the POWs received often had animal feces floating in it. He recalled that at one point he and the other POWs were were held in an open field and left to bake in the sun.
At San Fernando, the POWs boarded small wooden box cars used to haul sugarcane. The cars could hold forty men, but they were packed into the cars so tightly that they could hardly breath. Disembarking at Capas, the men walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Bill arrived at the camp on April 19. He recalled that the lack of food, water and medicine for the sick were the things that made Camp O'Donnell a death camp. The camp 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.
Bill knew that he had to get out of the camp, so he volunteered to go out on a work detail on May 12. Bill was sent to San Fernando to retrieve destroyed American equipment as scrap metal for the Japanese.
Most of the scrap metal was disabled American cars and trucks. To get them to San Fernando, what the POWs did was to tie the vehicles together with ropes and to an operating vehicle. A POW sat in each vehicle and drove it, behind the operational vehicle, to San Fernando.
After the scrap metal detail ended on September 20, Bill was imprisoned at 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. In the camp, he spent three months digging graves in the morning and burying the dead in the afternoon.
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.
On November 9, Bill was sent to the Port Area of Manila and worked as a stevedore loading and unloading ships. It was on this detail that the prisoners would steal as much food and other items as they could to survive.
One day while working, Bill's fingers on his one had were crushed whe a 55 gallon drum was dropped on his hand. The Japanese insisted that the POWs wear gloves on their hands. In his opinion, taking the glove off his had was far worse than the drum falling on his hand. The Japanese doctor, who treated Bill, removed part of his ring finger making it the same length as his little finger.
The POWs also became very good at sabotaging Japanese munitions. They had lookouts who would warn them if the Japanese were coming. The Americans in the ship's holds would open a box of hand grenades; open the grenade up; dump the gunpowder down the ship's bilge; and reassemble the grenades. If they had been caught, they would have been executed.
Bill remained on this detail until February 1, 1944. On that day, Bill was sent to Bilibid Prison where he remained until April 15th, when he was returned to Cabanatuan. His time in the camp was short, and he was returned to Bilibid on June 29th in preparation of being sent to Japan.
On July 16th the POWs were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru for transport to Japan and moved and dropped anchor at the breakwater in the harbor. The ship remained there until July 23rd when it moved and dropped anchor off Corregidor at 2:00 P.M. It remained there overnight and sailed the next day as part of a convoy. On July 26th one of the ships in the convoy was sunk at 3:00 A.M. At 8:00 A.M., on July 28th, the ships reached Takao, Formosa, and sailed at 8:00 P.M. the same day, for Moji, Japan. From July 30th to August 2nd, the ships sailed through a storm, which kept submarines away, and arrived in Japan on August 4th at midnight.
Upon arriving in Japan, Bill was then sent to Omine Machi, and worked as a slave laborer in a coal mine. In Bill's opinion, the POWs were worked as they were slowly being starved to death. The POWs worked in a coal mine which had been condemned as unsafe before the war. If the Japanese believed the POWs were not working hard enough, the POWs were beaten.
The camp guards stole items from Red Cross packages and withheld the packages from July 1, 1944, to September 2, 1945. The Japanese intentionally opened packages and mixed up contents so that the ranking Allied officer would not know how much should be in each package. When they were given to the POWs they were often contained less than what had been sent and the amount of food in the boxes had no real nutritional value. In addition, when Red Cross packages arrived, they were withheld from POWs from three to seven months after arriving.
Bill believed that had the atomic bomb not been dropped, the prisoners would have been killed by the Japanese or would not have been able to survive another winter. When news of the surrendered reached the POWs, they remained in Omine Machi for a month living off supplies being dropped by the B-29's.
Bill was officially liberated in September 15, 1945. He and the other POWs were taken to Wakayama, Japan, where they were boarded onto the U.S.S. Consolation. Records from the ship show that Bill was in good health but was malnourished.
On September 28th, Bill arrived in Manila to be fattened up by the army. He remained at Manila until he sailed for home on the U.S.S. Marine Shark, which arrived in Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945. It was a little over four years earlier that Bill had sailed for the Philippines from San Francisco. Bill was sent to Vaughn General Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois, and remained at the hospital for several months. He was discharged on April 2, 1946.
After he was released from the hospital, Bill returned to Hinsdale. When he returned home, his father met him at the train station in Hinsdale. There, his father informed Bill that his mother had died while he was a POW. According to his dad, she had died from the stress caused by her worrying about Bill. His father explained to Bill that they did not know if he was alive or dead and that on several occasions, the government approached them offering them his GI insurance check. His dad said they had refused the money because they believed Bill was coming home. Bill told his dad that had he learned that his mother had died, he would have died in the camps because he would have lost hope.
On November 22, 1945, Charles Foster, the owner of Hinsdale Ford, presented Bill with the keys to the first 1946 Ford delivered to his dealership. Bill married Catherine Walsh, who was the girl next door. Together they raised three children. William A. Hauser passed away on March 31, 1983, and was buried at Clarendon Hills Cemetery in Darin, Illinois.
Honors given to Pfc. William A. Hauser include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Prisoner of War Medal, the American Defense Service Ribbon, the Philippine Defense Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, and the Philippine Victory Medal.
At Omine Machi, Bill's POW number was 404. It was his picture as a POW, taken by the Japanese, that was clicked on to view the roll call of the 192nd Tank Battalion. A larger version of the picture is at the bottom of this page. The other picture at the bottom of this page is a map he made, on part of his uniform, while he was a POW. The white on the map shows islands that had been retaken by American forces.
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