Havens

 

M/Sgt. Robert George Havens


    M/Sgt. Robert G. Havens was the son of George S. & Clara Havens, and was born in Wisconsin, on July 28, 1917.  He had three sisters and a brother and his family resided, with his grandparents, in Janesville, Wisconsin, where they lived at 1803 South Mineral Point Avenue.   He was a manager for newspaper carriers for the Janesville Gazette.  On November 1, 1937, Robert enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Divisional Tank Company headquartered in Janesville.    
    Robert was called to federal duty on November 25, 1940, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to train.  It was there that his company became A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  While he was at Fort Knox, he was promoted to sergeant and transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created in January 1941.  In his new company, he was given the job of battalion clerk and would later be promoted to master sergeant.    

   Robert next took part in maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of 1941.  After the maneuvers the battalion was sent to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  At Camp Polk, the soldiers were informed that the 192nd Tank Battalion was being sent overseas for further training.  Those men 29 years or older were given the chance to resign from federal service and were replaced.  Many of the soldiers received leaves home to take care of any unfinished business and to say their goodbyes.     
    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.
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island and given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalion's medical detachment.  Those men with health issues were released from service and replaced.  Other men 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 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.   They 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, the transport, S. S. 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 Colonel Edward 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.   After making sure the soldiers had their Thanksgiving Dinner, King went to have his own dinner.
    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 the grease put on them to prevent them from rusting during the voyage to the Philippines.  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 Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from 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 Field.  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.
    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.
    For the next four months, Robert worked to ensure that the letter companies had what they needed.  Often this meant he had to fight with the bureaucracy that controlled the needed supplies.
    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 P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since 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." 
    Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.   Somehow Bruni came up with enough bread and pineapple juice to hold what he called, "Their last supper."
    The morning of April 9, 1942, the company received word of Bataan's surrendered to the Japanese and remained in their bivouac for two days before receiving orders to move.  The Prisoners of War found a mule which they slaughtered and cooked for its meat.  As they started to eat, a Japanese officer and soldiers showed up and took charge of the area.  The Japanese order the POWs to move, and they made their way to the road that ran past their bivouac.  Once there, they were ordered to kneel along both sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them went through the POWs possessions and took what they wanted.
    After they had been searched, the members of the company drove their trucks to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  Once there, they were herded onto an airfield and left in the sun.  As they sat in the sun, without water, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming in front of them.  The POWs realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad, and that they were the intended victims.
    Not too long after this, the POWs were marched to a school yard and ordered to sit once again in the sun without food or water.  Behind them on the field, were four Japanese artillery pieces firing at Corregidor.  Corregidor was also firing on the Japanese.  Shells from the American fortress began landing among the POWs.  The prisoners sought shelter, but since there was none some of the POWs were killed.  During this incident, the American artillery managed to knock out three of the four Japanese guns.
    Once again, the POWs received orders to move.  It was upon receiving this order that Woody started what became known as the death march.
    For the POWs, the three hardest things about the march were the hunger cramps, the thirst, and the useless killings of men who could not keep up with the column.  Those who could no longer walk were left behind.  He witnessed many men flattened into the ground by Japanese tanks as they headed south toward Mariveles
    On the march, the POWs made their way to San Fernando where they were put in a bull pen.  In one corner of the pen was a slit trench that was used as a toilet.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  After sitting in the sun for hours, the Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station and packed into small wooden boxcars knwon as "forty and eights."  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.   The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall down.  They  rode the train to Capas where the living climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    At the train station, they were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as "Forty or Eights," since they could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put 100 men into each boxcar and closed the doors.  They were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors.  At Capas, the living POWs disembarked and made their way to Camp O'Donnell.  The conditions in this unfinished Filipino Army base were so bad that the POWs volunteered to go out on work details to escape them.
    To lower the death rate among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.   Robert was sent to the camp when it opened.  According to records kept by the medical staff at the camp, Robert was admitted to the camp's hospital on June 19, 1942, suffering from malaria and was discharged on August 15, 1942.

    Robert went out on a work detail to Clark Field.  There, he and the other POWs worked to enlarge the airfield.  While on this detail, he became ill and was sent to Cabanatuan.  Medical records show he entered the hospital in October 1942 suffering from myocarditis - which is when the body's immune system attacks the body - due to beriberi.   The medical records indicate that Sgt. Robert G. Havens died of myocarditis and beriberi on Monday, November 23, 1942, at 11:30 P.M.

    Robert's one prized possession, which he had with him when he died, was a prayer book.  He asked his friend, Phil Parish, to give the book to his family when Phil returned home.  Phil kept his promise and gave the book to Robert's parents after the war.

    After he died, he was buried in a mass grave with eight other POWs who died on the same date.  Two of these POWs were member of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The grave was designated as Grave 808.

    After the war, a recovery team from the Army exhumed of the POWs buried in Grave 808 on January 31, 1946.  The recovery team knew who was buried in the grave, but not where in the grave the man had been placed.
    Robert's remains were originally given the number of C-135.  Three sets of remains from the grave were identified while six sets of remains were not positively identified.  After this, Robert's remains were given the new number of Unknown X-538.  Since the Army believed they could not positively identify his remains, he was buried in Plot L, Row 8, Grave 76, as an "unknown" at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila. 

    Since M/Sgt. Robert G. Haven's remains were never identified, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing  at the cemetery.  


 

 

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