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
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
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 t
he 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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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 returned 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 approximately 11:30
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 thirteen other POWs who died on the same date. One of
the POWs was a 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, h
e was buried in Plot L, Row 8, Grave 76, as an "unknown" at the American Military Cemetery outside
Since M/Sgt. Robert G. Haven's remains were never identified, his name appears on
The Tablets of the Missing
at the cemetery.