Cpl. Fred A. Jannisch Jr.
Cpl. Fred A. Jannisch Jr. was the only son of Fred A.
Jannisch Sr. & Anna Siegler-Jannisch, and was
born on October 25, 1922. When he was a child,
his father purchased a house at 333 Park Avenue in
River Forest, Illinois, because he was a River Forest
Fireman and wanted to live in the town where he
Fred attended grade school in River Forest and Oak Park River Forest High School. He was a Boy Scout in Troop #15 which was headquartered in the Euclid Methodist Church. This was the church Fred's family attended. One reason Fred loved scouting was that he loved to camp. This may explain why he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard.
In the fall of 1940, the federal government began federalizing National Guard units. Fred's tank company, the 33rd Divisional Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard, was called to federal duty on November 25th and left by train on the 28th for Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was known as "Freddy" to the members of his company. Upon arriving at Ft. Knox, his tank company was designated as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
To do this, he withdrew from high school in the fall of his senior year. He most likely received his diploma while training at Ft. Knox.
In early 1941, Fred was transferred into Headquarters Company when it was created with men from the four letter companies of the battalion. It is not known what his duties were with the company.
In the fall of 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. HQ Company's job was to maintain the equipment and keep it running. After taking part in maneuvers. the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side of a hill that Fred learned that his battalion was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. He received a leave home to say goodbye to his parents and friends.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over different train routes arriving in San Francisco, California, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy that arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover. The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island. They sailed again on Wednesday, November 5th for Guam. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship, was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they would soon be at war. About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th, the ships entered Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded buses and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila. Other men assigned to trucks drove their trucks to the fort, while those assigned to the maintenance section of the battalion remained 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, but he had only learned of their arrival days earlier. After making sure they had everything they needed and Thanksgiving Dinner, he went and had his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting at sea. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On Monday, December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion was assigned the northern half of the airfield while the 192nd protected the southern half. At all times, two crew members had two remain with their tank or half-track and received their meals from food trucks. HQ Company made sure that the companies had what they needed.
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. The 192nd letter companies were ordered up to full strength at Clark Field.
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. After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks. They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.
In a letter home which was written during the withdrawal into Bataan, he told his parents, "The first and only mail any of us received was around the last of November. All of it was postmarked October 27."
In addition, he wrote of how smoking had become a luxury. "Before the war, cigarettes were selling at our post for 50 cents a carton. (American money). Then they went up - 50 cents a pack - $1 - $1.50 a package, even to the ridiculous price of $25 in U.S. money for one carton."
Although Fred never saw front line action, he did live with the daily bombings and strafing by Japanese planes. 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."
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. George was now a Prisoner of War. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. 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. They remained along the sides of the road for hours. HQ Company then boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, Fred and the other Prisoners of War 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 there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up to the soldiers in a car. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off, while the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a schoolyard in Mariveles. In the schoolyard, they found themselves 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 shells.
The POWs were ordered to move and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march they received no water and little food. At San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen, ordered to sit, and left sitting in the sun.
Later, they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station where they were put into a small wooden boxcars known as "Forty and Eights" because they could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar so tightly that those men who died could not fall to the floors of the cars. At Capas, the living disembarked and walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Fred was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell, but it is not known if he went out on a work detail. It is known that Fred was transferred to Cabanatuan when the camp opened. It is not known if he went out on any details while he was in the camp.
After arriving in the camp, Fred was admitted to the camp hospital on August 2, 1942, suffering from dysentery and malaria. According to records kept by the medical staff, Cpl. Fred A. Jannisch Jr., died at approximately 1:30 PM, from dysentery on October 14, 1942, eleven days before his 20th birthday.
When Fred's parents learned of their son's death on June 29, 1943, they were devastated. During his time as a POW, they had received only one letter from Fred which was in August 1942. The letter was dated February 24, 1942, and showed signs of having been in water. it is known that an American submarine fished mail sacks out of the water that were from a ship that had been sunk by a Japanese submarine.
On July 24, 1943, a memorial service was held for Cpl. Fred A. Jannisch Jr at the River Forest Methodist Church. After the war, Fred's remains were identified and at the request of his parents, he was buried at the new American Military Cemetery at Manil in Plot J, Row 14, Grave 8.
Upon hearing the news of Fred's death, his former scout master, Mr. Kenneth Rogers, wrote a poem in memory of him. The poem can be read by clicking here.