Pfc. Harry Jerele
Pfc. Harry Jerele was born in February 1, 1916, in Clinton, Iowa, and was one of the seven
children of Leo and Mary Jerele. After leaving Iowa, his family moved to Maywood, Melrose Park, Bellwood, and
finally Berkley, Illinois. Since his father was an employee of the Chicago & North Western Railroad, his
family was allowed to live in a house, that sat on railroad property, at the intersection of St. Charles and Wolf
Roads. It is known that Harry loved to tinker with mechanical things and to play the guitar.
Harry attended Melrose Park Grade School and after he graduated, like his father, he worked for the Chicago & North Western Railroad. At some point, with his friend, Norman Spencer, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to have the opportunity to travel and take pictures. He also liked the idea of working outside. Together, Norman and Harry built roads and parking lots in national parks in Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington State.
Harry returned home and worked as a janitor for the National Youth Administration and joined the Illinois National Guard because his friend, Norman Spencer, wanted to join. Norman made this decision after talking to an officer in the National Guard who lived across the street from him. Harry became a member of the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard which was stationed in Maywood.
When the tank company was federalized in November 1940, Harry trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was there that Harry learned how to drive motorcycles, tanks and half-tracks. What specific training he received is not known.
In January 1941, Harry was transferred to the Headquarters Company when the company was formed with men from the four companies of the battalion. As a member of the Headquarters Company, Harry took part in the 1941 maneuvers in Louisiana, from September 1 through 30, by maintaining the tanks of the battalion. Afterwards, the members of the battalion were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected. It was there that they learned they were going 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.
The battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe . On the island, they received inoculations and physicals from the battalion's medical detachment. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while some men were simply replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. 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 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
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 9, 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 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 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 Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but he had only learned of their arrival days earlier. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On Monday, December 1, 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 8, 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.
Harry as a motorcycle messenger carried messages between the 192nd Headquarters Company and the different companies of the battalion. While doing this job, he was twice reported Missing In Action during the Battle of Bataan.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan. It was the evening of April 8 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 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 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."
On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. 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.
Harry and his company finally boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles. At some point, outside of Mariveles, they were ordered by the Japanese out of their trucks. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit. 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 in front of the soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Harry's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little to protect themselves since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the Bataan Death March. During the march, they received no water and little food. It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.
Once at San Fernando, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. During their time in the pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two were still alive and when one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
The POWs were ordered to form 100 men detachments. Once this was done, they were marched to the train station in San Fernando and put into a small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing - since they could not fall to the floor - until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. From Capas, they walked the last miles 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. Tsuneyoshi also told the doctor that the only thing he wanted to know about the Americans was their names and serial numbers when they died.
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.
The burial detail would carry the dead to the cemetery and put the corpse in the grave. Since the water table was high, so that it could be covered with dirt, one POW held the body down with a pole while dirt was thrown on the corpse. The next day when the burial detail returned to the cemetery, the dead often were dug up by wild dogs or sitting up in their graves.
While at Camp O'Donnell, Harry was selected for a work detail at San Fernando, which had the job of recovering vehicles that had been destroyed by the Filipino and American forces before they surrendered. The POWs would tie the vehicles together, behind an operating vehicle, and drive them the vehicles to San Fernando where they would be loaded onto ships as scrap metal.
When this detail was completed, Harry was sent to Cabanatuan Prison Camp which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian. The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 housed the POWs who had been captured on Bataan and held at Camp O'Donnell. Camp 2 was two miles from Camp 1 and was closed because it lacked an adequate water supply. It was later reopened and held Naval POWs. Camp 3 was eight miles from Camp 1 and six miles from Camp 2. It housed the POWs from Corregidor and those men who had been hospitalized when Bataan surrendered. The camp was later closed and the POWs were sent to Camp 1. The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 housed the POWs who had been captured on Bataan and held at Camp O'Donnell. Camp 2 was two miles from Camp 1 and was closed because it lacked an adequate water supply. It was later reopened and held Naval POWs. Camp 3 was eight miles from Camp 1 and six miles from Camp 2. It housed the POWs from Corregidor and those men who had been hospitalized when Bataan surrendered. Camps 1 and 3 were later consolidated into one camp.
The barracks were built for 50 men, but most had 60 to 120 men in them. Each man had a are two feet wide by six feet long to sleep in. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, bedding, and mosquito netting. Disease soon spread quickly.
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. In September 1942, three officers were caught attempting to escape. After being beaten for day, they were shot. In October, seven POWs were made to dig their own graves and shot. 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, Four ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. Other POWs worked in rice paddies. Each morning, 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 1 hospital was made up of 30 wards. Zero ward had been missed when the wards were being counted so it was given the name of "Zero Ward." The ward became the place were POWs who were going to die were sent. The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a fence up around it and would not go near the building. Inside the buildings were two rolls of wooden platforms along the walls. The sicker POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into them. This allowed the POWs to relieve themselves without having to get off the platform. In November 1942, the death rate among the POWs was 9 men each day.
On Thursday, July 9, Harry was hospitalized suffering from pneumonia. According to the medical roster and the final report on the 192nd, he died of cerebral malaria and pneumonia, at the age of 27, on Thursday, December 24, 1942, at approximately 1:00 PM. The medical record also shows that he had dysentery.
In June 1943, Harry's father made his first attempt to find out if his son was dead or alive. The family had learned he was a prisoner in March 1943. Harry's father would make two more attempts before the end of the year. The family did not know anything about Harry until they were notified of his death on J uly 24, 1943.
The remains of Harry Jerele were buried in the camp cemetery at Cabanatuan in grave 804 with three other POWs. After the war, the remains of the three other men, who shared Harry's grave, were identified. For some reason, Harry's remains were never identified, but somehow made their way to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California.
On December 1, 1949, his remains were returned from Fort Mason to Manila. The remains were identified as X-846 and buried at the American Military Cemetery, at Manila, as an "Unknown" in Plot L, Row 2, Grave 57. Although Harry's remains were never identified, his name does not appear on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery. Harry's name does appear on the Cabanatuan Memorial at the site of the former POW camp.
In October 1946, Berkley renamed Fifty-first Avenue to Jerele Avenue in Harry's honor. Fifty-second Avenue was renamed in honor of Norman Spencer to Spencer Avenue.
At this time, Harry's family is attempting to have these remains exhumed and - through the use of DNA - bring him home.
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