Kafer

 


Pfc. Otto Robert Kafer


Born: 5 July 1917 - Eureka, South Dakota

Parents: Karl Kafer & Caroline Mettler-Kafer

    - family owned a clothing store

    - father died in 1925

    - mother remarried: Caroline Schiermiester 

     - resided: Hazelton, South Dakota 

Siblings: 3 sisters, 2 brothers

Home: Eureka, South Dakota

Married: Katherine Kertzman

Children: 1 son

    - marriage lasted from 1938 to 1940

Worked: Civilian Conversation Corps

Enlisted:

    - U. S. Army

        - 11 March 1941

Training: 

    - Fort Lewis, Washington
    - Fort Knox, Kentucky
        - radio school

Units: 

    - 194th Tank Battalion
Note: On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  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, hundred of miles away, with a large radio transmitter on it.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed that evening, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
    - 4 September  1941
        - battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
    - Arrived: 7:30 A.M. - 5 September 1941
        - ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
        - given physicals and inoculations
        - men with medical conditions replaced
    - Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: Monday - 8 September 1941 - 3:00 P.M.
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M. - same day
        - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday - 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
        - Sailed: 5:00 P.M. - same day
            - escorted by heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
                - heavy cruiser intercepted several ships after smoke was seen on the horizon
                - ships belonged to friendly countries

        - Tuesday - 16 September 1941 - crossed International Dateline

            - date jumped to Thursday - 18 September1941
        - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembarked ship - 3:00 P.M.
            - taken by bus to Fort Stostenburg
Stationed:
    - Ft. Stostenburg, Philippines
        - lived in tents until barracks completed - 15 November 1941
        - 1 December 1941 - tanks and half-tracks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
            - two members of each crew ordered to remain with their vehicle at all times
            - received meals from food trucks   

Engagements: 

    - Battle of Luzon

        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942
            - The morning of December 8, December 7 in the United States, the tankers
              were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.
            - 12:45 P.M. - the airfield was bombed destroying the Army Air Corps
                - tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when attack came
            - HQ Company members remained in 194th command area
                - could do little more than take cover during attack
            - As HQ Company watched the wounded and dying carried to hospital on anything that
              would carry them
                  - most had missing arms or legs
                  - when hospital ran out of room, wounded put under the hospital
            - Next day, members of company walked around airfield and saw the dead laying everywhere
            - 10 December 1941
                - battalion sent to Mabalcat
                    - C Company was sent to Southern Luzon to support troops
            - 12 December 1941
                - moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
                    - arrived 6:00 A.M.
            - 14 December 1941
                - A Co. & D Co., 192nd moved to just north of Muntinlupa
            - 15 December 1941
                - received 15 Bren gun carriers
                - turned some over to 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts
                - Bren gun carriers used to test ground to see if it could support tanks
            - 22 December 1941
                - sent to Rosario
                    - west and north of the of barrio
                    - ordered out of the 71st Division Commander
                        - said they would hinder the cavalry's operation
            - 22/23 December 1941
                - operating north of Agno River
                - main bridge at Carmen bombed
            - 24 December 1941
                - operating in Hacienda Road area
            - 26/27 December 1941
                - ordered to withdraw - 7:00 A.M.
                    - Lt. Costigan's platoon forced its way through way through Carmen
                        - lost two tanks
                            - one tank belonged to company commander - Captain Edward Burke
                                - believed dead, but was actually captured
                            - one tank crew rescued
                - new line Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas-San Jose
                - rest of battalion made a dash out
                    - lost one tank at Bayambang
                    - another tank went across front receiving fire and firing on Japanese
                - Lt. Petree's platoon fought its way out and across Agno River
                - D Company, 192nd, lost all its tanks except one
                    - the tank commander found a crossing
                    - Japanese would use tanks later on Bataan
            - 28 December 1941
                - Tarlec Line
                    - most of battalion withdrew from line that night
            - 29/30 December 1941
                - new line at Bamban River established
                - tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
            - 30/31 December 1941
                    - tank battalions held Calumpit Bridge
                    - covering withdraw of Philippine Divisions south on Rt. 3, San Fernando
            - 2 January 1942
                - both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
                - 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
            - 5 January 1942
                - C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-PoralineLine and moved into position between
                  Sasmuan and Lubao

                - 1:50 A.M. - Japanese attempted to infiltrate
                    - bright moonlight made them easy to see
                    - tanks opened fire
                    - Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them
                - 3:00 A.M. - Japanese broke off engagement
                     - suffered 50% casualties
                - Remedios - established new line along dried creek bed 
            - 6/7 January 1942
                - 194th, covered by 192nd, crosses Culis Creek into Bataan
                - both battalions bivouacked south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
                - rations cut in half

    - Battle of Bataan

        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
              - HQ Company serviced tanks and supplied crews with ammunition, gas, and food
            - January 1942
                - tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
           - 8 January 1942
                - composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
                    - their job was to keep the East Road open  north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main
                      battle line had been formed

                - remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
                    - tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
                    - tanks also needed overdue maintenance
                    - 17th Ordnance
                - all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
                - three per tank platoon
                - sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could withdraw
                - tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
                - two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
                - mission abandoned
                - Gen. Segunda's troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
            - 12 January 1942
                - C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
                    - forward position with little alert time
            - 13 January 1942
                - mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
                - returned to battalion
            - 16 January 1942
                -  C Company sent to Bagac to reopen Moron Highway
                    - highway had been cut by Japanese
                    - Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
                        - tank platoon fired on by antitank gun
                            - tanks knock out gun
                            - cleared roadblock with support of infantry
            - 20 January 1942
                - Banibani Road -tanks sent in to save 31st Infantry command post
            - 24 January 1942
                - tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
                     - landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
            - 26 January 1942 - 194th was involved in a battle with the Japanese while
              holding a position on the Bano Bano Road.
            - Otto's half-track was near a half-track assigned to the Provisional Tank Group
            - Col. Ernest Miller had his radio operator turn off his radio during battle
                - Miller got tired of conflicting orders and said so over the radio
                - many given directly by General James Weaver
                - Kafer saw Weaver slam down his fist and say, "Col. Miller. I'll court martial you for that - I'll court martial you." 

            - 28 January 1942
                - 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
                - guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
                - half-tracks patrolled roads
                    - maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver,"Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
        - February 1942
            - tank battalions on their own guarded airfields
            - battalions also guarded beaches to prevent Japanese from landing troops     
            - March 1942
                - two tanks were bogged down in mud
                - the tankers were working to get them out
                - Japanese Regiment entered the area
                - Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point blank range
                    - Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
                - wiped out Japanese regiment
                - gasoline rations cut to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks
                - Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that one platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor
                    - Wainwright rejected idea
        - 4 April 1942
            - Japanese launched major offensive
            - tanks sent into various sectors to stop Japanese advance
        - 6 April 1942
            - four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
                - one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at junction of Trails 8 & 6
                - other tanks covered withdraw
            - 3rd Platoon sent up west coast road
                - near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
                - the tanks withdrew to Marivales
        - 8 April 1942
            -  at Cabcaban Airfield
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."
            - 10:30 P.M. - Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000
              civilians

            - less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
            - he estimated they could hold out one more day
            - sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
            - 11:40 P.M. - ammunition dumps blown up
Prisoner of War: 

    - 9 April 1942
        - received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
            - Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
        - Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
    - 10 April 1942
        - 7:00 P.M. - started march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
        - 3:00 A.M. - halted and rested for an hour
        - 4:00 A.M. - resume march
    - 11 April 1942
        - 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
            - allowed to forage for food
        - 9:00 A.M. - resumed march
        - Noon - reached Limay and main road
            - officers separated from enlisted men
        - 4:00 P.M put on trucks
            - officers arrived at Balanga
            - Japanese find handgun in field bag of an officer
                - he was clubbed and bayoneted
                - because of this they were not fed
        - Dusk - officers ordered to form ranks and marched
            - marched through Abucay and Samal
    - 12 April 1942
        - 3:00 A.M. - reached Orani 
            - herded into a fenced in area and ordered to lie down
            - in morning found they had been lying in human waste
            - latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
        - Noon - fed rice and salt
            - first meal
        - Afternoon - enlisted men rejoin officers
        - 6:30 P.M. - ordered to form 100 men detachments
            - POWs marched at faster pace
            - fewer breaks
                - when given break, the POWs sat on road
        - North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
            - made march easier
    - 13 April 1942
        - 2:00 A.M. - POWs given an hour rest on road
            - those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
            - POWs march through Layac and Lurao
            - rains - POWs drank as much as they could
        - 4:30 P.M. - reached San Fernando
            - POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
                - one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
                - pottery jars of water given out the same way
    - 14 April 1942
        - 4:00 A.M. - POWs awakened
            - formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
            - POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
                - each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
                - 100 POWs packed into each car
                - POWs who died remained standing
        - 9:00 A.M. - Capas - dead fell to floor as living left boxcars
            - as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
            - also gave them water
            - POWs walked last 8 kilometers to Camp O'Donnell

    - Philippine Islands:

        - Camp O'Donnell
            - 1 April 1942 - unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
                - Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
            - POWs searched upon arrival at camp
                - those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
                - sent to guardhouse
                - over several days, gun shots heard southeast of the camp
                    - POWs who had money on them had been executed
            - Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
                - since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
                - clothing was taken from dead
                - few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
            - POWs were not allowed to bathe
            - only one water spigot for entire camp
                - POWs waited 2 hours to 8 hours to get a drink
                    - water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for water to be turned on again
                    - mess kits could not be cleaned
                - POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
                - second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
            - slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
                - flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
            - camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
            - the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio
              Tsuneyoshi, never to write another letter
                - Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
                - refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
                - 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
            - POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
            - operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
            - only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
            - as many as 50 POWs died each day
                - each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
                - ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
                - the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
                - usually not buried for two or three days
            - work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
                - POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria

                - Otto suffered from an infection

                 - reported to have died 

        - San Fernando
            - Scrap Metal Detail

                - POWs drove disabled vehicles to San Fernando

                - vehicles were tied together by rope
        - Bilibid Prison
            - sent to hospital with malaria from San Fernanado
            - Admitted: 10 October 1942
            - Discharged: not known

        - Cabanatuan
            - original name - Camp Panagaian
                - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
                    - put into use by Japanese as a POW camp
                - actually three camps
                    - Camp 1: POWs from Camp O'Donnell sent there in attempt to lower death rate
                    - Camp 2:  two miles away
                        - all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
                        - later used for Naval POWs
                    - Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
                        - POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
                        - camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
                        - Corregidor POWs were in better shape
                            - January 1943 - POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
        - Camp Administration:
            - the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
                - Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
                - POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
                    - Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
                    - Japanese beat them for days
                    - executed them
            - Blood Brother Rule
                - POWs put into groups of ten
                    - if one escaped the others would be executed
                    - housed in same barracks
                    - worked on details together
            - Barracks:
                - each barracks held 50 men
                    - often held between 60 and 120 men
                    - slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
                        - diseases spread easily
                    - no showers
            - Morning Roll Call:
                - stood at attention
                    - frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
                - when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in
                  their shins with their hobnailed boots because they didn't like the way the POWs looked
            - Work Details:
                - Two main details
                    - the farm and airfield
                        - farm detail
                            - POWs cleared land and grew comotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
                            - Japanese took what was grown
                    - Guards:
                        - Big Speedo - spoke little English
                            - in charge of detail
                            - fair in treatment of POWs
                            - spoke little English
                                - to get POWs to work faster said, "speedo"
                        - Little Speedo
                            - fair in treatment of POWs
                        - Smiley
                            - always smiling
                            - could not be trusted
                            - meanest of guards
            - Airfield Detail:
                - Japanese built an airfield for fighters
                    - POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
                        - at first moved dirt in wheel barrows
                        - later pushed mining cars
                    Guards:
                        - Air Raid
                            - in charge
                            - usually fair but unpredictable
                                - had to watch him
                        - Donald Duck
                            - always talking
                            - sounded like the cartoon character
                            - unpredictable - beat POWs
                            - POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
                                - at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
                                - POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp
                - Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
                    - worked 6 days a week
                        - had Sunday off
            - Other Details:
                - work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
                    - they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
                - POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
                - the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
                - if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn't doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
                - many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
            - Burial Detail
                - POWs worked in teams of four
                    - carried 4 to 6 dead to cemetery at a time in liter
                    - a grave contained from 15 to 20 bodies
            - daily POW meal
                - 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
                 - rice was main staple, few vegetables or fruits
        - Camp Hospital:
            - 30 Wards
                - each ward could hold 40 men
                    - frequently had 100 men in each
            - Zero Ward
              - given name because it had been missed when counting wards
              - became ward where those who were going to die were sent

               - two tiers of bunks
                   - each POW had a 2 foot by was c6 foot area to lie in
                   - sickest POWs on bottom tier
                       - holes were cut into the platform so the POWs could relieve themselves
              - fenced off from other wards
                  - Japanese guards would not go near it
                  - POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
                  - medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
                  - many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition

        - Ft. McKinley
            - 12 October 1943
                - POWs collected scrap metal
                - POWs were housed in the former barracks of the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
                - 270 men slept shoulder to shoulder
                - washed clothing with buckets
        - Nielsen Airfield
            - Arrived: 29 January 1943

            - POWs built northeast to southwest runway
            - POWs housed in four Nipa barracks constructed for them
                - slept shoulder to shoulder
            - POW Compound - 300 feet and 250 feet
        - Camp Murphy 1
            - Arrived: 25 October 1943
                - POWs house in two story former post headquarters
                - POW compound - 300 feet by 350 feet
                - built a northeast to southwest runway at Zablan Airfield
                - POWs worked from 8:00 A.M. until noon, and 1:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M.
                - POWs worked in two shifts
                    - one group worked for an hour while the other rested
                    - POWs moved dirt and rock from one area, with picks and shovels, put it in mining cars,
                     
and dumped it in another area
                - May 1943 - work sped up
                    - built runway through rice fields
                    - work made harder since the fields still had water in them

        - Camp Murphy 2
                - 29 January 1944
                    - work hours are changed to 7:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M., and 1:30 to 5:00 P.M.
                    - one day off a week was cut to half a day off

                - Food:

                    - POWs were always hungry
                        - sick POWs were given reduced rations
                        - September 1943 - rations start to get smaller
                        - December 1943 - cut in half
                    - Breakfast: watered rice and tea
                        - POWs also received corn instead of rice
                    - Other meals: soup and steamed rice
                        - three times a week they initially received fried fish
                        - did not receive tea for 5 months when one POW stole tea

Note: On March 1, 1944, the POWs witnessed the execution of Pvt. George Garrett by the camp commander, Lt. Yoshi Koshi, for planning to escape.  According to the POWs, Garrett and two other men had planned an escape and were informed on by the Navy Chief Signalman, Harold Hirschberg, who the POWs considered a collaborator.  According to the POWs, Hirschberg told Garrett, who he had, had a fight with, "You'll never leave this camp alive."  The POWs stated that over several days, the Japanese starved Garrett, beat him, and finally placed a garden hose in Garrett's mouth until his stomach was filled with water.  The Japanese then stood on his abdomen which caused his death three days later. 
                        - June 1944 - from this time on, POWs only receive rice or corn for their noon meal

                - May 26, 1944 - hours extended and POWs worked until 6:00 P.M.
                - at some points, POWs assigned to building a second runway 3 miles from the airfield
        - Detail ended:

                - 20 August 1944 - POWs listed on POW draft for transport to Japan

        - Bilibid Prison

            - POWs sent there for physicals

            - taken to Port Area of Manila

            - boarded onto Noto Maru

Hell Ship:

    - Noto Maru
        - Boarded: 25 August 1944

        - Sailed: Manila - 27 August 1944

        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 31 August 1944
        - Sailed: Same Day

        - Arrived: Same Day - Keelung, Formosa
        - Sailed: 31 August 1944

        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 4 September 1944

POW Camp:

    - Japan:

        - Mukashima
Note:  From Moji, the POWs rode a train to Hiroshima #4, also known as Hiroshima #4, where the POWs were used as slave in a shipyard.  The  Japanese practiced collective punishment when a camp rule was broken by one POW, all the POWs were punished.  Minor rule infractions usually resulted in the POW being beaten with fists, bamboo poles, and rifle butts.  This frequently was the punishment given to POWs who were too sick to work.
    The men were also forced to stand at attention for hours kneeling, at rigid attention, on two bamboo sticks that were three inches apart on the ground for hours.  One was under the knees and the other to support the insteps.  Sometimes after doing this, the POWs were ordered to stand at attention which was impossible for them to do because their legs were cramped, so they were beaten.
    At some point in the camp almost every POW spent time in "the box," which was 5 feet 4 inches high, 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep.  POWs were fasten to the box and remained inside it for days, in a crouching position, without the ability to stand or lie down.  While in the box, the POW was fed one pint of water a day and three handfuls of rice and salt.  The POW was given an empty can to use as a bathroom in complete darkness.

    - about the atomic bomb, he said, " I don't feel guilty at all.  If the atomic bomb wasn't dropped, we wouldn't be here."
Liberated:

    - 12 September 1945

    - camp evacuated - 15 September 1945
    - returned to the Philippine Islands

Promoted: Staff Sergeant
Transport:
    - U.S.S. Admiral C. F. Hughes
        - Sailed: Manila - not known
        - Arrived: Seattle, Washington - 9 October 1945

Discharged: 25 May 1946

Married: Antonette Fischer - 1946
    - she passed away in 2009

Children: 1 son

Residence:

     - lived in Roseville, Minnesota

     - resided in Springfield, Missouri 

Died: 8 January 2015 - Springfield, Missouri

Buried: Roselawn Cemetery - Roseville, Minnesota


 

 

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