Pvt. Herbert C. Kirchhoff Jr.
Pvt. Herbert C. Kirchhoff Jr.
was born in June 7, 1919, to Lucille & Herbert
C. Kirchhoff Sr. in Peoria, Illinois. He was
known as "Bud" to his family and friends.
Herb, with his sister and three brothers, lived at
717 North Second Avenue in Maywood, Illinois, and
attended Proviso Township High
School. After high school, he worked at
a pottery company.
Herbert joined the Illinois National Guard's
Maywood Tank Company because a friend talked him
into it. In November of 1940, Herbert was
sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, when the company
was called into federal service. It
was there that the company became Company B,
192nd Tank Battalion. While at Fort Knox,
he trained as a tank driver. He also
qualified as a motorcycle messenger.
The battalion was deployed Fort Stotsenbeurg,
where they were greeted by Gen. Edward P.
that the men
had to live in
the main road
fort and Clark
He made sure
that they all
he went to
was the date
members of the
expected to be
members of B
His tank and
were sent to
About 12:45 in
as the tankers
At first, the
It was only
that they knew
The tank battalion received orders on
that it was to
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
On one occasion, Herb
recalled that his
platoon had made its
bivouac for the
night. The tankers
suddenly found shells
believed they were being
bombed by enemy
planes. As it
turned out, the shells
were from American guns
firing at a
that had stopped, for
the night, near their
The morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers
received the order "crash." They circled
their tanks. Each tank fired a armor
piecing shell into the engine of the tank in
front of it. They also opened the gasoline
cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped
hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the
company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese
to make contact, while others attempted to reach
Corregidor which had not surrendered.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. They were taken to the train station and 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 POWs into each boxcar. Those who died remained standing since there was no place to fall. At Capas, the POWs disembarked and the dead fell to the floor of the cars. The POWs walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The camp was an unfinished
camp into use
as a POW camp
on April 1,
arrived at the
the POWs had
and refused to
return it to
the POWs and
if a man was
found to have
on them, they
were taken to
Over the next
heard to the
These POWs had
It is known that he spent
seven of these
days sick with
arrived at the
camp, he was
until he was
on March 23,
records do not
or the date he
As far as it s known, he remained at Cabanatuan until being sent to Japan in July 1943. Herb was boarded onto the Clyde Maru on July 23, 1943, for Santa Cruz, Zambales instead of Formosa. It arrived there the same day and loaded manganese ore. On July 26, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa. It arrived there on July 28 and remained in port while a convoy sailed. On the trip to Japan, one of the Japanese officers known to the prisoners as "Big Speedo" allowed the POWs out of the hold and made sure that they were fed. In Herb's own words, "He was a good guy."
The ship sailed again on August 5 and arrived at Moji on August 7, 1943. The POWs disembarked the next day, and were boarded onto a train for a two day trip to Omuta, Kyushu. When they left the train, most of the POWs marched eighteen miles to their new camp. A number of POWs were driven to the camp since they were too ill to walk.
In Japan, he first was imprisoned at Fukuoka #17 with other members of Company B, Jim Bashleben, Lester Tennenberg and Bob Martin. A short time later, Herb was sent to another camp and unloaded boxcars. He also built earthen embankments for what the Japanese believed to be the coming invasion of Japan.
During his imprisonment in Japan, Herb witnessed on several occasions prisoners beaten to death by a guard they called, "The Beast." This guard would beat prisoners to death with his bare fists. Herbert believed that this guard received "justice" from several prisoners after the war.
On several occasions, he experienced signs that the Americans were aware of the POWs. While unloading ships, a B-29 bomber flew over the docks taking pictures. The plane circled the POWs letting them know that its crew knew the POWs were there. The plane then dropped a map to the POWs that showed the location of every camp.
On a different occasion, an American bombing mission leveled the town his camp was located next to. The camp was next to a power station. In the morning, the prisoners saw that the entire town had been leveled except for the power plant. It was located too close to the camp.
The last camp Herb was held at was located 75 miles from Nagasaki. Although he did not see the atomic bomb because he was working in a mine, he heard about a "big boom." It was not long before the Japanese assembled the prisoners and announced to them that they were free. The Japanese told the former POWs that they could leave, but that they should leave behind the things they really did not need.
spent the next month roaming Japan before
returning to the United States. He was
also promoted to staff sergeant and returned to
the Philippines. On the Dutch ship, the
S.S. Klipfontein, he returned to the United
States at Seattle, Washington, on October 28,
Herbert Kirchhoff passed
away on June 10, 2015, in Coeur d' Arlene,
Idaho. He was buried, next to his wife, at
Oakridge-Glen Oak Cemetery in Hillside,