Pfc. Donald Eugene Knipshield
Pfc. Donald Eugene Knipshield was born on August 31,
1921, to Mae Loretta Conroy-Knipshield and William
Isaac Knipshield in Janesville, Wisconsin, and was one
of the couple's five children. The family's home
was on Parker Avenue, on the Rock River, in
Donald attended St. Mary's Grade School and later Janesville High School and graduated in 1939. After high school, he worked as a typist for a lumber yard. While he was working, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Divisional Tank Company, with his friend, Wesley Elmer to earn some extra money. The company was headquartered in the armory in Janesville.
On November 25, 1940, Donald's tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where it joined three other tank companies to form the 192nd GHQ Light Tank Battalion. For the almost a year, the battalion trained at Ft. Knox. While he was at Ft. Knox, Donald's brother, Bill, visited him and was the last member of Donald's family to see him alive.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side of a hill, that the members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas. Although many members of the battalion received furloughs home, Donald remained at Camp Polk. The reason was he and other members of the battalion had to ready the battalion's equipment for transport.
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.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island n the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
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 the 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 U.S.S. Louisville 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. D
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 Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before their ship docked. He remained with the battalion and made sure they had what they needed. It wasn't until every member of the battalion received Thanksgiving dinner that he left to have his own dinner.
After arriving in the Philippines, Donald was reassigned to the Provisional Tank Group Headquarters. He rode a motorcycle as a messenger between tank group headquarters and the two tank battalions.
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 during the trip to the Philippines. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
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 battalions 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.
For the next four months Donald carried messages to the tank companies from General James Weaver, the commanding officer of the tank group. The battalion remained at Clark Field for two weeks until it received orders to the Lingayen Gulf area were the Japanese had landed. The battalion repeatedly dropped back as it fought the Japanese.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
The night of January 7th, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
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."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd. On April 7th, 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 counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile. 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 were 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 accomplished."
The morning of April 9, 1942, the soldiers at the tank group received the news of the surrender of all Filipino and American forces on Bataan. On April 10th, the Japanese arrived and ordered HQ personnel onto the road that ran in front of their bivouac. When the POWs were ordered to move, they found walking on the gravel trail difficult. When the trial ended, and the POWs were on the main road, the first thing the Japanese did was separate the officers from the enlisted men.
The Prisoners of War were then left in the sun for the rest of the day. That night they were ordered north. The march was difficult in the dark since they could not see where they were walking. Whenever they slipped, they knew they had stepped on the remains of a dead soldier. The POWs made their way north, against the flow of Japanese troops, who were moving south. At Limay, on April 11th, they were put into a schoolyard until ordered to move.
They made their way north to Balanga and arrived in Orani on April 12th, where they were reunited with the officers of the tank group who had ridden trucks to the barrio. At 6:30 that evening, the POWs resumed the march and were marched at a faster pace. The guards also seemed to be nervous about something. This time the POWs make their way to Hormosa, where, the road went from gravel to concrete. This change of surface made the march easier. When the POWs were allowed to sit down, those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets.
The POWs continued the march and for the first time in months it began to rain which felt great. At 4:30 PM on April 13th, they arrived at San Fernando, where they were once again found themselves in a bull pen which was already occupied by Filipino soldiers. The POWs were put into groups of 200 men to be fed. A couple of the POWs would get the food which was distributed to each member of the group. Water was given out in a similar fashion. That night not all the POWs could lie down to sleep. At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese woke the POWs, formed detachments of 100 men, and marched them to the train station.
At the train station, the POWs were crammed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese forced 100 men into each boxcar and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing since there was no room for them to fall to the floors. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. From there, the surviving POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base with only one water spigot in the entire camp. POWs literally died for a drink of water. Since there was no medicine, disease ran wild among the POWs. The death rate climbed to 50 POWs a day before the Japanese decided that they had to do something about it. To lower the mortality rate, they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
Donald's life as a POW is vague, but it is known he was sent to Cabanatuan when it opened in late May 1942. Within weeks of arriving in the camp, he came own with malaria and was hospitalized on June 6, 1942. It is not known when he was discharged from the hospital.
Other medical records show that Donald was admitted to the hospital at the camp on January 4, 1943, suffering from a hernia and scheduled for surgery. He received the surgery, but no date of discharged was listed.
In early October 1944, Donald was selected for transport to Japan. Trucks arrived at the camp and took the POWs to the Port Area of Manila. When they arrived at the port, the ship his POW detachment was scheduled to sail on, the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail but not all the POWs had arrived. Another POW detachment was ready to sail, but their ship wasn't ready, so the Japanese switched POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.
On October 10, 1944, Donald and other POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru and put in the ship's second hold. On October 11th, the ship sailedl but took a southerly route away from Formosa and dropped anchor in a cove, off Palawan Island, where it remained for ten days. This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes, but the ship was attacked by American planes at some point. After arriving in the cove, five POWs died in the first 48 hours because of the conditions in the hold.
Some of the POWs found that although the Japanese had removed the light bulbs in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lighting system. The POWs were able to hot wire the hold's ventilators into the lighting system, and they had fresh air for two days. When the Japanese realized what they POWs had done, they turned off the power to the lights.
After this, the prisoners began to develop heat blisters. The Japanese soon realized that if they did not do something, the ship would be a death ship. To relieve the situation in the hold, they transferred 600 of the POWs to the ship's first hold which was partially filled with coal. During the move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape. During this time, the POWs, each day, were allowed three ounces of water and two rations of rice.
The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th, where, it joined a convoy. On October 21st, after loading bananas and other foods, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea. The Japanese also issued life jackets to the POWs which could float for about two hours. According to survivors, all this did was reinforced in the Americans the fear of being killed by their own countrymen.
The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs. In addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading the Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese. To protect this secret, they did not tell the crews, of the submarines, that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines.
The evening of October 24th at about 5:00 P.M., the convoy was in the Bashi Channel, of the South China Sea, off the coast of China, when it came under attack by American submarines. At about 5:50 P.M., a number of POWs were on deck preparing dinner. About half the POWs on the ship had been fed. When the guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo as it barely missed the ship. The guards next ran to the stern of the ship, and a second torpedo passed behind the ship.
The guards went after the POWs who cooking dinner and began beating them with their guns and forcing them into the #2 hold. Once they were in the hold they cut the rope ladders and slammed down the hatch cover.
Suddenly the Arisan Maru shook, it had been hit by two torpedoes from the U.S.S. Shark amidship killing POWs while those still alive began cheering wildly. A little while later the cheering ended and the men realized they were facing death. The Japanese abandoned ship leaving the POWs to die.
POWs in the first hold managed to make their way onto the deck and reattached the rope ladders and dropped them into the holds. The surviving POWs made their way onto the deck. On the ship's deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, "Boys, we're in a hellva a jam - but we've been in jams before. Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers. Let's play it that way to the very end of the script." Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, "Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men."
According to surviving POWs, the stern of the ship began going under which caused the ship to split in half but remain afloat. It was about this time that about 35 POWs swam to the nearest Japanese ship. When the Japanese realized that they were POWs, they pushed them underwater with poles and drowned them or hit them with clubs. Those POWs who could not swim raided the food lockers for a last meal. These men wanted to die with full stomachs.
As the ship got lower in the water, some of the POWs attempted to survive by putting on lifebelts, clinging to hatch covers, clinging to rafts, and clinging to other flotsam and jetsam. The majority of the POWs still were on the ship. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
Three POWs found a lifeboat that the Japanese had abandoned, but since they had no oars and the waves were rough, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs. The surviving POWs stated that the cries for help slowly faded away. Most of the POWs, if not all, were dead. The next morning, they rescued two other men.
In the end, only nine men out of the nearly 1800 men who boarded the Arisan Maru in Manila survived the sinking. Only eight of these men survived the war. Pfc. Donald E. Knipshield was not one of them. He was 23 years old.
Since Pfc. Donald Eugene Knipshield was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. A memorial to Donald also was created by his brother, Bill, at the family's grave-site in Janesville.