NakavichP

Pvt. Peter Nakavich


    Pvt. Peter Nakavich was born in 1919, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to Thomas & Casimira Nakavich.  With his two brothers and four sisters, he grew up in Cleveland.

    He was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 19, 1941, and did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  At Ft. Knox, he was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The company's purpose was to maintain and supply the tanks of the battalion.  It is not known what specific training that he received.

    In the late summer of 1941, Peter traveled to Camp Polk, Louisiana, for maneuvers which were taking place there from September 1st through 30th.  HQ Company did not actively participate in the maneuvers, but kept the tanks of the battalion running. 
    After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected.  It was on the side of a hill that the battalion members learned they were being sent overseas.  Men 29 years old or older, or married, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service, those who remained were given leaves home to say their goodbyes.
    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. 

    Over  different train routes, the companies of the battalion traveled to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Angel Island on the U.S.A.T Frank M. Coxe.  At Ft. McDowell, the soldiers received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.  Those who were found to have minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Those with major medical conditions were simply replaced. 
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii. 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 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 and 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 S.S. President Calvin Coolidge.  On Sunday, November 9th, the ships crossed the International Date Line so the soldiers went to bed Sunday and woke up Tuesday morning.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke was seen on the horizon from an unknown ship.  The U.S.S.Louisville revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off after the unknown ship.  As it turned out the unknown ship belonged to a friendly nation.
    The next day, Sunday, November 16th, the ships arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables, before sailing the next day for Manila.  The ships entered Manila Bay,at 7:30 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7 at Manila later that day.  The soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. 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.  The fact was he hadn't learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had the grease applied to them to prevent them from rusting during the trip to the Philippines.  The soldiers also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts, since the plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    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 battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength around Clark Airfield.  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.

    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.  They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
    The 192nd remained at Clark Field for two weeks until it was ordered to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing.  For the next four months John worked to supply the letter companies with the supplies they needed to fight 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 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 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."

    The morning of April 9, 1942, Peter became a Prisoner of War, but the first Japanese soldiers did not appear in HQ company's encampment until April 11th.  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 on the sides of the road for hours.

    The company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit and wait.  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 Japanese 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.  As he did, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Peter's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where the POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours without being water or food.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began 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 from the 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.

    It appears that at some point Peter disappeared from the march.  According to 2nd Lt. Tom Savage's records, on the 192nd, indicate that Peter never reached Camp O'Donnell.  It is known that POWs were selected by the Japanese to return to Bataan to start cleaning up the junk left behind from the battle.  At some point he was a taken to Cabanatuan.

    On October 26, 1942, Peter and other POWs were transferred to Bilibid Prison.  He remained in the prisoner for two days.  On the the 28th, Peter and the other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Erie Maru.  The ship sailed the same day for Lasang, Mindanao.  During the trip, the ship stopped at Iloilo and Cebu, Mindanao.  It arrived at Lasang on November 11th.  For the next two years, Peter worked building runways and farming at Davao.

   At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide.  A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks.  In each barracks, were eighteen bays.  Twelve POWs shared a bay with a total of 216 POWs living in each barracks.  Four cages were later put in a bay for the POWs to sleep in at night.  Each cage held two POWs.

    The camp discipline was poor.  The American commanding officer changed frequently.  The junior officers refused to take orders from the senior officers.  Soon, the enlisted men spoke anyway they wanted to, to the officers.  The situation improved because all majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive. 

    At first, the work details were not guarded while the POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.  The sick POWs made baskets.  By April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied.  Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment and were beaten for not meeting quotas.  Most of the misunderstandings, between the POWs and guards, and were caused by a translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

    As the American forces got closer to the Philippine Islands the Japanese began to send as many POWs to Japan or other occupied countries as possible.  On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindano, by truck.  Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed.  The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano, for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17th.  The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse.  The POWs were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship and arrived at Manila on June 25th.  On June 28th, Peter was returned to Cabanatuan.

    During Peter's time at Cabanatuan, he worked the camp farm.  One day, while the POWs were working, they saw what appeared to be a dogfight between fighters.  As they watched a plane caught fire and fell to the ground.  It crashed near the camp.  One of the other planes had followed the plane down, on this plane's wings the POWs saw white stars.  It was the first time that they had seen American planes in over three years.
    According to medical records kept in the camp. Peter was admitted to Hospital Building #15 on September 4, 1944.  No reason is given as to why he was admitted. 
A short time later, the POWs heard the artillery bombardment of Manila and Clark Field.  They now believed it would be a short period of time before they were liberated.  This hope was shattered a few days later when the Japanese read the names of 250 POWs who were being sent to Bilibid.  The next day another 250 POWs were transferred to Manila by truck.

    On October 10th, Peter, with other prisoners, was marched to the Port Area of Manila.  Peter and the other POWs were scheduled to be boarded on the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail, but part of the POW detachment had arrived at the pier.  Another POW detachment was on the pier and ready to sail.  The ship they were scheduled to sail on was not ready, so the Japanese swapped POW detachments so the Houksen Maru could sail.
    Peter's detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru and the Japanese packed nearly 1800 POWs into the ship's forward hold which was large enough to hold 400 men.  The POWs could not move and those who had lain down on the wooden bunks along the hull of the ship could not sit up.  Within 48 hours, five POW had died.

    The ship sailed but instead of heading to Japan, it headed south to Palawan Island and hid in a cove off the island from American planes.  The POWs attempting to improve their situation discovered that the lights had been taken out of the hold, but the Japanese had not turned off the power.  Some of the prisoners managed to wire the hold's ventilation system into the lighting system and the POWs had fresh air for two days.  When the Japanese discovered what they had done, they turned off the power to the lights.

    Acknowledging that the situation in the hold was extremely bad, the Japanese opened the first hold and moved 800 POWs to it.  The hold was half filled with coal so the POWs stood on it.  During the move one POW attempted to escape and was shot.  At some point during its stay in the cove, the ship was attacked by American planes.

    On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila to join a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21, 1944, the Arisan Maru sailed for Takao, Formosa.  The convoy was in the Bashi Channel of the South China sea on Tuesday, October 24th, with twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner.  As the POWs watched, the Japanese guards on ran toward the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the stern of the ship as another torpedo passed behind the ship.

    Suddenly, the ship shook and came to a dead stop in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in an unoccupied hold.  The Japanese guards aimed their guns at the POWs, who were on deck, to get them back into the ship's holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds.  A short time later, the Japanese abandoned ship.

    Since the hatch covers had not been tied down, some of the POWs made their way back on deck.   These men reattached and dropped the rope ladders to the men in the holds.  For the next two hours, the ship remained afloat but slowly sunk in the water.  Those POWs who could not swim raided the ship's food lockers so they could die on a full stomach. 
    At some point, the ship split in two but remained afloat.  Most of the POWs attempted to find anything that would float.  Some POWs swam to other Japanese ships, but they were clubbed and pushed away with poles.

    Three POWs found a lifeboat that the Japanese had abandoned but could not maneuver it since it had no oars.  The men reported hearing cries for help for several hours after dark until there was silence.  Of the nearly 1800 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the its sinking, and only eight of these men survived the war.  Pvt. Peter Nakavich was not one of them.

    Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Peter Nakavich's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.


 


 

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