M/Sgt. George Ralph Prueher

    M/Sgt. George R. Prueher was one of five sons of George S. Prueher and Mary Schoenichi-Prueher.  He was born on October 7, 1920, in Bloomer, Wisconsin, and with his brothers and sister, George grew up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  He attended St. Charles School before his family moved to Janesville in 1930, where they lived at 440 Bluff Street and attended St. Mary's School where he played baseball.  After grade school, he attended Janesville High School, where he played tennis and graduated as a member of the Class of 1938.

    After George graduated high school, he worked for a construction company as a bookkeeper.  Like many young men of his age, he wanted to fulfill his military service before he was drafted into the army, so he joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville. 

    In November 1940, his National Guard company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  With the company, on November 25, George traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he attended classes and qualified as a company clerk.

    In January of 1941, Headquarters Company was created with soldiers from the four letter companies of the battalion.  During this time, he rose in rank from private first class to master sergeant.  George was transferred to the company as a clerk and assigned the duties of battalion personnel sergeant.  

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from September 1st through 30th.  As a member of HQ Company, George did not actively take part in maneuvers but worked to make sure the tanks and other equipment kept running. 
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected.  It was on the side of a hill that the members of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. 
George received a furlough home to take care of unfinished business and to say his goodbyes.  But within a few hours of arriving home, he was called back to Camp Polk to take care of the business of requisitioning  the necessary supplies for duty 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 192nd Tank Battalion received orders for duty, in the Philippines, because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941.  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, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island.  When the squadron landed he reported what he had seen.  By the time a Navy ship was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines. 
    The battalion took different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.  On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands by the battalion's medical detachment.  Men who had minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some men were simply replaced.  While on the island, George celebrated his 21st birthday. 

    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.
    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.   
After arriving in the Philippines, George was reassigned to Headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group as a clerk.  Holding this job, he continued to work to ensure that the tank group had what it needed.  He did this job until the American and Filipino forces, on Bataan, were surrendered.
    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. 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 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."  

    On April 9, 1942, the members of the tank group were informed of the surrender to the Japanese.  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.  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 that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp, and there was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men stood in line for days to get a drink of water.  Disease in the camp ran wild because the medical staff had no medicine to treat the sick.  The death rate among the POWs rose to as many as 50 men a day.
    To lower the death rate, the Japanese converted another Philippine Army Base, Cabanatuan, into a POW camp.  George being a healthier POW, was sent to the the camp when it opened.  After arriving in the camp, George became ill and entered the camp hospital because he was suffering from dysentery. 
According to medical records kept at the camp, it was at Cabanatuan that M/Sgt. George R. Prueher died from dysentery on Thursday, July 1, 1942, at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon.  He was 21 years old. 
    After the war, the Remains Recovery Team recovered the remains of Sgt. George A. Prueher, but since the grave records at the camp only told them who was buried in a grave, they had no idea which remains belonged to which man in the grave.  Remains of men which were not identified were buried as unknowns at the new American military cemetery. 
    Since his remains were not identified, M/Sgt. George R. Pruher's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. 
In addition, on October 6, 1944, his parents held a memorial service for George, which was held at Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Janesville.

    It should be noted that George's younger brother, Franklin, was killed in action on December 25, 1944, when his troop ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in the English Channel.     



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