Sgt. Harvey Herbert Riedeman
Sgt. Harvey Herbert Riedeman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 17, 1918, to Erick A. & Selma Riedeman. With his sister, he grew up at 746 West Main Street in Watertown, Wisconsin, attended Lincoln School, and was a 1936 graduate of Watertown High School. After high school, he worked in a bank as a clerk for Farmer and Citizens Bank in Watertown.
On January 27, 1941, Harvey was inducted into the U. S. Army and sent to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois, and then Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. Upon arriving at Ft. Knox, Harvey was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion which had been formed from National Guard units from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky. He did his basic training under Sgt. Ben Morin and was taught to operate all the equipment of the battalion including machine guns. It was during basic training that he became friends with Ed DeGroot.
After basic training, Harvey was assigned to A Company, which had originated as a Wisconsin National Guard tank company from Janesville. One of the schools he attended was tank school where he trained as a tank driver. After being assigned to the company, Harvey and Ed DeGroot became good friends with Sgt. Owen Sandmire.
In the late summer of 1941, Harvey took part in maneuvers in Louisiana as part of the red army from September 1st through 30th. At one point during the maneuvers, the 192nd broke through the defenses of the blue army and was about to overrun its headquarters when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled. The blue army was under the command of General George S. Patton. Instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers, on the side of a hill, the he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.
Harvey and the other men, who were shipping out, were given furloughs home to say goodbye to their families and friends. He returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where the tanks were loaded onto flat cars. The battalion traveled, over different train routes, to San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island and received inoculations and physicals by the battalion's doctors. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
Next, A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. After this the company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry Philippine Scouts. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942, which meant that they only ate two small meals a day.
The night of April 8th, the tankers received the order "crash." They circled their tanks and each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The crews opened the gasoline cocks and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. The next morning, April 9, 1941, Harvey became a Prisoner of War.
From Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, Harvey started what became known as the death march. He made his way to San Fernando and was put into a small wooden boxcar used to haul sugarcane. From there, he rode a train to Capas where the POWs disembarked and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
It is known that he was sent to Cabanatuan after the new camp opened, or if he went out on a work detail to Bataan before it opened. What the POWs did on the detail is not known, but in all likelihood, they collected scrap metal. While on the detail, Harvey became ill and was sent to the Naval Hospital at Bilibid. According to records kept by the staff, Harvey was admitted on October 10, 1943, and discharged the same day. The medical staff had observed him to see if he had dysentery. Two days later, on October 12th, he was again admitted to the hospital and discharged to Ward 12. Later the same day, he was readmitted to the hospital and discharged on October 26th. He was readmitted again on November 8th with dysentery.
In late 1944, the Japanese began evacuating POWs to Japan or another occupied country. Their reason for doing this is that they did not want the men to be liberated by the advancing American forces. On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out. The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued. The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them. The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, the POWs were awakened.
By 8:00, the POWs were lined up roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called. The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in." The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
The Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports, when they saw at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked. One was a old run down ship, the other two were large and in good shape. They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship.
It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs s took this opportunity to sleep until 3:45 when they were awakened. At about 5:00 PM they boarded the Oryoku Maru. Most of the POWs were scheduled to be taken to Korea and by train to Mukden, Manchuria.
Harvey was put into the ship's rear with 800 other POWs. After they were in the hold, they were fed fish and barley. The sides of the hold had two tiers of bunks that went around its diameter. The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from it.
The ship left Manila on December 14th, at about 3:30 A.M., as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water. The prisoners had just eaten breakfast when they heard the sound of guns. At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling since they had not heard any planes. It was only when the first bomb hit near the ship that they knew it was no drill. The POWs heard the change in the planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy. Explosions were taking place all around the POWs, and the bullets from the planes ricocheted into the hold causing many casualties.
At four-thirty in the afternoon, the ship experienced its worse and last attack that day. It was hit at least three times, by bombs, on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs were wounded by ricocheting bullets or shrapnel from explosions. Bombs that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water over it. Bullets from the fighters hit the metal hull plates at an angle that prevent most from penetrating the hull. Somewhere, on the ship, a fire had started but was put out after several hours. The POWs in the holds had lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset.
In the hold, the moaning and muttering of men who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night. That night 25 POWs died. The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning which was a suitable landing place. The ship steamed in closer to the beach and its anchor was dropped. The POWs were told, at 4:00 in the morning, that they would be disembarked after daybreak. It was December 15th.
At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the POWs, "All go home; Speedo!" He also shouted that the wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. American Military Intelligence was reading the Japanese code as fast as they were, but to protect this secret they never told the pilots. In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing many. About a half hour later, the ship's stern started to really burn. The POWs were ordered out of the holds and Harvey made his way on deck and went over the side and swam to shore near Olongapo, Subic Bay, Luzon. As he swam to shore, which was about 300 to 400 yards away, Japanese soldiers fired on the POWs to keep them in a certain area of the water so they would not escape.
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. What was learned later was that these men were taken to a cemetery and executed and buried there. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts and were given water but not fed.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time on the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
The evening of December 16th, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs. About half of the rice had fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English, "No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid." The guard knew as little as the POWs. The POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater which was as dark as a dungeon.
During their time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
December 23rd, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24th, the POWs were taken to the train station. They saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 POWs were packed into steel boxcars with four guards with them. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25th, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM. and walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December 25th until the 26th, they were held in the school house. The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time, the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun on the beach was so bad that some men drank seawater. Many of those men died.
The remaining prisoners put int barges and put onto another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards. During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and docked around 11:30 AM.
After arriving at Takao, Formosa, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat. This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water.
The Enoura Maru also came under attack by American planes the morning of January 9th while docked. The POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine guns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard, and the waves created from the explosions rocked the ship. One bomb hit the ship exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 258 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in the hold for three days with the dead. The stench from the dead filled the air. The dead were unloaded from the ship and a POW detail of twenty men took them to a large furnace where they were cremated. These men reported that 150 POWs had been killed. Their ashes were buried in a large urn. Even after this had been done, there were still dead in the ship's holds.
The Japanese formed another POW detail which took the bodies of the dead to a mass grave on a beach at Takao. After the war, the remains of these POWs were reburied at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The POWs were transferred to the Brazil Maru on Saturday, January 13th, and the ship sailed at dawn on the 14th. Sometime after noon, the POWs received their first meal of a quarter cup of red rice for each POW. The POWs found the first night on the ship was extremely cold which was made worse since most of the POWs had dysentery. The POWs received two meals a day which consisted of each man receiving a third of a cup of rice and eight teaspoons of tea. At some point, the ship also towed one or two other ships which had been damaged.
During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day. Their bodies were removed from the hold by rope and thrown into the sea. Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan.
Harvey may have been wounded when the bomb exploded in the hold of the Brazil Maru, since he was taken to Moji Military Hospital in Japan. According to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion written by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield, Sgt. Harvey H. Riedeman died on Sunday, February 4, 1945, at the Moji Military Hospital in Moji, Japan. The official cause of death was listed as dysentery. His death certificate kept at the camp shows that he died of acute enteritis which is an inflammation of small intestine.
After Harvey died, his remains were cremated and interred in the Charnel House at Moji. The Japanese combined the ashes of the POWs who had died and buried them in a common grave. The first photo below is of the original grave.
Sgt. Harvey H. Riedeman's remains were interred at the Yokohama Commonwealth War Cemetery after the war, which is a Australian Military Cemetery. The urn contains the remains of 335 British, Australian, Dutch and Americans who died while POWs. On the walls of the memorial, appear the names of the known POWs whose remains are contained in the urn.
In addition, Harvey's name appears on the headstone of his parents' grave at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Watertown, Wisconsin.