Rinehart

 

Pvt. Orvis Lyle Rinehart


    Pvt. Orvis L. Rinehart was born November 9, 1916, to Ray Rinehart & Grace Hoffmister-Rinehart in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin.  With his brother, he was raised at 1416 South Osborne Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin, and worked with his father and brother on a small farm just outside of Janesville.

    At some point, Orvis joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company located in Janesville.  On November 25, 1940, Orvis was called to federal duty when the tank company was federalized.  The tank company was now known as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and left Janesville on November 28th for Fort Knox, Kentucky.
    A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics. 
    At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13th, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.   At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat which was followed by dinner at 5:30.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.  During his training, Orvis qualified as a motorcycle messenger for A Company.

    After a year of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the company was sent on maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st to 30th.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.   Orvis and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas on the side of a hill.  He was given a ten day pass home before reporting to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to prepare for duty overseas.
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying lower than the other planes, noticed something odd in the water.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more flagged buoys that lined up - in a straight line - for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, hudred of miles to the northwest, which had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day - when a when planes were sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between the planes and Navy was poor, nothing was done to intercept the boat.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco and ferried to Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.  On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment.  Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. 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 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 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.
    At the fort, they 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.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.     
   The morning of Monday, December 8th, they alerted of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just ten hours earlier.  At 8:30 in the morning, American planes took off and patrolled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots parked them, in a straight line, outside their mess hall.  The pilots went to lunch.

    The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45.  Many of the tankers counted 54 planes.  The planes approached the airfield and watched hat was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When the raindrops began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.

    During the attack, they could do little since their guns were not made to use against planes.  For some reason, not known to the tankers, the Japanese did not attack the tanks, and the few that did had their bombs land between the tanks.
    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, the tankers slept under their tanks since it was safer then sleeping in their tents.  Those who weren't assigned to a tank or half-track slept in a dried latrine and were food for the mosquitoes.   They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one half years. 
    The company, on December 12th, was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad against sabotage.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.

    On December 22nd, A and C Companies were sent north to support B Company.  The Japanese had landed troops at Lingayen Gulf, and B Company was sent to the area so the U. S. 26th Calvary could disengage from action with the Japanese.  Orvis's job was to lead the column of tanks and half-tracks.  Since the Americans had no air cover, they had to do this at night.  Orvis's biggest fear was that one of his own tanks was going to run him down.
    The tank companies were in the area of Urdaneta, where A Company lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the battalion's tanks made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    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 were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies. 
    The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
    At Gumain River, the night of December 31st to the morning of January 1st, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
    At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese.  The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them.  The result was the loss of three tanks.
    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River.  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.  It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.

    On January 5th, while attached to the 194th Tank Battalion, A Company withdrew from the line.  Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield received orders to launch a counter-attack against the Japanese on a tail picked by Provisional Tank Group command. Bloomfield, while attempting to attack, radioed the tank group that the trail did not exist.
    It was evening and the tankers believed they were in a relatively safe place near Lubao along a dried up creek bed.  Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep.  Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gun shot at about 1:50 A.M.  The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had lunched a major offensive across an open field wearing white shirts which made them easy targets.  There was a great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 3:00 A.M., when the Japanese broke off the attack.  Within days of this action, the company returned to the command of the 192nd.
    The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan.  The night of January 7th, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
    The next day the tanks received maintenance.  It was the first rest that the two tank battalions had since December 24th.
    On January 28th, the tank battalions 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.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. 
    A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese Marines 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, that had been relieved, left the pocket.
    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  in a circle and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.

   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.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.  
    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
    On March 2nd or 3rd, during the Battle of the Points, the tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line.  The Japanese were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.   Both, of the pockets, were wiped out.
   The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea.  By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.  Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave.  When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die."  The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. 

    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.
   It was the evening of April 8 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."    
    The night of April 8th, the tankers destroyed their tanks and became Prisoners of War the morning of April 9, 1942.  They made their way to Mariveles where they started what became known as the death march.  The POWs walked up hill the first few miles as they made their way to San Fernando.
    It was there that the POWs were herded into a bull pen and left for the day.  How long they were there is not known, but at some point they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station.
    At the train station they were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "forty or eights" since they each could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese put 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those heat in the cars was tremendous and those who died remained standing, since there was no room for them to fall to the floor.  At Capas, the living left the car, and the dead fell to the floor.

    Orvis was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell and next held at Cabanatuan where he remained until he was selected to be sent to Japan.  800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball.  After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M.  There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M.  The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
    From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila.  Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier.  The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry and were put in a warehouse on the pier.  The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted.  They also were allowed to wash. 

    Before boarding the Tottori Maru, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.

    The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon.  In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship.  That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck.  Each day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water. 
   The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship.  The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed.  A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine.  The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.

    The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th.  The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing on the 16th.  It returned to Takao, at 10:00 P.M., the same day because the Japanese believed submarines were in the area.   It sailed again on October 18th and reached the Pescadores Islands, where it dropped anchor and remained off the islands until October 28th, when it returned to Takao.  During this stay, the POWs were so dirty that they were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.  The holds of the ship were also disinfected.

   The ship sailed again on October 30th and on October 31st, stopped at Makou, Pescadores Islands, before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea, as part of a seven ship convoy.  During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out and protected the ship from submarines.  On November 5th, one of the ships was hit by torpedoes from an American submarine and the other ships scattered.

    After 31 days on the ship, it docked at Pusan, Korea, on November 7th.  1300 POW's were issued heavy clothing and fur-lined coats after they got off the ship.  They sent on a four day train trip north to Mukden, Manchria.  Those who were ill remained behind at Pusan and sent to Mukden at a later date.  Those who died were cremated and their ashes were place in small white wooden boxes and sent to Mukden.
    At Mukden, the POWs were held at Hoten Camp.  When they first got there, they lived in dugouts and were later moved to a two story barracks.  Each enlisted POW received two thin blankets to cover themselves with at night.  The officers got one blanket and a mattress.  Meals were the same everyday.  For breakfast they had cornmeal mush and a bun.  Lunch was maize and beans, and dinner was beans and a bun.
    Since they were underfed, the POWs trapped wild dogs to supplement their meals of soy beans which usually came in the form of soup.  They continued to trap dogs until, while marching to work, they saw one eating a dead Chinese.   
    The POWs worked either at a machine shop or a saw mill from 7:30 A.M. until 5:30 or 6:00 P.M. each day.  The machine shop never produced anything that was useful to the Japanese.   Each morning, the POWs were marched three miles to the shop where they worked manufacturing weapons for the Japanese.  To prevent the production of  weapons, they committed acts of sabotage like pouring sand into the machine oiling holes.  The Japanese usually blamed these acts of sabotage on the Chinese in the plant because they believed the Americans were not smart enough to commit the sabotage. 

    Life in the camp was hard with and beatings were common for breaking camp rules that often changed from guard to guard.  The POWs were forced out into the cold and snow and made to strip when the Japanese searched for contraband cigarettes that the prisoners had bought from the Chinese while working in the factories.   They were made to stand in the snow barefooted while the Japanese searched all 700 POWs.
    Punishment was given for any infraction.  Two POWs were knocked out and kicked in the ribs for violating a camp rule.  At other times, the camp's food ration was cut in half because the Japanese believed a POW was not working as hard as he should have been, or someone had been caught smoking in an unauthorized area.  They would also withhold Red Cross packages.  On one occasion, Lt Murado ordered the prisoners to remove their shoes.  After they had, he hit each man in the face with his shoes. 

    Orvis recalled that the weather was extreme at the camp.  During the winter, the temperature dropped to 62 degrees below zero.  The POWs grew beards to protect their faces against the cold.  The moisture from their breath froze to the beard because of the cold.  Since Japanese only gave the prisoners socks once every four months, Orvis's feet often froze during the winter.  If a POW died during the winter, his body was put in a warehouse until the spring came and the man was buried.  In his opinion, the summers were the opposite and extremely hot.

    Most of the POWs who died in the camp died because the Japanese would not distribute the Red Cross boxes to them.  When the boxes were received the Japanese looted them before storing them in a building. 
    As the war went on the POWs saw American planes.  On one occasion, a formation of B-29s bombed Japanese ammunition dumps that were in line with the camp.  One bomb hit a barracks in the camp killing twenty POWs.  Later, the POWs learned that this was because the ammunition dumps were close to the camp.

    At the end of the war, Orvis was liberated by the Russian Army.  The Russians made the Japanese go through a formal surrender ceremony in front of the former POWs.  The POWs were the guests of honor at the ceremony. 

    In a letter home, he wrote that during his time as a POW, he saw a great deal of death, and that death was something that he lived with everyday.  The one thing that he hoped to do was learn to smile again. 

    After he was liberated, Orvis suffered from his years as a prisoner.  He would have vision problems the rest of his life because of the lack of vitamins while a POW, and it was later discovered that he had tuberculosis.  He also had to have all his teeth pulled out because of damaged done to them while a POW. 

    After being liberated, Orvis wrote a letter home.

    "You asked about the Luther boys.  There is not much hope for them.  They were aboard a Japanese prisoner and troop transport that was sunk two days out of Manila.  We have a few survivors here in this camp with us."

    "I am the only member of A Company at this camp.  Life was pretty rough as a prisoner.  But it's all over now and I have many things to look forward to."
    From the camp, the POWs were sent to Darien, China, and taken by ship to the Philippines.  After receiving medical treatment, Orvis was boarded onto the S.S. Simon Bolivar and arrived at San Francisco on October 21, 1945.  After arriving he was sent to Letterman General Hospital for further medical treatment before returning home.

    He married Dora Lee Hurst on November 9, 1945, in Owensboro, Kentucky.  She was a cousin of Arch & Edwin Rue of D and HQ Companies.  Orvis returned to Janesville and was discharged from the army on July 9, 1946.  He and his wife resided in Janesville where he spent the rest of his life and worked as a machinist at Gibbs Manufacturing Company.

   Orvis Rinehart passed away on January 3, 1973, after a long battle with tuberculosis.  He was 56 years old and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville, Wisconsin.


 

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