Pfc. Ardell Orville Schei
Pfc. Ardell O. Schei was born
in Hinton, Wisconsin, on June 27, 1918. He
was the son of Johan and Cora Schei and was raised
on a farm outside of Hixton with his brother and
sister. He attended Curran Grade School and
was a 1936 graduate of Hixton High School.
In 1937, he attended the Minneapolis Business
On April 7, 1941, Ardell was drafted into the U. S. Army and traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to a Wisconsin National Guard Armory for his physical. He remembered walking into a room to take his physical and discovered that everyone in the room, except the doctors, was naked. Having passed his army physical, he was officially inducted into the army on April 11, 1941.
Ardell was sent to Camp Grant outside of Rockford, Illinois, and next traveled by train to Fort Knox, Kentucky. On his trip to Kentucky, he met Marvin Jaeger, who became his best friend in the army. At Ft. Knox, Ardell was assigned to the medical attachment of the 192nd Tank Battalion which was composed of eighteen men.
Basic training for Ardell lasted three weeks when he began medical training from the battalion's doctors. Since he could type, he was made the clerk for the medical detachment which meant the he had to establish medical records for the 600 men of the battalion. A task that took up most of his time at Ft. Knox.
The battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part
in maneuvers from September 1st through 30th,
1941. In his opinion, the maneuvers were
best described as nothing but rattlesnakes,
coral snakes, tarantulas and insects.
After the maneuvers the battalion was ordered to
Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to
Ft. Knox as expected. It was there that
the men were informed they were being sent
overseas. The destination was suppose to
be a secret, but Ardell and most of the other
members of the battalion assumed they were being
sent to the Philippine Islands. He
received a ten day furlough home.
During Ardell's two days in Hawaii, he traveled
to Maui and Oahu. On Wednesday, November
5, 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. President Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to
bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11. During the night,
while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Dateline. On Saturday,
November 15, 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.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel
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 had not learned of
their arrival until days before they
arrived. He made sure that they had
Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his
On December 1, the tank battalions were ordered
to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. The 194th, with D
Company, was assigned northern part of the
airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern
half. Two members of each tank and
half-track crew remained with their vehicles at
all times and received their meals from food
For the next four months, Ardell and the other
members of the medical detachment worked to meet
the medical needs of the battalion. To do
this, the detachment was always near the tank
Gen. Edward King facing the reality that only
about 25% of his troops were healthy enough to
fight and most likely would last one more
day. It was at this time that he decided
to send his staff officers to negotiate terms of
surrender since he wanted to avoid the slaughter
of 6,000 wounded and sick troops and 40,000
civilians. At 10:30, these orders were
given, "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
The second event that took place on the march was that one night the POWs were herded into an area to sleep. Ardell took off his shoes and went to sleep. When he woke up, he found his shoes had been taken by another American, and that he was left a pair of shoes with holes in the soles. How Ardell was able to finish the march was something he never understand. The only explanation he had was that the Lord was with him.
At San Fernado, Ardell and the other POWs
boarded small wooden boxcars used to haul
sugarcane. The rode the cars to
Capas. There, they disembarked and walked
the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. He
arrived at the camp on April 23, 1942, which was
his mother's birthday.
The camp was an unfinished Filipino training
base that was pressed into use as a POW camp on
April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the
camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra
clothing that the POWs had and refused to return
it to them. They searched the POWs and if
a man was found to have Japanese money on them,
they were taken to the guardhouse. Over
the next several days, gunshots were heard to
the southeast of the camp. These POWs had
been executed for looting.
Ardell remained in Cabanatuan from June 1942 to November 1944. It was in November 1944 that the Japanese sent him to Fort McKinley. Again he worked as a medic and treated POWs. He was held there from November 1944 to January, 1945, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison.
Like the other prisoners, Ardell only had rumors of the advancing American forces. The one story he and the other prisoners heard was those men who were still at Cabanatuan had been liberated by American forces at the end of January 1945. They hoped that this would soon happen to them.
February 3 was a normal day for the POWs. They took part in roll call that evening and notices the sound of artillery. Then, the sound of machine gun fire grew closer and closer. Unknown to the POWs, American forces were closing in on the prison.
The Japanese commander of Bilibid Prison informed the POWs that he and his troops were withdrawing from the prison. He told the prisoners that they should stay inside the prison's walls. The POWs posted their own guards and waited for the American soldiers.
Early the next morning of February 4th, soldiers in funny looking uniforms appeared at Bilibid. Ardell recalled that the windows of the buildings were boarded up and that the soldiers broke into the building to see what was behind the boarded up windows. When the Americans broke in, they were surprised to find the POWs. At first, the POWs thought the soldiers were Germans because of their helmets and uniforms. It was only when the soldiers spoke to them in English that the POWs knew that they had been liberated. Ardell recalled the feeling of joy that filled his body.
The POWs remained in the prison. Since the possibility existed that the Japanese may attempt to retake the prison, the soldiers moved the former POWs to a brewery. Ardell recalled him and the other freed men drinking beer at the brewery. He and the other former POWs were now members of the 12th Replacement Battalion.
It seemed to the POWs that each day another American unit would come to visit them. The soldiers were more than happy to share their cigarettes and K rations with the former POWs.
At 9 P.M. of February 5th, enemy fire could be heard on three sides of the prison. The decision was made to move the freed men to the Ang Tibay Shoe Factory. The factory was being used as a hospital.
After receiving medical treatment at Santo Tomas, Ardell returned to the United States on March 14, 1945. He returned home to Hixton and remained there on sick leave. During this time he was promoted to sergeant. It was while he was on leave, that he heard of the Japanese surrender. Ardell was discharged from the army on November 18, 1945 and went to work for the Internal Revenue Service.
Ardell Schei remained friends with Marvin Jaeger until Marvin's death. After he retired, Ardell Schei resided in Waupaca, Wisconsin. He passed away on June 19, 2006, at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, Wisconsin.
Return to the Medical Detachment
Ardell Schei's Interview