Schei

 

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 School.

    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.
   The reason the battalion was being sent overseas was 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.  The next morning another squadron was sent to the area and found the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was in the area 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, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations.  The members of the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies.  Men with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  He remembered boarding the ship, going under the Golden Gate Bridge, and how  he quickly he became seasick.  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.

    During Ardell's two days in Hawaii, he traveled to Maui and Oahu.  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. President 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 train to Ft. Stotsenburg. 

    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 own dinner.
    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, Ardell worked on the records of the D Company which was scheduled to be transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion. 

    On December 1st, 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 trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, just hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the company was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.  All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  The planes were parked in a straight line outside the pilots' mess hall.
    At 12:45, two formations, totaling 54 planes, approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew that planes were Japanese.  During the attack Ardell hid behind a footlocker.  He remembered watching men running across the airfield.  To him, they looked like a bunch of chickens running around a farmyard.  He also watched as all his work on D Company's records went up in flames.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, the dying, and the wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything else, 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.  After the attack, he and the other medics worked to help the wounded and dying.

    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 companies. 

    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 6000 wounded and sick troops and 40000 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 accomplished."
    On April 9, 1942, Ardell and the other members of the medical detachment became Prisoners Of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.

    Ardell took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernanado.  The first thing that Ardell that stood out for him about the march was that a guard gave the POWs permission to get water.  As he stood in line, another guard came up and began beating him for attempting to get water.

    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 Capas, Ardell and the other POWs boarded boxcars,  they rode the cars to San Fernando.  There they disembarked and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.  He arrived at the camp on April 23, 1942.  This was his mother's birthday.

    At Camp O'Donnell, Ardell worked in the malaria and surgical wards.  He and the other medics attempted to help the sick with little to no medicine.

    On June 1, Ardell was sent to Cabanatuan, there he was assigned to Hospital #2 on June 23.  The men in the hospital were so ill, that the Japanese refused to go near the sick.  Since they had to count the prisoners, they counted the medics twice a day.

    Ardell remained in Cabanatuan from June 1942 to November 1944.  On June 23, 1942, he was assigned to the medical detachment at the camp.  Being he had been the medical detachment's clerk, he most likely continued in this job.  It was in November 1944 that the Japanese sent him to Fort McKinley.  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 3rd 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.


 


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