Harold E. Schenk was the son of Herman Schenk
& Gertrude R. Stadler-Schenk. He was
born on September 25, 1918, in Nodaway,
his sister and two brothers, he grew up in
Oregon, Missouri, where attended high school,
for two years, before going to work in his
family's automotive shop.
is not known when, but he joined the Missouri
National Guard in Saint Joseph, Missouri. His
tank company was designated B Company, 194th
Tank Battalion in November 1940, but, because of
a strike in the lumber industry, it was not
called to federal service until February 10,
company traveled to Fort Lewis, Washington, for
six months of training.
Headquarters Company was formed, Harold was
transferred to the new company. It is
believed he was assigned to the maintenance
section of the company.
On August 15, 1941, the 194th
received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for
duty in the Philippines because of an event that
happened during the summer. 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 for 30
miles to the northwest, in the direction of an
Japanese occupied island, with a large radio
transmitter, hundred of miles away. The
squadron continued its flight plane and flew
south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark
Field. By the time the planes landed, it
was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another
squadron was sent to the area and found that the
buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which
was seen making its way toward shore.
Since communication between and Air Corps and
Navy was poor, the boat was not
intercepted. It was at that time the
decision was made to build up the American
military presence in the Philippines.
On September 1, 1941, the company rode a train
to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, on
September 5, and were ferried, by the U.S.A.T.
General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on
Angel Island. It was there the soldiers
received physicals and inoculations and those
men found with medical conditions were replaced.
The soldiers spent three days
preparing their equipment and the equipment of
the 194th Tank Battalion for shipment to the
Philippine Islands. The turrets of the
tanks were removed and the tank's serial number
was sprayed on each one so that it could be
reattached to the right tank.
The men boarded the S.S.
President Calvin Coolidge on September 8
at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the
Philippine Islands. To get the tanks to
fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial
numbers spray painted on them and were removed
from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu,
Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 A.M.,
and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship
to see the island but had to be back on board
before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
The ship took a southern
route away from the normal shipping lanes and was escorted
by the cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria and
an unknown destroyer. On
several occasions smoke was seen on the horizon
and the cruiser went to investigate. Each
time it turned out the ship was from a friendly
country. The ships crossed the
International Dateline on September 16 and the
date changed to September 18. They entered
Manila Bay on September 26th and disembarked
later that day.
The members of the battalion, except for
the maintenance section, were taken to Fort
Stotsenburg by bus. 17th Ordnance and the
maintenance section reattached the turrets on
the tanks. The turrets had been removed so
that the tanks would fit into the ship's hold.
battalion spent the next few months preparing
for further training. In
early October, they went on a training maneuver
to simulate the invasion at Lingayen Gulf.
first week of December 1941, the tanks of the
194th and the 192nd Tank Battalions were ordered
to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard it
against Japanese paratroopers. At all
times two member of each tank crew had to remain
with their tank. The morning of December
8, 1942, they were told of the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor that had happened hours earlier. The
members of HQ Company remained in the
The tankers lived in tents at
the fort until their barracks were finished on
November 15th. The first week of December, 1941,
the tank battalions were ordered to the
perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against
enemy paratroopers. Two tank crew members
remained with the tank at all times and received
their meals from food tucks.
The morning of December 8,
1941, the tankers heard the news of Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.
As they sat their tanks, the sky was filled with
American planes. At noon, the planes
landed, to be refueled, and were lined up in a
straight line outside the mess hall. The
pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were having
lunch, which meant a tank crew member went to
the food truck and got food for the other
members of the crew. As they sat in their
tanks, they watched two formations, of 27 planes
each, approaching the airfield from the
north. At first they believed the planes
were American, it was only when bombs began
exploding on the runways that they knew the
planes were Japanese.
During the attack the members
of HQ Company took cover in ditches since they
had few weapons that could be used against
planes. The attack lasted for about 45
minutes. 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.
The battalion was sent to the
barrio of San Jaoaquin on the Malolus Road and
moved to an area just south of San Joaquin near
the Calumpit Bridge on December 12th. It
would receive 15 Bren Gun carriers that were
used to test the ground to see if it could
support the weight of a tank. The
battalion moved again to west and north of
Rosario and was operating in north of the Agno
River the night of December 22/23.
The tank battalions formed
the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas defensive
line the night of December 26/27. They
were holding a new line at the Bamban River the
night of December 29/30 and were at the Calumpit
Bridge the next night.
On January 5th, they were at Lyac Junction and
dropped back to Remedios were a new defensive
line was formed.
The night of January 6/7, the
194th withdrew over a bridge on the Culis Creek
covered by the 192nd Tank Battalion, and entered
Bataan. The 192nd crossed the bridge
before it was destroyed and entered Bataan.
The tank battalions were
covering the East Coast Road on January
8th. It was at this time that the tank
platoons were reduced to three tanks each and HQ
Company with the 17th Ordnance Company were able
to do long overdue maintenance on the tanks.
The tanks continued to cover
withdraws for the rest of January and
February. In March, HQ Company was
recovering two tanks that had been bogged
down in the mud when the Japanese entered
the area. Lt. Col. Miller ordered
the tanks to fire at point blank range and ran
from tank to tank directing the fire.
On April 3, the Japanese
lunched an all out offensive at 3:00 P.M., and
the tanks were sent to various sectors in an
attempt to stop the advance. 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 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000
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
morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, the tank
crews heard the order "crash." This
meant that the tank battalions were to their
destroy tanks, ammunition, and anything that the
Japanese could use. After
this was done, the tankers waited until the
Japanese made contact.
Japanese arrived on April 10th and ordered the
Prisoners of War to Mariveles at the southern
tip of Bataan.
The members of the 194th did not start
the march until around 7:00 P.M. They
marched until 3:00 in the morning. At
that time, the marchers were given a one hour
4:00 A.M., they began the march again. They
reached the barrio of Lamao at around 8:00 A.M. There
the POWs were allowed to try to find food. Little
POWs again were ordered to move at 9:00 A.M. The
column reached Limay at noon. For
Harold and the other tankers, this was from
where they really started the death march. Up to
this time, the guards, regular combat soldiers,
had shown a great deal of respect for them since
the guards were combat troops. As
they got further north, the treatment kept
getting worse when non-combat troops took over
the POWs reached San Fernando, they were herded
into a bullpen.
The ground was covered in human waste
from previous POWs. The
POWs remained there until they were ordered to
form 100 men detachments next and were marched
to the train station. There, they boarded small
wooden boxcars which were known as forty or
cars could hold forty men or eight horses. The
Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.
the trip to Capas, the POWs were packed in so
tightly that those who died remained standing. When
the living left the cars, the dead fell to the
walking another ten miles, they finally reached
camp was an unfinished Filipino Army Training
Base. The Japanese pressed the camp 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
There was only one water
faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in
line from two to eight hours waiting for a
drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet
would turn it off for no reason and the next man
in line would stand as long as four hours
waiting for it to be turned on again. This
situation improved when a second faucet was
There was no water for
washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out
their clothing when it had been soiled. In
addition, water for cooking had to be carried
three miles from a river to the camp and mess
kits could not be washed. The slit
trenches in the camp were inadequate and were
soon overflowing since most of the POWs had
dysentery. The result was that flies were
everywhere in the camp including the POW
kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no
soap, water, or disinfectant. When the
ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a
letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio
Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was
told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent
a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the
Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck
into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross
sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took
95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital
lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of
the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs
was healthy enough to care for them. When
a representative of the Philippine Red Cross
stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for
the camp, he was slapped in the face by a
Each morning, the bodies of
the dead were found all over the camp and were
carried to the hospital and placed underneath
it. The bodies lay there for two or three
days before they were buried in the camp
cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from
dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the
ground under the hospital, the ground was
scraped and lime was spread over it. The
bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and
the area they had been laying was scrapped and
lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on
a daily basis. Each day, the American
doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of
the POWs who were healthier enough to
work. If the quota of POWs needed to work
could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs
who were sick, but could walk, to work.
The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men
dying a day. The Japanese finally
acknowledge that they had to do something, so
the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs
formed detachments of 100 men each and were
marched to Capas. There, the were put in
steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At
Calumpit, the train was switched onto another
line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs
disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where
they were fed cooked rice and onion soup.
From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan
which had been the headquarters of the 91st
Philippine Army Division and was formerly known
at Camp Panagaian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs
set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the
camp. The reason this was done was that
those who did escape and were caught, were
tortured before being executed, while the other
POWs were made to watch. It is believed
that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on
work details to cut wood for the POW
kitchens. Meals on a daily basis consisted
of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of
vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. Each
morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs
went into a tool shed to get their tools.
As they left the shed, the guards hit them on
their heads. While working in the fields,
the favorite punishment given to the men in the
rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into
the mud and stepped on by a guard.
Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were
given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they
somehow managed to get into the camp even though
they were searched when they returned.
He remained there until December 12, 1942, when
he went out on a work detail to Lipa Batangas. The
POWs on the detail built runways with picks and
Every other day, the POWs worked on local
Harold remained on the detail for nearly
two years when he was sent to Bilibid Prison.
stated that a detachment of POWs was going to be
sent out. On
December 8, a list of names was posted. These
men were given physicals. On
December 12, 1944, the POWs went through what
was a farce of an inspection. They
were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be
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 13, the POWs
At 7:00 A.M., the
POWs were lined up and roll call was taken of
the men who had been selected for transport to
Japan. The prisoners were allowed to roam
the compound until they were told to "fall-in." At 11:30, the
POWs formed 100 men detachments and marched
the two miles to the pier. During the
march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that
the street cars had stopped running and many
things were in disrepair.
the harbor, the POWs saw that American bombers
were doing a job on the Japanese transports. There
were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When
the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships
was a rundown ship, the other two were large and
in good shape.
They soon discovered that one of the two
nicer ships was theirs.
The POWs were allowed to sit,
and many of them fell asleep. At 5:00 in
the afternoon, the POWs were boarded onto the Oryoku
Maru and put in one of the ship's
holds. The high ranking officers were the
first put into the ship's afthold. Being
the first on meant that they would suffer many
deaths. Around the perimeter of the hold
were two tiers of bunks for the POWs. The
heat was so bad that men soon began to pass
out. One survivor said, "The fist fights began when
men to pass out. We knew that only the
front men in bay would be able to get enough
air." The POWs who were
closer to the hold's hatch, used anything they
could find to fan air toward those further away
The ship sailed and became a
part of a convoy which moved without
lights. The cries for air began as the men
lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened to
cover the holds and cut off all air. When
the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and
fried seaweed, those further back from the
opening got nothing.
At 10:00 P.M., the Japanese
interpreter threatened to have the guards fire
into the holds unless the POWs stopped
screaming. Some of the POWs fell silent
because they were exhausted, and others because
they had died. One major of the 26th
Cavalry stated the man next to him had lost his
mind. Recalling the conversation he had
with the man he said, "Worst was the man who had
gone mad but would not sit still. One kept
pestering me, pushing a mess kit against my
chest, saying, 'Have
some of this chow? It's good.' I
smelled of it, it was not chow. 'All
right' he said, 'If you don't want it.
I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I
heard him eating it , right beside me."
The Japanese covered the
holds and would not allow the slop buckets to be
taken out of the holds. Those POWs who
were left holding the buckets at first asked for
someone else to hold it for awhile. When
that did not work, they dumped the buckets on
the men around them.
As light began to enter the
hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who
were in stupors, men out of their minds, and men
who had died. The POWs in the aft hold
which also had a sub-hold, put the POWs who out
of their minds into it.
On the side of the holds,
water had condensed on the walls so the POWs
tried to scrap it off the wall for a
drink. The Japanese did allow men who had
passed out to be put on deck, but as soon as
they revived they went back into the
holds. The Japanese would not allow the
bodies of the men who had died to be removed
from the holds.
The POWs received their first
meal at dawn. Meals on the ship consisted
of a little rice, fish, some water, and three
fourths of a cup of water was shared by 20
POWs. It was 8:00 A.M., off the coast of
Luzon, and the POWs had just finished eating
breakfast when they heard the sound of
guns. At first, they thought the gun crews
were just drilling, because they had not heard
any planes. It was only when the first
bomb hit in the water and the ship shook that
they knew it was not a drill.
At first it seemed that
most of the planes were attacking the other
ships in the convoy. Commander Frank
Bridgit, had made his way to the top of the
ladder into the hold and sat down. He gave
the POWs a play by play of the planes attacking, "I can see two planes
going for a freighter off our starboard
side. Now two more are detached from
the formation. I think they may be
coming for us."
The POWs heard the change in
the sound of the planes' engines as they began
their dives toward the ships in the
convoy. Several more bombs hit the water
near the ship causing it to rock
Explosions were taking place all around the
ship. In an attempt to protect themselves,
the POWs piled baggage in front of them.
Bullets from the planes were ricocheted in the
hold causing many casualties. .
Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the
60th Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler
of the 26th Cavalry on the cargo deck and said, "There's a hole knocked
in the bulkheads down there. Between
30 and 40 men have already died down there."
Barr would never reach Japan. The attack
by 30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30
minutes. When the planes were ran out of
bombs they strafed. Afterwards, the planes
flew off, returning to their carrier, and there
was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the
next squadron of planes appeared over the ships
and resumed the attack. This pattern
repeated itself over and over during the
In the hold, the POWs
concluded that the attacking planes were
concentrating on the bridge of the ship.
They noted that the planes had taken out all the
anti-aircraft guns leaving only .30 caliber
machine guns to defend the ship.
At 4:30 P.M., the ship went
through the worse attack on it. It was hit
at least three times by bombs on its bridge and
stern. Most of the POWs, who were wounded,
were wounded by ricocheting bullets and shrapnel
from exploding bombs. During the attack
Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic priest, led the
POWs in the Our Father. As they prayed,
the bombs that exploded near the ship sent
torrents of water over the ship. Bullets
from the planes hit the metal plates, of the
haul, at an angle that prevented most of them
from penetrating the haul. Somewhere on
the ship a fire started, but it was put out
after several hours. The POWs lived
through seven or eight attacks before
sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the
ship. One hit the stern of the ship
killing many POWs.
At dusk the ship raised
anchor and headed east. It turned south
and turned again this time heading west.
The next turn it made was north. It headed in
this direction for a good amount of time before
dropping anchor at about 8:00 P.M. The
POWs figured out that they had just sailed in a
circle. What had happened is that the
ship's had been hit during the attack and the
ship could not be steered.
Sometime after midnight, the
POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians
being evacuated from the ship. During the
night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck
to treat the Japanese wounded. One medic
recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were
The ship reached Subic Bay at
2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the
beach where its anchor was dropped. At
4:00 A.M., the POWs were told that they would
disembark at daybreak at a pier. The
moaning and muttering of POWs who were losing
their minds kept the POWs up all night.
That night 25 POWs died in the hold.
It was December 15 and the
POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after
dawn. The first 35 POWs were taken out of
the hold and went into the water. At 8:00
A.M. as the other POWs waited, the sound of A
Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POWs, "All go home; speedo!"
He shouted that the wounded would be the first
to be evacuated. Suddenly, he looked
up and shouted,
"Planes, many planes!" As
the POWs were abandoning ship the planes
returned and continued the attack. The
ship bounced in the water from the
explosions. Chief Boatswain Clarence M.
Taylor who was in the water said, "I saw the whole thing. A
bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and
debris go flying up in the air."
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. In the hold a Catholic priest,
Father Duffy, began to pray, "Father forgive them.
They know not what they do."
The Japanese guards and
interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's
captain remained on board. He told the
POWs in his limited English that they needed to
get off the ship to safety. The POWs made
their way over the side and into the
water. As they swam to shore, the Japanese
fired at them, with machine guns, to prevent
them from escaping.
Four of the planes flew low
over the water above the POWs. The POWs
waved frantically at the planes so they would
not be strafed. The planes banked and flew
lower over the POWs. This time the pilots
dipped their wings to show that they knew the
men in the water were Americans. About a
half hour later, the ship began to really burn
and the bodies of the dead could be seen on the
The Japanese sent out a
motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on
it. The POWs attempting to escape were
hunted down and shot. It is believed as
many as 30 men died in the water.
There was no real beach so
the POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the
the Japanese Naval Landing Party had set up a
machine gun and had just laid flat to rest when
the gun opened up on them. Those who
came ashore were warned to stay in the water,
but only did so when one man climbed up on the
seawall and was wounded. There were also
Japanese snipers in wait to shoot anyone who
attempted to escape.
is not known when, but Sgt. Harold Schenk died
during the attack on the Oryoku Maru. He
may have been killed in the ship's hold from
ricocheting bullets or from shrapnel from
exploding bombs, or he may have
been killed, by Japanese fire, as he swam to
was the cause of his death, Sgt. Harold Schenk
was reported to have died on December 15, 1944,
during the sinking of the Oryoku Maru.
the war, the name of Sgt. Harold Schenk was
placed on the Tablets of the Missing at the
American Military Cemetery at Manila.