Pvt. Emil Otto Schmidt
| Pvt. Emil O Schmidt was
born on September 14, 1915, in Illinois to Otto
& Shirley Schmidt and was the third oldest of
the couple's seven children. As a child his
family moved to Sturtevant, Wisconsin, and he
would later live at 124 Corn Exchange and 1020
Laurel Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin. To
support himself, he worked as a maintenance worker
for the park district.
Emil joined the Wisconsin National Guard on
November 11, 1939, and was called to federal
duty on November 25, 1940, as A Company, 192nd
Tank Battalion. With his company, he
traveled by train Fort Knox, Kentucky, on
After returning to Louisiana from a furlough, the battalion traveled over different train routes to San Francisco, California, and where ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they received inoculations and physicals, and those 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.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T.
Hugh L. Scott
and sailed on
27th. During this part of the trip,
but once they
recovered they spent much of the time
and had a two
so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the
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.
The members of A Company lived through the
bombing of Clark Field. 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., but the few that did had their bombs
land between the tanks.
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. When General King saw that the
situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender
talks with the Japanese.
Emil and the other members of A Company made their way to San Fernando, where, they boarded boxcars and rode to Capas. As they got out of the cars, the bodies of the dead fell to the ground. The Prisoners of War walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was a death trap with men dying daily. To lower the number of deaths among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. According to medical records kept at the camp, Emil was hospitalized in July 1, 1942, and tested for tuberculosis. Emil was known to still be a POW in the camp up to August 1943.
In September 1943, Emil was sent out on a work detail to Las Pinas. There, he and the other POWs were used as laborers to build runways for an Nichols Field and remained on this detail until September 22, 1944. The detail was disbanded when American planes appeared over the airfield on September 21st, for the first time, and bombed and strafed the airfield.
Emil was sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila in October 1944. Emil had been
selected to be transferred to Japan. This
was done to prevent the POWs from being
liberated. The ship that Emil's POW
detachment was suppose to sail on was the Arisan Maru.
His entire detachment had arrived but their ship
was not ready to sail. Another ship, the Hokusen Maru was
ready to sail so the Japanese switched POW
The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for Hong Kong when it was informed American planes were in the area. During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships. The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th. While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th. On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.
It should be noted that Emil's original ship, the Arisan Maru, never reached Japan and was sunk by an American submarine on October 24, 1944, in the South China Sea. Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.
November 8th, the Japanese decided the POWs were
too ill to continue the trip to Japan, so they
were disembarked. Emil was held at
Toroku Camp on Formosa where the POWs did
light work. On January 14, 1945, he was
transported by Melbourne Maru to Moji,
Japan, arriving there on January 30th. The
POWs were put in the same hold as the hemp that
the ship was carrying. The POWs discovered
that beneath the hemp were bags of sugar and
cans of tomatoes. The POWs helped
themselves to the canned tomatoes.
One day a British POW entered the camp and told
the men that the war was over. The
prisoners decided that they were going to test
this information. The guards were standing
nearby, but their guns were leaning against a
building. The POWs rushed the guns and so
did the guards. After a short struggle,
the guards let go of the guns and left. To
the POW's this was the first proof that the war
was over. When the Japanese gave the POWs
beer, they knew the war was over. On
August 19th, the camp commandant officially told
them the war had ended. When American
planes appeared and started to drop them
supplies, the prisoners' belief was confirmed.
Emil O. Schmidt returned to Janesville and spent the rest of his life in Wisconsin. He passed away on March 16, 2003, at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin, and was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Antigo, Wisconsin.