Shea

Pfc. Bernard Kuenzie Shea


    Pfc. Bernard Kuenzie Shea Jr. was born in 1920 to Bernard K. Shea & Alice Kuenzie-Shea.  His family lived and worked on the family farm outside of Beloit, Wisconsin. 
    According to other members of A Company, Bernard joined the National Guard at his mother's urging.  He did so months before the company from Janesville was called up as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
    Bernard worked hard to be a good soldier and had a difficult time mastering skills he needed in a tank company.  He drilled by himself to learn drills the other members of the company mastered easily.  The one thing that he was proud of was that he could send money home to his family.
    Bernard later was given the position as orderly for Capt. Walter Write.  He held this position throughout the remainder of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30. 
    After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the men learned that they were being sent overseas as part of an operation called, "PLUM."  Many quickly figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service and replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  Most were allowed to go home to say goodbye to the families and friends.  It was the opinion of the other members of the company that Bernard should have been released from federal service after the maneuvers because of his learning disability.

    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 at a lower altitude - noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.  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 that a large radio transmitter.  The island was hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that 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, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks with came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion traveled over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island.   At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations.  Men found with minor 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. A. T. 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, Hawaii, 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 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 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.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, 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 20, 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 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service. 
    During the battle against the Japanese, Bernard continued in his role as Capt. Write's orderly.  It is not known what duties he performed after Capt. Write's death.
    When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, Bernard became a Prisoner Of War.  He took part in the death march, but during the march he was given the job of driving a truck by the Japanese.
     Bernard arrived at Camp O'Donnell weeks after the rest of his company.  It was during this time that the Japanese determined that Bernard was not a threat to them.  The Japanese had Bernard do work for them that an orderly would do.  It was while performing this work that he was given an order to bury another American.  The only problem was that the man was still alive.  After being threatened with death, Bernard buried that man.
     Bernard could never forgive himself for burying the man while he was alive.  In spite of the efforts of other members of A Company to get him to eat, Bernard refused to eat.  It was during that time he developed dysentery.
    When Cabanatuan opened, Bernard was considered too ill to be moved.  He was reported to have died from dysentery on Wednesday, May 20, 1942, at Camp O'Donnell, Philippine Islands. He was buried in Section G, Row 8, Grave 4, in the camp cemetery.
    According to Owen Sandmire of his company, Shea was put in a grave while he was still alive.  He attempted to crawl from the grave but was hit across his head with a wooden board by a Japanese guard.  He attempted several more times to crawl from the grave and was repeatedly hit in the head until he died.
    After the war, Bernard Shea was reburied at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila.  The photo below is of the grave of Pfc. Bernard K. Shea
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