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. Gen. 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, which was a stew thrown into their mess kits, 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. The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base which 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 looting.
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 added.
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. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to 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 Japanese lieutenant.
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.
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, and 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.