Sgt. Edward Henry Trebs
Edward H. Trebs was born January 8, 1913, in
Wisconsin, to Hugo Trebs & Florence
Duell-Trebs. He had two sisters and two
brothers. Sometime during the 1920s his father
died. Edward completed the eighth grade and went
to work as a farmhand to help support the family which
resided in Bradford Township, Rock County, Wisconsin.
At some point, Edward joined the Wisconsin National Guard and was still a member of the National Guard when the unit was informed it was going to be federalized. In September 1940, the company was designated A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The members of the company reported to the armory, in Janesville, and packed their equipment for transport. On November 28, the company boarded a train for Fort Knox, Kentucky.
When the tankers arrived at Ft. Knox, they learned that their barracks were not finished. The area of the fort that they were assigned to was brand new. They found themselves living in tents with stoves in them. They remained in the tents several months. When they did move into their barracks, the roads in front of them were mud since the winter was extremely wet.
Edward, like all the other members of the battalion, learned to operate all the equipment of the battalion. It is not known what he trained to do with the company.
A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30. Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
In late August, the battalion was informed it would take part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained at Camp Polk. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there. On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.
While the battalion was training, an event took place, that summer, that determined its future. 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 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, hundreds of miles away, which had a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed that evening, 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.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. 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 2 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, another transport, the 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 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. 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. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from 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 King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but the fact was he had just learned of their arrival a few days earlier. He made sure that they all 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.
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 the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
At six in the morning on December 8, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield. All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
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.
That night the members of the company slept in a dry latrine that was near their bivouac since it was safer then their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night on a bed. The next morning, they saw the bodies of the dead lying on the ground. Pilots who had night duty lay dead in their tents.
The battalion remained at Clark Field until December 21 when it was sent north to Lingayen Gulf. During the fall back from the area, Edward was wounded, in the legs, from shrapnel when the Japanese bombed a bridge he was near. He was taken to hospital at Little Baguio where he developed tropical ulcers that would not heal. He was moved to a university in Manila which was put into use as a hospital. Not too long after this, the Japanese agreed to allow one ship out of the Philippines with the wounded. The doctors determined that Edward needed additional medical treatment and decided he should be on the ship.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, asked if there were any ships available in the harbor and was told there were two. One was a lumber schooner which was not fit for the open sea. The other, the S.S. Mactan, had been used for inter island travel for years and had been condemned. MacArthur ordered that the Mactan be made ready, and within two days it had been painted white, by Filipino workers, and red crosses were painted on its sides.
On December 31, 1941, the patients were informed that the Japanese had agreed to allow a ship to leave Manila with the wounded. Emmett and other patients were moved to the docks to be put on the Mactan. The ship was only about 2000 tons and was infested with copra beetles, red ants, and cockroaches. The patients were placed on mattresses on the deck of the ship because there was no room for them below deck.
At ten o'clock at night, the ship sailed and zig-zagged its way through the harbor to avoid mines. As it left Manila, the patients could see and hear the explosions of gasoline storage tanks and ammunition dumps being dynamited by American troops. The patients had not been told about their destination so when the silhouette of Corregidor loomed out of the darkness they believed this was their destination. When the island began to fade into the darkness, the patients knew for the first time that they were being sent to Australia.
The ship headed south, in Japanese controlled waters, and the wounded expected that any time it would be hit by a torpedo. On January 7, it arrived at Makassar, East Dutch Indies, and a Dutch pilot came aboard to dock the ship. While there, a plane was spotted and air raid sirens and alarms sounded. It turned out that the plane was from a friendly country. The men on the ship learned later that the pier where they were docked was mined and almost blown up while the ship was docked to it.
The ship's crew and medical staff attempted to get supplies but were unsuccessful. On January 11, the ship sailed and again took a southerly route. At this point the fresh water was shut off and water and food were rationed. Two days later, on the 13th, the ship arrived at Darwin, Australia, and again attempted to get supplies. As it turned out, Darwin was rationing what it had and could not spare any supplies for the ship.
On January 14, the ship sailed again. The next day, whistles and alarms began blowing on the ship. The soldiers learned that there was a fire in the engine room and were issued life jackets. As it turned out the waters they were in was infested with sharks. The ship's crew put out the fire but one engine room crew member was badly burned.
The ship ran into a typhoon on January 16th and rode it out. Two days later, the men heard that a Japanese radio broadcast had been intercepted that claimed the S.S. Mactan had been sunk at sea resulting in the deaths of all on board. The ship arrives at Townsville, Australia, on the 20th and seven bags of cement were brought aboard. It turned out it was used on the ships haul to water proof it. The next day, food, water, clean linens, and medicine were brought aboard.
The ship sailed, on the January 23, and arrived at Brisbane, Australia, the next day. While there, the men drank mild and were fed. It sailed, on January 25, for Sydney, finally arriving there on January 27. The wounded and sick were told that a new hospital, 113th Australian General Hospital, had opened ten miles from Sydney and they would be transported there. He would spend the remainder of the war in Australia and met an Australian woman and married her.
When the war ended, Edward with his wife, returned to Janesville. After visiting his relatives, the couple went to Mayo Hospital, Galesburg, Illinois. While a patient there, he underwent surgery on his legs on November 26, 1945, and was discharged from the Army on December 19, 1945.
In May 1946, Edward and his wife, Hazel, moved to Glendale, California, so he could attend aviation mechanics school. The couple remained in California and raised a family.
Edward H. Trebs passed away in Hacienda Heights, California, on April 15, 1997, and was buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park in Whittier, California.