Pvt. Joseph P. Trlicik
Pvt. Joseph P. Trlicik was the son of Joseph F. Trlicik & Mary Pisklak-Trlicik. He was born on May 29, 1919, in Rabb's Prairie, Texas, and with his brother and three sisters, he grew up and attended school there. He lived and worked on a farm until he was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 18, 1941, at Fort Sam Houston.
his basic training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky and
trained for three months before he was sent to
Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd
Tank Battalion for additional months of
training. The 753rd had been sent to Camp
Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia but did not take
part in the maneuvers that were taking place at
the time. It is not known what specific
duties he performed after he was assigned to the
The battalion traveled by train,
over different routes, to San
Francisco California, and were
ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. On the island, they
received inoculations and physicals,
and those members of the battalion
who were found to have minor medical
conditions were scheduled to join
the battalion at a later date.
Other men were simply replaced.
At six in the morning, on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and ordered to their companies. When the members of HQ Company were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor they laughed. Having been in the Philippines for eighteen days, they believed that this was the start of the extended maneuvers. The company commander, Capt Fred Bruni, told them to listen up because what he was saying was the truth. He again told them that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and they were given guns and told to clean them. As they did this, they still believed that they had started maneuvers. It was around noon that this belief was blown away.
in the afternoon, while the tankers were eating
lunch, planes approached the airfield from the
north. At first, Joseph and the other
soldiers thought the planes were American.
It was only when they heard the whine of the
bombs and watched as they exploded on the
runways that the soldiers knew the planes were
Japanese. Since Joseph and his company did
not have weapons to fight planes, they could do
little more than take cover from the bombs.
HQ, B, and C Companies
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
26th Cavalry. After the attack, the
on wild goose
11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ
company's encampment. A Japanese officer
ordered the company, with their possessions, out
onto the road that ran in front of their
encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers
were ordered to kneel along the sides of the
road with their possessions in front of
them. As they knelt, the Japanese
soldiers, who were passing them, went through
their possessions and took whatever they wanted
from the Americans. The members of the
company remained there for hours.
The company boarded their trucks and drove to an area outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. As he drove off, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Joseph's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles and left sitting in the sun for hours without food or water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs, who could do little since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march, they received no water and little food. It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put into a school yard that had a fence around it. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
During their time in the
schoolyard, the POWs watched the Japanese bury
three POWs. Two were still alive.
When one of the men attempted to climb out of
the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp. To get a drink, men stood in line for days. Many died while waiting for a drink.
During Joseph's time at Camp O'Donnell, he came down with dysentery. When a new POW camp was opened at Cabanatuan, Joseph remained behind with the other POWs considered too ill to be moved.
While a POW, Joseph's family had no idea if he was dead or alive. In June 1942, his family was told by the army that he was Missing in Action. Two years later, the family received the news that Joseph was missing and presumed dead. In September 1945, the family received a letter from Major General Edward Witsel that stated that Joseph had died as a POW on Tuesday, May 25, 1942, almost a month before his family had received the first letter stating he was missing.
According to U. S. Army records, Pvt. Joseph P. Trlicik died, from dysentery, at Camp O'Donnell on May 25, 1942. After his death, his remains were buried in the camp's cemetery in Section I, Row 8, Grave 10. After the war, at the request of his family, Joseph's remains were returned to Texas, and a memorial service was held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in La Grange, Texas. Joseph was buried at La Grange City Cemetery with full military honors.