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.

    Joseph did 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 battalion.
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where,
on the side of a hill, the members of the 192nd were informed that they were being sent overseas.  They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old, or older, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Joseph either volunteered, or had his name drawn, to join the 192nd..  The battalion was made up primarily of National Guardsmen from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky.  Joseph was assigned to Headquarters Company.    

    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.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii, as part of a three ship convoy and arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4h, the ships sailed for Guam. 
The ships took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  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 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 the ships arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.
  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they would soon be at war.  The ships sailed the next day for Manila and entered Manila Bay at 8:00 A.M. on Thursday, November 20th.  Later that day, they docked at Pier 7, and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those assigne to trucks, drove their trucks to the base.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind at the pier to unload the battalion's 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.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks. 

   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. 

    Around 12:45 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.
    When the Japanese had finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The tankers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, or anything that could carry the wounded.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.  The sight sickened them. 

    HQ, B, and C Companies received orders on December 21st to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.  After the attack, the tanks were repeated sent on wild goose chases against factious Japanese paratroopers.      
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.  The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.
    The 192nd
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had been cut off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I, and one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks.     

    During this time, HQ Company worked to supply the tanks with gasoline and shells.  Joseph often worked on a truck running supplies to the different companies of the battalion.  One of the soldiers he worked with was Pvt. Walter Tucker, of HQ Company, who also was from Texas.  Doing this often was challenge since the tanks frequently moved and not at the place that they had been been told the tanks would be located.
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."  As they ate, he told them that from this point on it was every man for himself.

    On April 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 and buried. 
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  Once this was done, they were marched to the train station.  There, small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane were waiting for them.  The boxcars were known as "Forty or Eights," since each one could hold forty me or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  They were packed in so tightly, that hose men who died remained standing, since they could not fall to the floor.  At Capas, the living left the cars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    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.   




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