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 decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result
of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over
Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, 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 which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio
transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day,
when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its
deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy
was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American
military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled by train, over different routes, to San Francisco California, and
were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, 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 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 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 Gen. Edward P. 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 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from
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 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 8, 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
HQ, B, and C Companies received orders on December 21 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
On December 23 and 24, 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 25, 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 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the
Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army
at the Pampanga River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31 at the Calumpit
On January 1, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders
who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw
toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces
defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders
withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack
by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from
San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was
an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with
the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then
cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
The night of January 7, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops
around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter
Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members
of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight,
Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald
Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese
tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks
were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the
area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did
not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East
Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work
done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per
tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks
had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen.
"Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further
delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of
the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged
and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the
greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the
Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought
its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were
loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy
losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the
night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.
When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use
had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and
tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the
beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while
the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks
guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was
held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and
attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese
reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by
the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the
plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the
tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at
Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and
half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used
against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers
who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to
replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way
down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except
the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in
half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd. On April 7, the 57th Infantry,
Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from
happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.
C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while
hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near
the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a
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
It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since
approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.
In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be
massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order
, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy
within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat
vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as
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
On April 11, 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
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
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
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
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, in July 1948, 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.