Pfc. Martin L. Wasserman

    Pfc. Martin Wasserman was born on June 15, 1918.  He was the son of Lewis Wasserman & Fanny Litton-Wasserman.  With his brother and sister, he grew up at 734 North Hamilton Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.  He attended college for three years and worked as a janitor for the Chicago Public Schools.

    In April of 1941, Martin was drafted into the U. S. Army and joined the 192nd Tank Battalion as a replacement after Headquarters Company was created in January 1941.  Being from Illinois, he was originally assigned to B Company.  According to members of B Company, Martin was selected by Lt. Donald Hanes for training as a medic.  It seems that Hanes noticed that Martin had a giift for giving medical aid.

    Martin was reassigned to the medical detachment of the 192nd and received training as a medic.  Although he was reassigned to the medical detachment, Martin, Charles Jensen and Curtis Massey were assigned to live in the B Company barracks.  

    Like the other members of the battalion, Martin took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  After the maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, he learned the battalion was being sent overseas. 
   The reason the battalion was being sent overseas was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941.  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 buoy in the water.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island.  When the squadron landed he reported what he had seen.  The next morning another squadron was sent to the area and found 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, no ship was in the area to intercept the boat.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
     Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations.  The members of the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies.  Men with minor medical conditions were held on the island 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. 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.   The ship 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 5th, 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 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 16th, 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 20th, 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 they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and 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.
    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 spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tankers learned about the attack.  That morning, they were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against paratroopers.  The medics remained behind in the bivouac.  At 12:45 P.M., the Japanese attacked the airfield.  During the attack, the medics took cover since they had no weapons.  After the attack he and the other members of the medical detachment provided aid to the wounded and dying.  

    The morning of December 8, 1941, Martin and the other medics heard the news about Pearl Harbor.  As they worked, American planes flew overhead.  Around 11:30 in the morning, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 11:45 A. M., more planes appeared over Clark Field.  Only when bombs began exploding did Martin and the other medics know that the planes were Japanese.  After the attack, Martin and the other medics worked to prepare their equipment for use since the tanks were going to be sent out to protect strategic positions.

    During the Battle of Bataan, Martin did his best to give first aid to the wounded members of the various companies of the battalion.  The medical detachment bivouacked in an area next to HQ Company, 192nd, on the west side of the Bataan Peninsula.  Around 3:00 A. M. in the morning on April 9, 1942, Martin with the rest of the medical detachment were informed of the surrender.  He and the other members of the detachment stayed in their bivouac area until 5:00 P. M., then they were ordered to Mariveles.  

    The members of the medical detachment boarded their trucks and began to drive to Mariveles.  With Martin were medics Ardell Schei and Paul Moser, Moser was the driver of the truck.   The three men rode in the last truck of the convoy.  On their way to Mariveles, the trucks were stopped by Japanese soldiers who took their watches.  

    The men continued on and ran into two Japanese soldiers who did not know what to do with them, so one went to get their commanding officer.  While they waited, the remaining Japanese soldier began bragging to them how Japan had conquered the Philippines and would conquer Australia and the west coast of the United States.

    When the Japanese commanding officer arrived, he had the Americans disembark from the trucks and go into a open field.  They were now officially Prisoners of War.  Martin and the other men remained in the field the remainder of the day and all of the next day.  Sometime during the day, they received rice.

    After dark, Martin and the other POWs were ordered to move.  They were marched to Mariveles were they joined other American POWs.  It was from Mariveles that Martin started what became known as the Bataan Death March.  With him on the march was Ardell Schei.

    Martin and the other medics remained together on the march.  As they walked, they passed the bodies of Japanese soldiers who still had not been buried.  At one point, their group was stopped and a Japanese soldier began going through their wallets.  When he got to Martin, the soldier looked at the photo of Martin's girlfriend and said to him, in perfect English, that she was "Hot-stuff".   The Japanese soldier told Martin and Ardell that he had gone to school at the University of Santa Clara in California.  He had returned to Japan and was drafted into the army.

    At San Fernando, Martin and the other members of the medical detachment were housed in a cockfight stadium.  The next day, he boarded a boxcar.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing.

    At Capas, Martin disembarked the boxcar and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.  At the camp, Martin worked in the hospital attempting to make the lives of the sick and dying as comfortable as possible.  Since the medics had no medicine, there was little that they could do for the men.  Martin was next sent to Cabanatuan after the new camp opened.
    From medical records kept at Bilibid Prison, it is known that Martin was admitted to the hospital at the prison on August 30, 1943, suffering from dengue fever.  This would seem to indicate that he had been sent to the prison from a work detail.  The records also indicate that he was being held at the prison in Building 18 before being admitted to the hospital.  No date of discharge was recorded, but the records show he was readmitted on September 2nd suffering from dengue fever.

    In early 1944, the Japanese decided that they needed to transfer doctors and medics to Japan to treat the sick POWs in Japan.  Martin was sent to the Port Area of Manila for transport to Japan.  It was at this time that he was reunited with Donald Norris of the medical detachment.  The two men were boarded the Kenwa Maru on March 6, 1944.  The ship sailed the same day and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on March 13th.  It sailed again on March 15th and arrived at Moji, Japan, on March 22nd. 
    In Japan, Martin and Donald Norris were separated.  Martin was held at main Hakodate Camp.  This camp was known as Bibai Machi.  It is very likely that being a medic, Martin aided the sick POWs in the camp. 
While he was a prisoner, Martin kept a diary.  It would become three volumes long and deal with his life as a prisoner.  

    Martin remained at Bibai Machi until he was liberated by American troops in September, 1945, and returned to the Philippines.  On the U.S.S. Marine Shark, Marin returned to the United States, at Seattle, Washington, arriving there on November 1, 1945.  Martin returned home to Chicago and married Shirley Bergman on May 3, 1948.

    In July 1947, Martin and his brother opened a dry cleaning business at 226 West 47th Street in Chicago.  It was one of thirteen cleaners that they owned.  One day, Marie Washington, a woman who worked for the brothers at the store, told Martin that the man she was living with, Eddie Washington, had beaten her.   While she was working, Eddie Washington entered the store and began slapping her.  In an attempt to stop the abuse, Martin stepped between the man and woman.  The two men got into a fight.  Washington became so enraged he shot Martin with the gun he was carrying.

    Martin L. Wasserman was shot in the heart and died, at the age of 30, on July 17, 1948.   Eddie Washington was found guilty of his murder.



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