Wendroff


Pfc. Robert Don Wendroff


Born: 23 December 1918 - Manistique, Michigan

Parents: David & Barbara Wendroff

Nickname: "Don"

Hometown: Watertown, South Dakota

Education:

     - Watertown High School

        - Class of 1936 

    - University of Wisconsin 

        - Class of 1940

Occupation: employed by Minneapolis Tribune

Inducted: 

    - U. S. Army

        - 17 April 1941 - Fort Snelling, Minnesota

Training: 

    - Fort Lewis, Washington
        - Medical Detachment, 194th Tank Battalion
Note: On August 15, 1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.  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 for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next morning, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, 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.
Overseas Duty:
    - 4 September  1941 -
        - battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
    - Arrived: 7:30 A.M. - 5 September 1941
        - ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
        - given physicals and inoculations
        - men with medical conditions replaced
    - Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: Monday - 8 September 1941 - 3:00 P.M.
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M. - same day
        - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday - 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
        - Sailed: 5:00 P.M. - same day
            - escorted by the heavy cruiser - U.S.S. Astoria
                - smoke seen on horizon several times
                -  cruiser intercepted ships
        - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembark ship - 3:00 P.M.
            - taken by bus to Fort Stostenburg
            - maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
                -27 September 1941 - job completed at 9:00 A.M.
Stationed:
    - Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
        - lived in tents until barracks completed - 15 November 1941
        - 1 December 1941
            - tanks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
            - 194th guarded north end of airfield with 192nd guarding south portion
            - two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with vehicle at all times
                - meals served by food trucks
            - those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at command post
Engagements:
   - Battle of Luzon
        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942
            - 8 December 1941
                - Clark Field - lived through attack on airfield
                    - after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
                    - from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolus Road
            - 12 December 1941
                - moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
                    - arrived 6:00 A.M.
                    - medical detachment maintained a field hospital in same general area that the tank companies were
                - C Company ordered to Southern Luzon
            - 15 December 1941
                - C Company holding Tagaytay Bridge - South Luzon
                - spent most of time chasing down Fifth Columnists
            - 24 December 1941
                    - company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
                        - bivouacked near San Paolo
            -25 December 1941
                - sent to assist in operations around Lucena, Paglibo, and Lucban
            - 26/27 December 1941
                - defended in Southern Luzon near Lucban
                - supported Philippine Army
            - 29/30 December 1941
                - new line at Bamban River established
                - tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
            - 30 December 1941
                - covered withdraw of Philippine Divisions
                - it was around this time that the company rejoined the battalion
            - 2 January 1942
                - both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
                - 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
            - 5 January 1942
                - rejoined rest of 194th at Guagua
                - took position on the road between Sexmoan and Lubao with five SPMs
                - ambushed a Japanese force of 750 to 800 attempting to cut the highway
                - Japanese lost half their force
                - Labao was burning when tanks left area
            - 6 January1942
                - Remedios new defensive line established along dry creek bed
                    - 1:50 A.M. - Japanese attempted to infiltrate line
                        - bright moon made them easy to see
                        - tanks opened up on them
                        - Japanese laid down smoke which blew back into them  
                   - 3:00 A.M.
                       - Japanese broke off attack       
            - 6/7 January 1942 - tank battalions withdraw across bridge at Culis Creek at night
                    - 194th withdraw across bridge covered by 192nd
                    - bridge destroyed after 192nd crossed bridge     
   - Battle of Bataan
        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
            - January 1942
                - tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
            - 8 January 1942
                - composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect
                  East Coast Road north of Hermosa
                - their job was to keep the East Road open  north of Hermosa and prevent the
                  Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been formed
                - remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
                    - tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
                    - tanks also needed overdue maintenance
                    - 17th Ordnance
                - all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
                - three per tank platoon
                - sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could withdraw
                - tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
                - two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
                - mission abandoned
                - Gen. Segunda's troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
            - 12 January 1942
                - C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
                    - forward position with little alert time
            - 13 January 1942
                - mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
                - returned to battalion
            - 16 January 1942 - Bagac
                - sent to open Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could move south
                - at the Moron Road and Road Junction 59 the tanks moved forward knocking out an anti-tank gun
                - two tanks were lost to landmines but towed out
                    - mission abandoned
                - Segunda's forces escaped along beach losing its heavy equipment
            - 20 January 1942
                -west of Bani Bani Road - tanks were sent to save the 31st Infantry command post
            - 24 January 1942
                - tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
                     - landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
            - 26 January 1942
                - battalion holding a position a kilometer north of Pilar-Bagac Road
                    - four SPMs with the battalion
                    - 9:45 A.M. - warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
                    -  when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
                        - estimated they lost 500 of 1800 men
                   - 10:30 A.M. - Japanese withdrew from area
                        - prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
            - 28 January 1942
                - 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
                - guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
                - half-tracks patrolled roads
                    - maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver:  "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."
        - March 1942
                - two tanks were bogged down in mud
                - the tankers were working to get them out
                - Japanese Regiment entered the area
                - Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point blank range
                    - Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
                - wiped out Japanese regiment
                - gasoline rations cut to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks
               - Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that one platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor
                    - Wainwright rejected idea
                - April 1942
                    - tanks sent into various sectors in attempt to stop Japanese advance
        - 4 April 1942
            - Japanese launched major offensive
            - tanks sent into various sectors to stop Japanese advance
        - 6 April 1942
            - four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
                - one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at junction of Trails 8 & 6
                - other tanks covered withdraw
            - 3rd Platoon sent up west coast road
                - near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
                - the tanks withdrew to Marivales
        - 8 April 1942
            - fighting on East Coast Road at Cabcaban
It was at this time that the 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 accomplished."
            - 10:30 P.M. - Gen. King announced that further resistance would result the massacre of 6000 sick or
               wounded and 40000 civilians
            - less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
            - he estimated they could hold out one more day
            - sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
Prisoner of War:
    - 9 April 1942
        - received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
            - Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
        - Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
    - 10 April 1942
            - 7:00 P.M. - started march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
            - 3:00 A.M. - halted and rested for an hour
            - 4:00 A.M. - resume march
                - at times slipped on remains of dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
    - 11 April 1942
        - 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
            - allowed to forage for food
        - 9:00 A.M. - resumed march
        - Noon - reached Limay and main road
            - officers, majors and up, separated from lower ranking officers and enlisted men
            - joined main march from Bataan
    - Death March
        - 4:00 P.M higher ranking officers put on trucks
            - lower ranking  officers and enlisted men continued to walk
            - marched through Abucay and Samal
            - POWs ordered to form 100 men detachments
            - marched at faster pace
            - fewer breaks
                - when given break, the POWs sat on road
        - North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
            - made march easier
         - POWs given an hour rest on road
            - those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
            - POWs march through Layac and Lurao
            - rains - POWs drank as much as they could
        - reached San Fernando
            - POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
                - one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
                - pottery jars of water given out the same way
            - POWs form 100 men detachments
                -  marched to train station
            - POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
                - each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
                - 100 POWs packed into each car
                - POWs who died remained standing
        - Capas - dead fell to floor as living left boxcars
            - as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
            - also gave them water
            - POWs walked last 8 kilometers to Camp O'Donnell

POW Camps:

    - Philippines:

        - Camp O'Donnell

           - unfinished Filipino training base

            - Japanese put camp into use as POW camp

            - only one water spigot for entire camp

            - as many as 50 POWs died each day

            - Japanese opened a new camp to lower the death rate

        - Cabanatuan #1

Died:

    - Thursday - 24 December 1942 - beriberi

        - approximate time of death - 2:00 PM

Buried:

    - American Military Cemetery - Manila, Philippine Islands

        - Plot:  B    Row:  5   Grave:  16 

 Memorial:

    - Mount Zion Cemetery - Minnehaha County, South Dakota


 



 

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