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Bruni, Capt. Fred T. Jr.

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Capt. Fred Tobias Bruni Jr. was born on January 21, 1905, in Jordan, Wisconsin, to Fred T. Bruni Sr. and Elizabeth Wild-Bruni. He was one of the couple’s five children from his mother’s second marriage, and he also had three half-sisters and three half-brothers. He attended grade school and high school in Monroe, and on June 28, 1921, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard. During his time in the National Guard, he rose in rank from private to sergeant. Sometime in 1923, he moved to Janesville looking for work and transferred to the National Guard tank company there. While living in Janesville, he worked at the General Motors automobile plant where he met Hazel Buss who also worked there. The couple married in Freeport, Illinois, on November 15, 1927, and resided at 1242 South Washington Street. They became the parents of an infant son, Ronald, who died at the age of two months. Fred also went from being an assembler at the automobile plant to a line supervisor. He was still in the National Guard and became a staff sergeant in 1935 and made the tank company’s first sergeant in 1937. He was known as “Fritz” to the other members of his unit and was known to always have a joke or story to tell. On June 14, 1938, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant.   On October 30, 1940, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.

After the German tank divisions rolled through Europe in 1939 and 1940, the Army created the U.S. Armored Forces on July 10, 1940. Included in the force were the National Guard GHQ tank battalions. The GHQ battalions were still considered infantry and created a “buffer” between the armor forces and infantry to protect the regular army tank battalions from being used by the infantry when they wanted tanks. This would allow the Armor Force to develop into a real fighting force. To do this the National Guard tank battalions were called to federal service and available to the infantry.

The members of the company, on November 25th at 7:00 AM, were inducted into the U.S. Army and given physicals, and by noon the same day, two men had failed their physicals and been released from federal service. Later that day, another two men were released from service.  A 24-hour guard was placed outside the armory. The next day, the 26th, the officers, including Fred, went to Chicago where they were given physicals. Two officers failed their physicals. One was released and the other, 1st Lt. Russell Thorman, who recently had major surgery was allowed time to recover and later rejoined the company. The men lived in the armory and spent most ot their time drilling. One day they had a snowball fight.

During this time, four men were sent to Camp Williams, Wisconsin, to pick up additional equipment while two other men traveled to Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, to pick up additional clothing. At the same time, a three-man detail was sent to Danville, Illinois, where another detachment of soldiers would spend the night at an armory there. A detachment under Fred’s command of 23 soldiers left the armory at 7:00 A.M. on November 27th in nine trucks carrying the company’s baggage. It is known that the roads were ice-covered so the trip was slow and the conditions resulted in one truck hitting a civilian’s car causing $100.00 in damages. No other information is available about the incident. The roads improved the further south the convoy traveled. The soldiers spent the night at the armory in Danville, before heading south to Ft. Knox arriving there sometime later in the afternoon. 

Between 4:00 and 5:00 P.M. on November 28th, the main detachment of soldiers marched from the armory to the Milwaukee Road train station in Janesville where they boarded special cars that had been added to the Marquette to Chicago train. One was a flatcar with the company’s two tanks on it. At some point, the train cars were uncoupled from the train and switched onto the Chicago & Northwestern line that went into Maywood, Illinois. There, the members of B Company boarded the train, and their equipment – including their two tanks – was loaded onto the train. In Chicago, the soldiers disembarked the train and rode busses to the Illinois Central Station. The train cars were switched onto the Illinois Central Railroad. They headed south sometime during the night, the train crossed the Ohio River on a bridge that was described as a mile long and 20 feet above the river. They also noticed there was no snow on the ground.

The train followed the river and passed through Louisville. It was noted by men that they passed by bourbon distilleries and tobacco warehouses. When they arrived at Fort Knox, the post band was waiting and playing for them. They disembarked the train and boarded trucks that took them to temporary barracks. The ground was described as clay with grass that was greener than at home. The base was described as eight square miles of barracks with more being built.

Unpainted temporary barracks were their first housing since their barracks were not finished. Each man had a steel cot to sleep on. The bunks were set up along the walls and alternated so that the head of one bunk was next to the foot of another bunk allowing for more bunks to be placed in the least amount of space allowing for 25 men to sleep on each floor. The first sergeant, staff sergeant, and master sergeant had their own rooms. There was also a supply room, an orderly room – where the cooks could sleep during the day – and a clubroom. Twenty-five men lived on each floor of the barracks. The surrounding ground was described as clay and the streets were made of shale. When men were assigned to the company from selective service, they lived in tents next to the company’s two barracks. The tents were on concrete slabs and had screened wooden walls and doors with canvas roofs. Each tent had a stove in the center for heat and electricity for lighting. The officers had their own barracks with private rooms for each officer. In addition, each officer had an orderly to clean his room.

The one problem the enlisted men had was that the barracks had four, two-way speakers in it. One speaker was in the main room of each floor of the barracks, one was in the first sergeant’s office, and one was in the captain’s office. Since by flipping a switch, the speaker became a microphone, the men watched what they said. The guardsmen were housed away from the regular army troops in the newly built barracks. Newspapers from the time state that the barracks were air-conditioned. Being an officer, Fred lived with the other officers in their own barracks. Each officer had his own room and an orderly. They also had their own washroom which was a cement block building with showers.

After arriving, they spent the first six weeks in primary training. During week 1, the soldiers did infantry drilling; week 2, manual arms and marching to music; week 3, machine gun training; week 4, was pistol usage; week 5, M1 rifle firing; week 6, was training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes; weeks 7, 8, and 9 were spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for weapons and the cleaning of weapons.

It is known that he was one of the soldiers who went home for Christmas. Capt. Walter Write and Fred with some enlisted men drove home in cars while most of the soldiers left Ft. Knox at about 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, December 21 – by chartered bus – and arrived in Janesville at about 3:00 A.M. on Sunday, December 22. For those who remained at Ft. Knox, the base was decorated with lighted Christmas trees along its streets, and each night Christmas carols were sung by a well-trained choir that went from barracks to barracks. The sight was said to be beautiful as the soldiers entered the camp from the ridge north of their barracks. The workload of the soldiers was also reduced for the holidays. Christmas dinner consisted of roast turkey, baked ham, candied sweet potatoes, snowflake potatoes, giblet gravy, oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, pickle relish, grapes, oranges, rolls, and fruit cake, ice cream, bread, butter, and coffee. After dinner, cigars, cigarettes, and candy were provided.

Those who went home remained in Janesville until the afternoon of Christmas Day when they boarded the chartered bus for the return trip to Ft. Knox. When the enlisted men returned to the fort on December 26, 1st Sgt. Dale Lawton was waiting having been given the job of picking men to be transferred from the company to the soon-to-be-formed HQ Company. Men were picked for the company because they had special training. Many of these men received promotions and because of their ratings received higher pay. Being an officer, Fred was selected by the battalion’s commanding officer, Maj. Bacon Moore, to join the company as the battalion’s maintenance officer.

In early 1941, Fred was transferred to B Company, but it is not known how long he remained with the company. At some point, he returned to HQ Company for a second time and made the battalion’s maintenance officer again. It was his job to keep the tanks, trucks, and jeeps running. It was also at this time that the battalion had 16 operational tanks and the first men from selective service were assigned to the company. 

Winter finally arrived on January 4th, when the high for the day was 24 degrees and it snowed for the first time. Those on guard duty at night were happy they had been issued long-Johns but wished they had on two pairs. It was also in January that the companies had their first target practice. Each company spent one week at the firing range learning to use their thirty-caliber and fifty-caliber machine guns and forty-five-caliber pistols. This took place at the 1st Cavalry Test range where the tanks could be maneuvered and the guns fired simultaneously. All those holding the rank of Private First Class were sent to motorcycle class at the Armored Force where they were taught the functions and duties of a motorcyclist in a garrison and combat. Ten members of the company were sent to radio school from 8:00 to 11:30 A.M. They also received their government-issued toiletries. Each man received two face towels and one bath towel, a razor, tooth and shaving brushes, and another pair of pants which completed their complement of clothing.

The men assigned to the HQ Company still lived with the A Company since their barracks were unfinished, but they moved into their barracks by February. The area outside the barracks was described as muddy and dusty most of the time. An attempt was made to improve the situation with the building of walkways and roads around the barracks. One hundred and forty-nine men from the Selective Service were assigned to the battalion on Jan. 10th. The tents were on concrete slabs and had wooden walls that were screened with canvas starting about halfway up the wall, and each tent had a door. In the center of each tent was a stove for heat and each tent had electricity to light it. New men joined the company at various times as men’s enlistments in the National Guard ended and men were sent home.

A typical day for the soldiers started at 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up by 5:45 since they wanted to wash and dress. After roll call, breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics from 8:00 to 8:30. Afterward, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics. At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. After lunch, the soldiers went back to work. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms, and at five held retreat followed by dinner at 5:30. After they ate they stood in line to wash their mess kits since they had no mess hall. They also went to the gas chamber where they could not leave until they removed their masks.

The draftees were trained by 5 officers from the battalion and 18 enlisted men under the direction of the 69th Armored Force (medium). 1st Armor Division, for administration and supply. The 192nd’s tank crews and reconnaissance units trained with the regiment’s tanks and reconnaissance units; later they trained with their own companies. Each company was made up of three platoons of thirty men and each company was supposed to have 17 tanks assigned to it. The one exception was Headquarters Company which was supposed to receive three tanks. 

Each company now had a maintenance tent so they could make minor repairs to their tanks. It was noted that the men from every company seemed to enjoy working on their tanks. They were also taking the tanks out on the trails and obstacle driving which resulted in the companies developing many good tank crews. Flu became an issue at this time and as many as 15 battalion members were in the hospital with it at any time.

While the men were in school, the company found it hard to carry on the necessary duties that needed to be done. 1st Sgt Dale Lawton and his staff sergeants found themselves assuming the duties of kitchen police and pulled guard duty so that those enlisted men not attending armored school and who were being overworked doing these jobs had a break from them.

The entire battalion on January 28th, took part in a one-day “problem” that had to do with the deployment of large units of tanks and to put into practice what they had learned in the classroom. They were up at 5:00 A.M. and reported to the tank parks of the 1st and 13th Armor Regiments. It was a long tough day for all the soldiers, but they all believed they had learned more in that one day than they had learned in an entire week of school. The problems – which took place frequently – could last from one hour to twenty-four hours. They were also taking the tanks out on the trails and obstacle driving which resulted in the companies developing many good tank crews. It was also at this time that each company had a maintenance tent set up so they could make minor repairs to their tanks. It was noted that the men from every company seemed to enjoy working on their own tanks.

During their free time during the week, the men could go to one of the three movie theaters on the outpost. They also sat around and talked. As the weather got warmer, the men tried to play baseball as often as possible in the evenings. At 9:00 P.M., when lights went out, most went to sleep. On weekends, men with passes frequently went to Louisville, which was 35 miles north of the fort, while others went to Elizabethtown sixteen miles south of the fort. Those men still on the base used the dayroom to read since it was open until 11:00 P.M.

On March 20, 1941, the entire battalion was moved to new larger barracks at Wilson Road and Seventh Avenue at Ft. Knox. The barracks had bathing and washing facilities, a day room, and a kitchen with a gas range and two ice boxes. The new mess halls had larger gas ranges, automatic gas heaters, large pantries, and mess halls. One reason for this move was the men from selective service were permanently joining the battalion on March 21st after completing six weeks of basic training. Men whose National Guard enlistments ended were replaced by other men from Wisconsin as needed.

The four letter companies were made up of three platoons of thirty men and each company had the same number of tanks assigned to it. The one exception was Headquarters Company which had three assigned tanks. The tankers also painted their tanks a dull green-gray with blue numbers on the running boards. Around the turrets near the bottom, they painted red and blue stripes. According to the soldiers, this made it easier to camouflage the tanks. They also took part in a 15-mile hike during the month. The company also received additional tanks, trucks, light trucks, and what they called “peeps.” These would later be known as jeeps.

The men played on volleyball teams and as the weather improved they had a chance the members of all the companies played baseball as often as they could and organized teams to play each other and the companies of other units. On Sundays, the soldiers played the most baseball games. The majority of the company went into Louisville on weekends. Although it was stated the local hotels did not like allowing soldiers to book rooms. To get around this, one man in civilian clothes went into the hotel and paid for the room. When this was done, the rest of the soldiers came into the hotel.

It was at this time that more men from Selective Service joined the company. Although the battalion had moved into its permanent barracks in March, it appears the men lived separately with other men from Selective Service. Their basic training had been shortened and may have been merely weeks long. All their training was done under the officers and selected enlisted men of the battalion. When they finished their training, they were sent to their assigned schools for specialist training.

Many members of the battalion went home for Easter in April. The only men left on the base were those attending schools; in particular, those assigned to radio school. The men who remained behind also had performed all the duties expected of them, such as guard duty. While doing these things, they still started their day at 4:00 A.M. They also washed the tanks in Salt River which was 14 miles from their barracks.

On June 14th and 16th, the battalion was divided into four detachments composed of men from different companies. Available information shows that C and D Companies, part of HQ Company and part of the Medical Detachment left on June 14th, while A and B Companies, and the other halves of HQ Company and the Medical Detachment left the fort on June 16th. These were tactical maneuvers – under the command of the commanders of each of the letter companies. The three-day tactical road marches were to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and back. Each tank company traveled with 20 tanks, 20 motorcycles, 7 armored scout cars, 5 jeeps, 12 peeps (later called jeeps), 20 large 2½-ton trucks (these carried the battalion’s garages for vehicle repair), 5, 1½-ton trucks (which included the companies’ kitchens), and 1 ambulance.

The detachments traveled through Bardstown and Springfield before arriving at Harrodsburg at 2:30 P.M. where they set up their bivouac at the fairgrounds. The next morning, they moved to Herrington Lake east of Danville, where the men swam, boated, and fished. The battalion returned to Ft. Knox through Lebanon, New Haven, and Hodgenville, Kentucky. At Hodgenville, the men were allowed to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of the maneuvers was to give the men practice at loading, unloading, and setting up administrative camps to prepare them for the Louisiana maneuvers. 

At the end of the month, the battalion found itself at the firing range and appeared to have spent the last week there. According to available information, they were there from 4:00 a.m. until 8:30 a,m. when they left the range. They then had to clean the guns which took them until 10:30 a.m. One of the complaints they had was that it was so hot and humid that when they got back from the range, their clothes were so wet that they felt like they had stood out in the rain. Right after July 4th, the battalion went on a nine-day maneuver. Twelve of the battalion’s tanks were sent to Rock Island, Illinois, in July to be rebuilt and returned to the battalion before it went on maneuvers. The battalion finally received all its tanks and the soldiers were told to, “beat the hell out of them.”

On August 13, 1941, Congress voted to extend federalized National Guard units’ time in the regular Army by 18 months. From a letter written by a member of the 192nd in August 1941, the battalion was scheduled to go overseas. The 192nd heard that the battalion’s orders to the Philippines had been canceled and that the 194th Tank Battalion stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington, was being sent to the Philippines. Many of the soldiers had attended classes with members of the 194th, but they still expressed relief that they were not being sent overseas.

Major Ernest Miller, CO, 194th, on August 14th, was ordered to Ft. Knox to receive his battalion’s orders. The next day, August 15th, he received the orders to go overseas and was told it was a secret move. A detachment of 192nd men had the job of requisitioning tanks from other tank units at Ft. Knox. In some cases, the tanks had just arrived at the fort and were still on railroad cars when the detachment, under 2nd Lt. William Gentry, walked up to the soldiers who were about to unload the tanks and handed the officer in charge the War Department orders that the detachment was taking the tanks from them. The tanks the detachment requisitioned were sent to San Francisco, California, for the 194th.

The 192nd was also involved in the making of the short movie, “The Tanks are Coming” for Metro Golden Meyer starring George Tobias at this time. It was stated that they were filmed loading and unloading their tanks, but it was not indicated if it was on and off trains or trucks. Some men stated they also took part in other scenes during the movie. The members of the company also learned they were being sent to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, to take part in maneuvers.

Two members of each letter company and HQ Company remained behind at Ft. Knox to watch over the possessions of the members of their respective companies. Who these men were is not known. In addition, men who had not completed the schools they were attending remained on base. The final men from the Selective Service also permanently joined the battalion just before it left the base. Before the battalion left for the maneuvers, rumors were already flying that it would not be returning to Ft. Knox. One rumor printed in the companies’ hometown newspapers said the battalion was going to be sent to Ft. Benning, Georgia, after taking part in the three-month maneuvers.

About half of the battalion left Ft. Knox on September 1st in trucks and other wheeled vehicles and spent the night in Clarksville, Tennessee with the battalion’s reconnaissance men on their motorcycles serving as traffic directors. By 7:00 A.M. the next morning, the detachment was on the move. On the second day, the soldiers saw their first cotton fields which they found fascinating. They spent the night in Brownsville, Tennessee, and were again on the move the following morning at 7:00 A.M. At noon, the convoy crossed the Mississippi River which they found amazing, and spent the night in Clarksdale, Mississippi. At noon the next day, the convoy crossed the lower part of Arkansas and arrived at Tallulah, Louisiana, where, they washed, relaxed, and played baseball against the locals. It also gave them a break from sitting on wooden benches in the trucks. During the trip, the convoy was involved in several accidents that appeared to involve the battalion’s motorcycles but no details are known. 

The other half of the battalion left Ft. Knox for the maneuvers by train on September 4th. It is known that the tanks had been loaded onto train cars and that the train had a kitchen for them to have meals. The time of departure for the train was 6:30 PM. and the arrival time in Tremont, Louisiana, was scheduled for around midnight the night of September 5th, but the train did not arrive until 3:00 AM on the 6th. When they arrived at Tremont, the men who had driven to Louisiana were waiting for them at the train station. The tanks were unloaded in the dark while the men were eaten alive by mosquitos. That night they were allowed to go to Monroe, Louisiana, and it was said there were more soldiers in the town than civilians.

When they arrived, the battalion was assigned to the Red Army, attached to the Fourth Cavalry, and stationed at Camp Robinson, Arkansas. The battalion’s bivouac was in the Kisatchi Forest. What made the bivouac worse was that the rainy season started and the men found themselves living in it. On one occasion the battalion was bivouac near a canal and the next morning the men found themselves in water over their shoes trying to dig ditches for drainage. The members of B Company captured a medium-sized alligator in their bivouac and pulled it around at the end of a leash made from a rope. Two days later the battalion made a two-day move, as a neutral unit, to Ragley, Louisiana, and was assigned to the Blue Army and fought with the 191st Tank Battalion as the First Tank Group. 

The mobile kitchens moved right along with the rest of the battalion. In the opinion of the men, the food was not very good because the damp air made it hard to start a fire. Many of their meals were C ration meals of beans or chili  – which they called Iron Rations – that they carried in their backpacks and choked down. Drinking water was scarce; men went days without shaving, and many shaved their heads to keep cool. Washing clothes was done when the men had a chance since fresh water was at a premium. They did this by finding a creek, looking for alligators, and if there were none, taking a bar of soap and scrubbing whatever they were washing. Clothes were usually washed once a week or once every two weeks. Men also had stumble from beards since shaving was difficult because of the lack of water. Men also shaved their heads because of the heat. Many men wonder who thought it was a good idea to purchase Louisiana from the French.

The tankers stated that they had never seen so many mosquitoes, ticks, and snakes before. Water moccasins were the most common snake, but there were also rattlesnakes. Snake bites were also a problem and at some point, it seemed that every other man was bitten by a snake. The platoon commanders carried a snake bite kit that was used to create a vacuum to suck the poison out of the bite. The bites were the result of the night cooling down and snakes crawling under the soldiers’ bedrolls for warmth while the soldiers were sleeping on them. When the soldiers woke up in the morning they would carefully pick up their bedrolls to see if there were any snakes under them.

To avoid being bitten, men slept on the two-and-a-half-ton trucks or on or in the tanks. Another trick the soldiers learned was to dig a small trench around their tents and lay rope in the trench. The burs on the rope kept the snakes from entering the tents. The snakes were not a problem if the night was warm. There was one multicolored snake – about eight inches long –  that was beautiful to look at, but if it bit a man he was dead. The good thing was that these snakes would not just strike at the man but only strike if the man forced himself on the snake. It is known one member of A Company, John Spencer, was bitten by a snake but had no serious effects.

They also had a problem with the wild hogs in the area. In the middle of the night while the men were sleeping in their tents they would suddenly hear hogs squealing. The hogs would run into the tents pushing on them until they took them down and dragged them away. 

During the maneuvers, tanks held defensive positions and usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters. For the first time, the tanks were used to counter-attack, in support of infantry, and held defensive positions. Some men felt that the tanks were finally being used like they should be used and not as “mobile pillboxes.”  The maneuvers were described by other men as being awakened at 4:30 A.M. and sent to an area to engage an imaginary enemy. After engaging the enemy, the tanks withdrew to another area. The crews had no idea what they were doing most of the time because they were never told anything by the higher-ups. A number of men felt that they just rode around in their tanks a lot. 

While training at Ft. Knox, the tankers were taught that they should never attack an anti-tank gun head-on. One day during the maneuvers, their commanding general threw away the entire battalion doing just that. After sitting out for a period of time, the battalion resumed the maneuvers. The major problem for the tanks was the sandy soil. On several occasions, tanks were parked and the crews walked away from them. When they returned, the tanks had sunk into the sandy soil up to their hauls. It was said that the clay at Ft. Knox was not as bad as the sandy soil in Louisiana. To get them out, other tanks were brought in and attempted to pull them out. If that didn’t work, the tankers brought a tank wrecker to pull the tank out from Camp Polk.

It was not uncommon for the tankers to receive orders to move at night. On October 1st at 2:30 A.M., they were awakened by the sound of a whistle which meant they had to get the tanks ready to move. Those assigned to other duties loaded trucks with equipment. Once they had assembled into formations, they received the order to move, without headlights, to make a surprise attack on the Red Army. By 5:30 that morning –  after traveling 40 miles in 2½ hours from their original bivouac in the dark – they had established a new bivouac and set up their equipment.  They camouflaged their tanks and trucks and set up sentries to look for paratroopers or enemy troops. At 11:30, they received orders, and 80 tanks and armored vehicles moved out into enemy territory. They engaged the enemy at 2:38 in the afternoon and an umpire with a white flag determined who was awarded points or penalized. At 7:30 P.M., the battle was over and the tanks limped back to the bivouac where they were fueled and oiled for the next day.

The one good thing that came out of the maneuvers was that the tank crews learned how to move at night which at Ft. Knox was never done. Without knowing it, the night movements were preparing them for what they would do in the Philippines since most of the battalion’s movements there were made at night. The drivers learned how to drive at night and to take instructions from their tank commanders who had a better view from the turret. Several motorcycle riders from other tank units were killed because they were riding their bikes without headlights on which meant they could not see obstacles in front of their bikes. When they hit something they fell to the ground and the tanks following them went over them. This happened several times before the motorcycle riders were ordered to turn on their headlights.

Water was rationed, so the soldiers washed in streams after making sure there were no alligators or snakes nearby. If they took a bath, they did it in cold water. Men went days without washing their faces. The popular conversation during the maneuvers was where the battalion being was being sent next. Rumors flew that after the maneuvers they were going to Ft. Ord, California, Ft. Lewis, Washington, Ft. Benning, Georgia, or Ft. Mead, Maryland. 

After the maneuvers, the battalion members expected to return to Ft. Knox, or another base, instead, the battalion received orders to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they found themselves living in ten-man tents. While they were there, it seemed to rain nearly every day. Some men stated that they always seemed to be wet, so they did not shower for two weeks. On October 3rd, Major Bacon Moore, CO., 192nd, received the orders to send the battalion overseas. It was on the side of a hill the battalion learned it was going overseas. Phil Parish, A Co., stated that Moore said, “‘You will all be going overseas somewhere and can be expected to be gone from a year, maybe two years, and maybe five or six years.’ We knew then that he knew a whole lot that he wasn’t telling.” The rumor was that they would go to the Philippines and train the Filipino Army on tanks. When they were finished in the Philippines, they would be sent to China to do the same with Chinese troops and new tanks that would be waiting there.

Those men who were married with dependents, who had other dependents, who were 29 years old or older, or whose National Guard enlistments would end while the battalion was overseas were allowed to resign from federal service. They were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion who volunteered or had their names drawn out of a hat. Other men came from the 3rd Armor Division, also at Camp Polk, or the 32nd Armor Regiment at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. Flyers were posted around Camp Polk stating volunteers were needed to join the 192nd which was being sent to the Philippines.

One of the battalion’s officers who could not go overseas – because he was too old for his rank – was Maj. Moore. Moore was ordered to Ft. Knox where he was placed in charge of the Armored Force Replacement Training Center. The battalion command was offered to Capt. Walter Write, A Co., since he had the most seniority but he declined the command to stay with the company. Capt. Theodore Wickord became the battalion’s command officer and was promoted to major. Officers from other units who replaced officers released from duty joined the battalion at this time.

Both new and old men were given furloughs home to say their goodbyes while other men had to remain on base to perform their duties. It is known families visited them. Those who went home had to be back at Camp Polk on Oct. 11th. 

The battalion was scheduled to receive brand-new M3A1 tanks, but there was a delivery problem, and this did not happen. Instead, they were given M3A1 tanks – from the 753rd Tank Battalion and the 3rd Armor Division – to replace their M2A2 tanks. While some tanks had five miles on them, many of these “new” M3 tanks were only new to the 192nd and were within 5 hours of their 100-hour required maintenance. It was also stated that the battalion had to fight other battalions to get the 54 tanks they were assigned. The selection of the tank was criticized since the M3s were known for throwing their tracks. The battalion also received half-tracks to replace its scout cars, but it is believed the half-tracks were waiting for the battalion in the Philippines.

There are at least two stories on the decision to send the battalion overseas, but the decision appeared to have been made well before the maneuvers. According to one story, the decision was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American planes 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 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 Formosa which 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, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck covering the buoys – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and the Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. According to this story, it was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

Many of the original members of the 192nd believed that the reason they were selected to be sent overseas was that they had performed well on the maneuvers. The story was that they were personally selected by General George S. Patton – who had commanded the tanks of the Blue Army – to go overseas. The 192nd and the 191st Tank Battalion took part in the maneuvers as the First Tank Group and Patton praised the battalions for their performance during the maneuvers, but there is no evidence that he selected them for duty in the Philippines.

The fact was that the 192nd was part of the First Tank Group which was headquartered at Ft. Knox and operational by June 1941. During the maneuvers, as mentioned, it even fought as part of the First Tank Group. Available information suggests that the tank group had been selected to be sent to the Philippines early in 1941. Besides the 192nd, the group was made up of the 70th and 191st Tank Battalions – the 191st had been a National Guard medium tank battalion while the 70th was a Regular Army medium tank battalion – at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The 193rd was at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and the 194th was at Ft. Lewis, Washington. The 192nd, 193rd, and 194th had been National Guard light tank battalions. The buoys being spotted by the pilot may have sped up the transfer of the tank battalions to the Philippines, but it was not the reason for the battalions going to the Philippines. The 192nd and 194th had already arrived in the Philippines and the 193rd Tank Battalion was on its way to the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was attacked. When the 193rd arrived in Hawaii it was held there. It is also known that one of the two medium tank battalions – most likely the 191st, had received standby orders to move to San Francisco for transport to the Philippines, but the orders were canceled on December 10th because the war with Japan had started. Some documents from the time show the name of the Provisional Tank Group in the Philippines as the First Provisional Tank Group.

HQ Company left for the West Coast a few days earlier than the rest of the 192nd to make preparations for the battalion. At 8:30 A.M. on October 20th, over at least three train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California. Most of the soldiers of each company rode on one train that was followed by a second train that carried the company’s tanks. At the end of the second train was a boxcar, with equipment and spare parts, followed by a passenger car that carried soldiers. HQ Company and A Company took the southern route, B and C Companies went west through the middle of the country on different train routes, and D Company went north then west along the Canadian border. When they arrived in San Francisco, they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they spent five days. As the ferry passed Alcatraz, a soldier on the boat said to them, “I’d rather be here than going where you all are going.” 

On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment. Men found to have minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced with men – who appeared to have come from the 757th Tank Battalion at Ft. Ord, California – sent to the island for that purpose. The soldiers spent their time making preparations since they were not allowed off the island for security reasons. Some soldiers believed that the “quarantine” was done to prevent soldiers from going AWOL (Absent Without Leave). It was said that at night the San Francisco skyline and Bay Bridge were beautiful. It was at this time that Col. James R. N. Weaver joined the 192nd as its commanding officer.

When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. Although they were not allowed off the ship, the soldiers were able to mail letters home 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 blackout was strictly enforced and men caught smoking on deck after dark spent time in the ship’s brig. Three days after leaving Guam the men spotted the first islands of the Philippines. The ships sailed around the south end of Luzon and then north up the west coast of Luzon toward Manila Bay.

The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. One thing that was different about their arrival was that instead of a band and a welcoming committee waiting at the pier to tell them to enjoy their stay in the Philippines and see as much of the island as they could, a party came aboard the ship – carrying guns – and told the soldiers, “Draw your firearms immediately; we’re under alert. We expect a war with Japan at any moment. Your destination is Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Field.” At 3:00 P.M., as the enlisted men left the ship, a Marine was checking off their names. When an enlisted man said his name, the Marine responded with, “Hello sucker.” Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks. Some men stated they rode a train to Ft. Stotsenberg while other men stated they rode busses to the base.

At the fort, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King Jr. who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. He made sure that they had dinner – which was a stew thrown into their mess kits – before he left to have his own dinner. D Company was scheduled to be transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion so when they arrived at the fort, they most likely moved into their finished barracks instead of tents that the rest of the 192nd. The 194th had arrived in the Philippines in September and its barracks were finished about a week earlier. The company also received a new commanding officer, Capt. Jack Altman.

The other members of the 192nd pitched their tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents from WW I and pretty ragged. They 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. Their tanks were in a field not far from the tanks. The worst part of being in the tents was that they were near the end of a runway. The B-17s when they took off flew right over the bivouac about 100 feet off the ground. At night, the men heard planes flying over the airfield. Many men believed they were Japanese, but it is known that American pilots flew night missions.

The 192nd arrived in the Philippines with a great deal of radio equipment to set up a radio school to train radiomen for the Philippine Army. The battalion also had many ham radio operators after arriving at Ft. Stotsenburg, the battalion set up a communications tent that was in contact with ham radio operators in the United States within hours. The communications monitoring station in Manila went crazy attempting to figure out where all these new radio messages were coming from. When they were informed it was the 192nd, they gave the 192nd frequencies to use. Men sent messages home to their families that they had arrived safely. 

With the arrival of the 192nd, the Provisional Tank Group was activated on November 27th. Besides the 192nd, the tank group contained the 194th Tank Battalion with the 17th Ordnance Company joining the tank group on the 29th. Both units had arrived in the Philippines in September 1941. Military documents written after the war show the tank group was scheduled to be composed of three light tank battalions and two medium tank battalions. Col. Weaver left the 192nd, was appointed head of the tank group, and was promoted to brigadier general. Major Theodore Wickord permanently became the commanding officer of the 192nd.

It was at this time that the process to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion began. As part of the transfer, all the company’s medical records were organized so that they could be given to the medical detachment of the 194th. D Co. officers were transferred to other companies of the 194th.

The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool,”  meant they worked until 4:30 in the afternoon.

During this time, the battalion members spent much of their time getting the cosmoline out of the barrels of the tanks’ guns. Since they only had one reamer to clean the tank barrels, many of the main guns were cleaned with a burlap rag attached to a pole and soaked in aviation fuel. It was stated that they probably only got one reamer because Army ordnance didn’t believe they would ever use their main guns in combat. The tank crews never fired their tanks’ main guns until after the war had started, and not one man knew how to adjust the sights on the tanks. The battalion also lost four of its peeps, later called jeeps, used for reconnaissance to the command of the United States Armed Forces Far East also known as USAFFE. 

Before they went into the nearest barrio which was two or three miles away, all the newly arrived troops were assembled for a lecture by the post’s senior chaplain. It was said that he put the fear of God and gonorrhea into them.

It is known that during this time the battalion went on at least two practice reconnaissance missions under the guidance of the 194th. It traveled to Baguio on one maneuver and to the Lingayen Gulf on the other maneuver. Gen. Weaver, the tank group commander, was able to get ammunition from the post’s ordnance department on the 30th, but the tank group could not get time at one of the firing ranges.

At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore coveralls to work on the tanks. The 192nd followed the example of the 194th Tank Battalion and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms – which were a heavy material and uncomfortable to wear in the heat – everywhere; including going to the PX. 

For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, and badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming. Passes were given out and men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups. 

When the general warning of a possible Japanese attack was sent to overseas commands on November 27th, the Philippine command did not receive it. The reason why this happened is not known and several reasons for this can be given. It is known that the tanks took part in an alert that was scheduled for November 30th. What was learned during this alert was that moving the tanks to their assigned positions at night would be a disaster. In particular, the 194th’s position was among drums of 100-octane gas, and the entire bomb reserve for the airfield and the bombs were haphazardly placed. On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and were fed from food trucks.

Gen. Weaver on December 2nd ordered the tank group to full alert. According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, Weaver appeared to be the only officer on the base interested in protecting his unit. When Poweleit suggested they dig air raid shelters – since their bivouac was so near the airfield – the other officers laughed. He ordered his medics to dig shelters near the tents of the companies they were with and at the medical detachment’s headquarters. On December 3rd the tank group officers had a meeting with Gen Weaver on German tank tactics. Many believed that they should be learning how the Japanese used tanks. That evening when they met Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, they concluded that he had no idea how to use tanks. It was said they were glad Weaver was their commanding officer. That night the airfield was in complete black-out and searchlights scanned the sky for enemy planes. All leaves were canceled on December 6th.

It was the men manning the radios in the 192nd communications tent who were the first to learn – at 2 a.m. – of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 8th. Major Ted Wickord, Gen. James Weaver, and Major Ernest Miller, 194th, and Capt. Richard Kadel, 17th Ordnance read the messages of the attack. At one point, even Gen. King came to the tent to read the messages. The officers of the 192nd were called to the tent and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The 192nd’s company commanders were called to the tent and told of the Japanese attack.

Most of the tankers heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor at roll call that morning. Some men believed that it was the start of the maneuvers they were expecting to take part in. They were also informed that their barracks were almost ready and that they would be moving into them shortly. News reached the tankers that Camp John Hay had been bombed at 9:00 a.m.

Fred called the company together and told them that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Some men laughed believing it was nothing but the start of maneuvers that they expected to take part in. He told them to listen up and that what he was telling them was a fact. He then told the men what they needed to do.

It was just after noon and the men were listening to Tokyo Rose who announced that Clark Field had been bombed. They got a good laugh out of it since they hadn’t seen an enemy plane all morning, but before the broadcast ended that had changed. At 12:45 p.m., 54 planes approached the airfield from the northwest. Men commented that the planes must be American Navy planes until someone saw Red Dots on the wings. They then saw what looked like “raindrops” falling from the planes and when bombs began exploding on the runways the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. It was stated that no sooner had one wave of planes finished bombing and were returning to Formosa than another wave came in and bombed. The second wave was followed by a third wave of bombers. One member of the 192nd, Robert Brooks, D Co., was killed during the attack.

The bombers were quickly followed by Japanese fighters that sounded like angry bees to the tankers as they strafed the airfield. The tankers watched as American pilots attempted to get their planes off the ground. As they roared down the runway, Japanese fighters strafed the planes causing them to swerve, crash, and burn. Those that did get airborne were barely off the ground when they were hit. The planes exploded and crashed to the ground tumbling down the runways. The Japanese planes were as low as 50 feet above the ground and the pilots would lean out of the cockpits so they could more accurately pick out targets to strafe. The tankers said they saw the pilots’ scarfs flapping in the wind. One tanker stated that a man with a shotgun could have shot a plane down.

The Coast Artillery had trained with the latest anti-aircraft guns while in the States, but the decision was made to send them to the Philippines with older guns. They also had proximity fuses for the shells and had to use an obsolete method to cut the fuses. This meant that most of their shells exploded harmlessly in the air.

The Zeros doing a figure eight strafed the airfield and headed toward and turned around behind Mount Arayat. One tanker stated that the planes were so low that a man with a shotgun could have shot a plane down. It was also stated that the tankers could see the scarfs of the pilots flapping in the wind as they looked for targets to strafe. Having seen what the Japanese were doing, the half-tracks were ordered to the base’s golf course which was at the opposite end of the runways. There they waited for the Zeros to complete their flight pattern. The first six planes that came down the length of the runways were hit by fire from the half-tracks. As they flew over the golf course, flames and smoke were seen trailing behind them. When the other Japanese pilots saw what happened, they pulled up to about 3,000 feet before dropping their small incendiary bombs and leaving. The planes never strafed the airfield again.

While the attack was going on, the Filipinos who were building the 192nd’s barracks took cover. After the attack, they went right back to work on building the barracks. This happened several times during the following air raids until the barracks were destroyed by bombs during an air raid. According to the members of the battalion, it appeared the Filipino contractor wanted to be paid; war or no war.

When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, and trucks, and anything else that could carry the wounded was in use. Within an hour the hospital had reached its capacity. As the tankers watched the medics placed the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing. When the hospital ran out of room, the battalion members set up cots under mango trees for the wounded and even the dentist gave medical aid to the wounded.

Sgt. Robert Bronge, B Co., had his crew take their half-track to the non-com club. During the 17 days that the 192nd had been in the Philippines, Bronge had spent three months of pay, on credit, at the non-com club. When they got to the club they found one side was collapsed from an explosion of a bomb nearby. Bronge entered the club and found the Aircorpsmen – assigned to the club – were putting out fires or trying to get the few planes that were left into the air. He found the book with the names of those who owed the club money and destroyed it. His crew loaded the half-track with cases of beer and hard liquor. When they returned to their assigned area at the airfield, they radioed the tanks they had salvaged needed supplies from the club.

After the attack, the tank crews spent much of the time loading bullets by hand from rifle cartridges into machine gun belts since they had gone through most of their ordnance during the attack. That night, since they did not have any foxholes, the men used an old latrine pit for cover since it was safer in the pit than in their tents. The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes. Without knowing it, they had slept their last night on a cot or bed, and from this point on, the men slept in blankets on the ground. One result of the attack was that D Company was never transferred to the 194th.

The tankers recovered the 50 caliber machine guns from the planes that had been destroyed on the ground and got most of them to work. They propped up the wings of the damaged planes so they looked like the planes were operational hoping this would fool the Japanese to come over to destroy them. The next day when the Japanese fighters returned, the tankers shot two planes down. After this, the planes never returned. It was at this time every man was issued Springfield and Infield rifles. Some worked some didn’t so they cannibalized the rifles to get one good rifle from two bad ones.

It was on December 13th, Fred, and 1st. Lt. Emmett Gibson – who had been an Illinois National Guardsman – were walking together and talking. Gibson had a premonition of his own death. What really bothered him was that it was his daughter’s birthday. Bruni tried to get Gibson’s mind off the idea by talking about the north woods of Wisconsin and fishing there. Suddenly the two men were strafed by a plane. In all, seven Japanese planes were over the airfield. Gibson climbed onto a half-track, grabbed its 50-caliber machine gun, and began firing. Fred called out to Gibson, “Stay there, and I’ll direct your fire.” Fred walked out into the open with bombs exploding around him. He proceeded to direct Gibson’s fire at the Japanese bombers as bombs exploded around him. Gibson opened fire and fired the gun as Fred told him where to shoot. Together, they were credited with shooting down one of the bombers.

HQ Company remained at Clark Field and lived through two more air raids. The battalion was ordered north to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops on December 21st. On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where it suffered the loss of the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.

It appears that at this time Fred was transferred to A Company to replace Write as commanding officer. 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. The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 2th7, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th. A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read on December 30th. That night, on a road east of Zaragoza, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed tommy guns and manned the tanks’ machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened fire on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.

At the Gumain River on the night of December 31st, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. The tank crews shouted at each other to give the appearance they were supported by infantry. This was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tanks. When the Japanese attacked the position that night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they suffered fifty percent casualties. At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, of the Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three tanks.

The tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge, on December 31st and January 1st. keeping the bridge open for the Southern Luzon forces. The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw into Bataan. Platoons from B and C Company saw movement in the distance and opened fire. They later learned that they had knocked out five Japanese tanks. It was while doing this job that the defenders received orders to withdraw. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff. Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River with half of the defenders withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a fierce attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted and the Southern Luzon Forces crossed the bridge.

From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd was again holding a road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape. A Company, on January 5th, was near the Gumain River attached to the 194th Tank Battalion. It was evening and they believed they were in a relatively safe place. Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep. Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had launched a major offensive. There was a great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 5:00 A.M. when the Japanese broke off the attack having suffered 50 percent casualties.

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.”

The Japanese attacked on January 6th at Layac Junction. The defenders included the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts, the 31st Infantry Regiment, the 26th Cavalry, artillery, self-propelled mounts, and the tank group. This was the first major battle in the defense of Bataan and the defenders halted the advance. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th could leapfrog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd’s withdrawal over the bridge. The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, 192nd, noticed A Co. 192nd, was missing and ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed which made the 192nd the last American unit to enter Bataan. Each tank platoon lost one tank at this time. This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as replacements. It was on the 7th, that the food ration was cut in half, and not too long after this was done malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.

The next day, the battalions were between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of the 17th Ordnance Company assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. The battalion’s tanks had shore duty from Abucay to Lamao on the east side of Bataan. The area took most of the Japanese artillery fire, bombings, and strafing. Self-propelled mounts were assigned to the tank group and each needed a driver so tank drivers were reassigned to the SPMs. The SPMs had a crew of an American driver, a Filipino Scout sergeant who commanded the SPM, and a gun crew from the Philippine Army. The tank drivers were replaced by other members of the battalion who could drive tanks. The tank battalions also received 15 Bren-gun carriers each which were driven by members of the Army Air Corps who reassigned themselves to the tank battalions. Other self-attached Army-Air Corps personnel repaired engines, welded, and served in tank crews. The battalion’s medics were scattered among the companies providing aid. The battalion dropped back to Kilometer 142 on the 12th and did not stay long. When kitchen trucks arrived, the little food they had was divided up among the men.

It is not known when, but during this time, Capt. Fred Bruni who was the commanding officer of HQ Company was made A Company’s CO to replace Capt. Walter Write. Bruni had been one of the original members of the company. At the same time Capt. Robert Sorensen replaced Capt. Donald Hanes as commanding officer of B Company. Hanes was made commanding officer of HQ Company.

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 the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province. One tank platoon went through the town of Gapan. After they were through the town, they were informed it had been held by the Japanese. They could never figure out why the Japanese had not fired on them. 

A Company lost its commander, Capt. Walter Write, on December 26th. According to the story, he saw Sergeant Owen Sandmire placing landmines in the road. The mines were made by Philippine Ordnance from cigar boxes with dynamite. Write took a mine away from Sandmire and told them it looked funny. As he was placing it, it exploded in his hands. Before he died, he asked that roses be placed on his grave, but since there were no roses, the men placed a native red flower on his grave. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th when the 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line. From there they fell back to the south bank of the BanBan River which they were supposed to hold for as long as possible. The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.

The tanks were near Santo Tomas on the 28th and were spread out from east to west and were being bombed and shelled. A few minor injuries were reported. They were ordered to fall back to San Isidro which was located south of Cabanatuan where they were shelled again resulting in one tank being flipped onto its side when a shell landed near it. The crew was taken to a field hospital with minor injuries. The tank was put in an upright position and manned by another crew. It was noted that the tank crews were physically in poor condition from lack of sleep, lack of food, and constantly being on alert.

While engaged in battle with the Japanese on the 29th, a B Co. tank was disabled when it hit a landmine and lost one of its tracks. Unable to move, the tank was cut off from its support troops during the battle. Sgt. Ray Mason, Sgt. Walter Mahr, Pvt. Quincey Humphries and Pvt. LD Marrs were ordered out of their tank by the Japanese. When they got out of the tank, they expected to be taken, prisoners. Instead, they were ordered to run by the Japanese. As they ran, all four men were machine-gunned. Mason was killed, Humphries was never seen again, and Marrs was taken prisoner. Only Mahr managed to reach American lines.

The night of the 29th, A Company’s 2nd and 3rd platoons were at Zaeagosa and bivouacked for the night on both sides of a road. A noise was heard and the sentries woke up the tank crews. The tankers watched a Japanese bicycle battalion of 100 to 300 men come riding down the road and into their bivouac. The tankers opened up with everything they had. When they ceased fire, they had wiped out the entire battalion. When they were ordered to withdraw, the tanks went over the bodies.

It was at this time that a platoon of B Company tanks found itself on a road holding up the Japanese advance. without knowing it, five tanks took a narrow road that led to the Japanese lines. The drivers of the tanks stayed close enough so that they could see the tank in front of their tank when a shell exploded behind one of the tanks. The tanks were trapped since there was no room for them to turn around. At Ft. Knox, they were taught that if you are lost, or trapped, to double your speed. The tanks hurdled down the road running through gun nests. a roadblock, and running down Japanese soldiers. The tanks turned around, ran through the Japanese positions again, and escaped.

The next morning, December 30th, 2nd Lt. William Read’s, A Co., 192nd, tank platoon was serving as a rearguard and was in a dry rice paddy when it came under enemy fire by Japanese mortars. Read was riding in a tank when one of the enemy rounds hit one of its tracks knocking it out. After escaping the tank, Read stood in front of it and attempted to free the crew. A second round hit the tank, directly below where he was standing blowing off his legs at the knees and leaving him mortally wounded. The other members of his crew carried Read from the tank and laid him under a bridge. Read would not allow himself to be evacuated since there were other wounded soldiers. He insisted that these men be taken first. He would die in the arms of Pvt. Ray Underwood as the Japanese overran the area.

The Japanese had broken through two Philippine Divisions holding Route 5 and C Company was ordered to Baluiag to stop the advance so that the remaining forces could withdraw. On the morning of December 31st, 1st Lt. William Gentry, commanding officer of a platoon of C Company tanks, sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way to cross the river into the town, Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady was to the southeast of the bridge, while Gentry’s tanks were to the south of the bridge hidden in huts in the barrio. The third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag, and 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.

Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge. Later that day, the Japanese assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.

Major John Morley, of the Provisional Tank Group, came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts on the town’s church steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks’ positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Gentry had told Morley that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village. When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts’ walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady’s tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting. Kennady held his fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time C Company was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.

C Company withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group. When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown. Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river. Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice. This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops. The tanks were about 100 yards apart. The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them. The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire which caused the rice stacks to catch fire. The fighting was such a rout that the tankers were using a 37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.

The tank company was next sent to the Barrio of Porac to aid the Philippine Army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire. From a Filipino lieutenant, they learned where the guns were located and attacked destroying three of the guns and chasing the Japanese destroying trucks, and killing the infantry. The tanks were ordered to fall back to San Fernando and were refueled and received ammunition. 

On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff. Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River 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 and the Southern Luzon Forces crossed the bridge.

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.”

From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the Southern forces could escape. At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked Remedios in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. The smoke blew back into the Japanese and since they were wearing white shirts, they were lit by the moonlight. After taking heavy casualties they withdrew. That night, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa. The 194th crossed the bridge covered by the 192nd and then covered the 192nd’s crossing of the bridge before it was destroyed by the engineers. The 192nd was the last unit to enter Bataan.

The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and the members of the 17th Ordnance Company assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.

A Company, on January 5th, was near the Gumain River attached to the 194th Tank Battalion. It was evening and they believed they were in a relatively safe place. Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep. Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had launched a major offensive. There was a great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 5:00 A.M. when the Japanese broke off the attack. Around this time, drivers were needed for the Self-Propelled Mounts, and tank drivers were reassigned to the SPMs. The SPMs had a crew of an American driver, a Filipino Scout sergeant who commanded the SPM, and a gun crew from the Philippine Army. The drivers were replaced by other members of the battalions who could drive tanks.

The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as the American and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan. On the night of January 6th, The 192nd held its position so that the 194th could cross a bridge and enter Bataan. After they did this, the 194th covered the 192nd’s crossing of the bridge. The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, noticed A Company was missing and ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed which made the company the last American unit to enter Bataan.

A composite tank company was formed the following day under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, 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. When word came that a bridge was going to be blown, 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 remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of Aubucay Hacienda Road. While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month. The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance and the tank crews had two or three days of rest. It was also at this time that tank companies were reduced to ten tanks, with three tanks in each platoon. This was done so that D Company would have tanks. It was on January 9th that the Japanese launched a major offensive on what was called the Aubucay Hacienda line that stretched from Aubucay on the east coast of Bataan to the China Sea on the west.

The Japanese attacked through the Aubucay Hacienda Plantation which was the location of most of the fighting took place. The defenders stated that the bodies of the dead Japanese piled up in front of them and made it more difficult for the next Japanese troops to advance against the line. One tanker from B Co., 192nd, said that when they walked among the Japanese dead, they found hypodermic needles on them. To him, this explained why they kept coming at the tanks even after they had been hit by machine gun fire. The defenders’ artillery was so accurate that the Japanese later stated the defenders were using artillery pieces like they were rifles. The biggest problem was that the defenders had no air cover so they were bombed and stated constantly and were constantly harassed by snipers. The tanks often had the job of protecting the artillery. None of the tank companies liked doing this job since after the guns fired a few rounds a Japanese reconnaissance plane would be sent up to locate the guns. It wasn’t long after this that the Japanese would zero in on where the guns were located. The tankers and artillery crews learned how to “shoot and scoot” very quickly.

It is not known when, but during this time, Fred was made A Company’s commanding officer to replace Capt. Walter Write. At the same time Capt. Robert Sorensen replaced Capt. Donald Hanes as commanding officer of B Company. Hanes was made commanding officer of HQ Company.

He had the opportunity to write a letter to his wife which she received in August 1942. In it, he said, “With the help of God and the U.S.A. we’ll pull through this.”

During this time he was able to write another letter that his wife received on August 10th. The following is an excerpt from it.

“We have services here every Saturday afternoon and our chaplain is a man of all means. He’s got what it takes and he has made us feel that faith in God is all we need.

“When I get back, and I pray God that I do, I will have lots to tell. I’ve lost all my equipment except my overalls. Have lost 50 pounds but am still active. Our diet is getting pretty thin, I eat native, sleep native, and in other words I am native.”

The reality was that the same illnesses that were taking their toll on the Bataan defenders were also taking their toll on the Japanese. American newspapers wrote about the lull in the fighting and the building of defenses against the expected assault that most likely would take place. The soldiers on Bataan also knew that an assault was coming, they just didn’t know when it would take place. The newspapers in the U.S. wrote about the lull in Bataan and the preparations for the expected offensive.

Having brought in combat-harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese launched a major offensive on April 3rd supported by artillery and aircraft. The artillery barrage started at 10 AM and lasted until noon and each shell seemed to be followed by another that exploded on top of the previous shell. At the same time, wave after wave of Japanese bombers hit the same area dropping incendiary bombs that set the jungle on fire. The defenders had to choose between staying in their foxholes and being burned to death or seeking safety somewhere else. As the fire approached their foxholes those men who chose to attempt to flee were torn to pieces by shrapnel. It was said that arms, legs, and other body parts hung from tree branches. A large section of the defensive line at Mount Samat was wiped out. The next day a large force of Japanese troops came over Mt. Samat and descended the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.

A Co. was attached to the 194th Tank Battalion and was on beach duty with A Co., 194th. When the breakthrough came, the two tank companies were directly in the path of the advance. When the Japanese attempted to land troops, their smoke screen blew into their troops causing them to withdraw.

On April 7th, 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 Japanese attacked the line held by American troops on April 8th. It was said that the Japanese made what the Americans called “A Bridge of Death” where the Japanese threw themselves on the barbed wire until there were enough bodies on it so the following troops could walk over it. The defenders were not only defending against a frontal attack, but they also were defending against attacks on their flanks and rear.

It was the evening of April 8th that Gen. 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 were sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day. Companies B and D, 192nd, and A Company, 194th, were preparing for a suicide attack on the Japanese in an attempt to stop the advance. At 6:00 P.M. 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.” 

Fred 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 was 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, “Our last supper.”

Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment.  It was at about 6:45 A.M. that tank battalion commanders received the order “crash.” As Gen. King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through the area held by B Company and the 17th Ordnance Company and spoke to the men. He said to them, “Boys. I’m going to get us the best deal I can. When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say to you; you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.” Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Wade R. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag. Another jeep followed them – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it. As the jeeps made their way north, they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane. The drivers of both jeeps managed to avoid the bullets. The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing.

At about 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed Gen. King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender and that an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations. The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would not attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do. No Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed.

King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit in the line of the Japanese advance should fly white flags. After this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived and King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff who had come to discuss King’s surrender. King attempted to get assurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter – accused him of declining to surrender unconditionally. At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan. He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners. The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” King found no choice but to accept him at his word.

Unknown to Gen. King, an order attributed to Gen. Masaharu Homma – but in all likelihood from one of his subordinates – had been given. It stated, “Every troop which fought against our army on Bataan should be wiped out thoroughly, whether he surrendered or not, and any American captive who is unable to continue marching all the way to the concentration camp should be put to death in the area of 200 meters off the road.”

The members of HQ Company remained in the camp until April 11th. That morning, a Japanese officer and soldiers appeared in their bivouac and ordered them to move out to the road that ran in front of the encampment. When they reached the road, they were ordered to kneel along both sides with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers passing them took whatever they wanted from their possessions. They remained along the sides of the road for hours.

HQ Company finally boarded their trucks and drove to an area outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit. As they sat and watched, Fred and the other 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 the Japanese soldiers, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and stopped in front of the soldiers. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. As he drove away, the sergeant ordered his soldiers to lower their guns.

 It was stated by men that there was a great deal of confusion in Mariveles and the Japanese had no idea where the POWs were or what they were doing. It is known that a group of men from the 192nd made their way to the docks in the barrio, found a boat that was in running order, and took the boat to Corregidor. It is known that Capt. Russell Thorman and Capt. Arthur Burholt reached the island, and available information suggests that Fred was among the men who escaped to the island.

Once on the island, he was assigned to fight with the 4th Marines. It is known that a number of tankers were assigned to defend Skipper Hill which faced Bataan. It was said – whether true or not – that during the night for the following four days after the surrender of Bataan, the men on Corregidor could still see flashes from battle as troops who refused to surrender continued to fight. During this time, the Japanese set up artillery on the beach that fired on Corregidor. Most of the Japanese artillery was knocked out by the guns on Corregidor, so the Japanese set up the rest in the jungle. Men stated that at night they could count as many as 24 separate batteries firing on the island. The shelling and bombing by Japanese planes were slowly knocking out the guns and weakening the defenses. The men on Corregidor knew that a landing was going to be attempted, they just didn’t know when it would take place.

The Japanese barrage of April 29th was intense and it was said that it was because it was the emperor’s birthday. One shall hit the magazine for Battery Geary resulting in a tremendous explosion. The exchange between the Japanese guns and American guns lasted all day. The men guarding South Shore Road were moved to Monkey Point at the beginning of May. The reason this was done was that the Japanese landings were expected to take place there.

It was said that during the nights for the next four days after the surrender of Bataan, the men on Corregidor could still see flashes from battle as troops who refused to surrender continued to fight. This may be an apocryphal statement. During this time, the Japanese set up artillery on the beach that fired on Corregidor. Most of the Japanese artillery was knocked out by the guns on Corregidor, so the Japanese set up the rest in the jungle. They also set up guns among the hospital buildings of Hospital #1 using the POWs there as human shields. Men stated that at night they could count as many as 24 separate batteries firing on the island. Between the shelling and bombing by Japanese planes, they were slowly knocking out the guns and weakening the defenses. The men on Corregidor knew that a landing was going to be attempted, they just didn’t know when it would take place. Gen. Wainwright was given the opportunity to evacuate but he refused and said, “I have been with my men from the start, and if captured I will share their lot.”

The Japanese began shelling Monkey Point on the night of May 5th in preparation for the landing. The men on the island watched as Japanese barges began concentrating at various points off Bataan. The barges began to make their way toward Corregidor, and the island’s remaining guns began shelling them. It was said that one of the island’s mortar batteries got so hot that the crew had to stop firing to let the mortar cool down. Another gun turned blue from the continuous firing and its breach warped and would not open. The landing came the night of the 5th. When the Japanese landed, the defenders pushed them from the beach at Monkey Point three times. Anti-aircraft guns from Ft. Hughes were firing on the Japanese as they landed. The shells exploded above the barges killing many. When the final assault on the island took place it was said that the Japanese believed that it had failed. The first tank to land on the island was one of the tanks abandoned by a 192nd tank crew. The Japanese inflicted heavy casualties and the defenders fell back to the Malinta tunnel.

The official surrender of the island was at noon on May 6th, but many units had surrendered earlier in the morning. The Japanese herded them onto an area covered with concrete known as the 92nd Garage which they had hastily surrounded with barbed wire. The POWs were told if they left the area without a guard that they would be shot. The only POWs not to be sent there were the men who were hospitalized in the Malinta Tunnel.

The Japanese herded them onto an area covered with concrete known as the 92nd Garage – which was the servicing area for seaplanes – that they had been hastily surrounded with barbed wire. The Japanese put the POWs into detachments of 1,000 men with a colonel in charge of each detachment. The POWs were told if they left the area without a guard that they would be shot. The only POWs not to be sent there were the men who were hospitalized in the Malinta Tunnel. The area was said to be approximately 500 feet wide and 1500 feet long and was located between the beach and cliffs along Corregidor’s southern shore.

While they were on the concert slab, the Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from the POWs. They were not fed for three days. When they were fed, they were fed rice. Each POW was given a number which was painted on the back of his shirt or his pants if he didn’t have a shirt. The Filipino POWs were put on one side of the slab and separated from the Americans by an imaginary line. Open slit trenches were dug for the POWs to use as latrines. The surface of the latrines crawled with life and flies and other insects were everywhere which helped to spread disease.  

The POWs were put to work by the Japanese cleaning up debris on the island and the POWs were used to resume construction of the airfield that was being built on the island. Any ordnance left on the island was collected and the POWs loaded the captured food fMalinta Tunnel on barges that took it to Manila. The POWs supplemented their meals with canned food they found while cleaning the debris or stealing it while it was being loaded onto barges.

One detachment of POWs had the job of collecting the dead and burying them. The Japanese combat soldiers were a lot more respectful to the POWs than those troops who had not been in combat. POWs stated that they watched a Japanese soldier make a cross for the grave of a Marine, place a jug of water in it, and step back and salute. The guards allowed the POWs working on this detail to hunt for food and water.

For two weeks, the POWs were held in the garage area without any shade and with little water. Finally, the Japanese brought barges to take the POWs to Luzon. It was said that the POWs had to swim out to the barges. POWs stated they were packed into the barges and even when it was apparent no more men would fit, the Japanese still tried to put more on the barges. The POWs were taken to a point off the coast of Luzon on the east side of Manila Bay and made to jump into the water and swim to shore. Once on shore, they were put to work filling in shell craters on a pier. Other POWs repaired a dam. When the work was done, they were marched 15 miles and up Dewey Boulevard to Bilibid Prison. At first, they thought they too would experience a death march, but to their surprise, they were treated quite well and marched at a reasonable pace.

In late May, his wife received this letter from the War Department.

“Mrs. H. Bruni 
2111 Twelfth Avenue
Janesville

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Captain Fred T. Bruni, O&,370,664, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the  Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender. 

        “I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter.  In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the War Department.  Conceivably the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly other islands of the Philippines.  The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war.  At some future date, this Government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war.  Until that time the War Department cannot give you positive information. 

        “The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received.  It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date.  At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war.  In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired.  At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.

        “Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months;  to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held;  to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress.  The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age, and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records.  Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.

                                                                                                                                                                    “Very Truly yours

                                                                                                                                                                            J. A. Ulio (signed) 
                                                                                                                                                                       Major General
                                                                                                                                                                   The Adjutant General”
   

From May 26th to 28th, the Japanese marched 2,000 POWs a day from Bilibid to the train station in Manila where they boarded freight cars. Each car held 75 to 80 men. In the cars, the POWs were taken to the barrio of Cabanatuan where they lived in an old schoolhouse for the night. The next morning, the POWs formed 100 men detachments and then ordered them to march. The march to the camp was 15 to 20 miles, and the POWs were warned that anyone who fell would be killed. When the first POW fell a guard ran up to him and aimed his rifle at him, but the man got up and ran back into the column. This happened several times until a POW fell and could not get up. The guard aimed his gun at the man, but when he still didn’t get up, the guard raised his arm, and in his hand was a red flag. A truck pulled up and the POW was put into it. When the prisoners saw this, it wasn’t very long until many of them were falling out and were not able to get up so they could get a ride to the camp.

The POWs walked almost six miles and passed Cabanatuan #1 – which had not opened – where the men who were captured on Bataan and took part in the death march were held. They next passed Cabanatuan #2 which was about four miles past Camp #1. The camp did not have an adequate water supply and was closed, but it later reopened and housed Naval POWs. They continued to Cabanatuan 3 which was about seven miles from Camp #1 and was where those men captured on Corregidor were taken. The POWs arrived at Camp #3 from May 26th to May 29th in detachments of 1500 to 2,000 men which meant the total number of POWs in the camp was about 6,000 men.

Four POWs walked away from the camp on May 30th. After they escaped, the men realized that they had no place to go, so they attempted to surrender themselves to the Japanese. The Japanese tied them to posts and left them to hang in the sun. They also beat the POWs with boards. The Japanese also showed the men water but would not give them any to drink. The next day, while the POWs were eating dinner, the Japanese marched the men to where the prisoners were eating. They had the men dig their own graves and gave each man a cigarette and water. They also offered blindfolds to the men. All the men took a blindfold except one. That man spat at the Japanese before they shot him. After they were shot, the men fell backward into the graves. When one man who had survived the execution attempted to crawl out of the grave, a Japanese officer shot him with his pistol. He next shot each man to make sure they were dead.

Meals at first consisted of an onion soup without any onions in it. Later, the meals consisted of 16 ounces of rice for each man each day, and 4 ounces of top greens (similar to spinach) were issued. Once a week, one ounce of carabao meat was issued. Two ounces of coconut were issued and this was used with cornstarch and sugar to make a pudding. Also, once per week for one month, one small banana was issued and this was also used for pudding. It appears that during the first month in the camp, the POWs also received 15 limes.

The next day, while the POWs were eating dinner, the Japanese marched the men to where the prisoners were eating. They had the men dig their own graves and gave each man a cigarette and water. They also offered blindfolds to the men. All the men took a blindfold except one. That man spat at the Japanese before they shot him. After they were shot, the men fell backward into the graves. When one man who had survived the execution attempted to crawl out of the grave, a Japanese officer shot him with his pistol. He next shot each man to make sure they were dead.

The first meal the POWs received was an onion soup that had no onions on it or carrots in it. After the initial meal, the daily meal for the POWs was squash, mongo beans, and greens (which were the tops of native sweet potatoes) for soup, and rice. They also received Carabao meat about once a week. Other sources state a whistle weed soup with rice in it was the main meal. Men in the camp reported that most meals were 1½ cups of rice and a watery soup.

The American officers convinced the Japanese, on June 8th, to allow them to hand out punishments for minor offenses. The POWs organized themselves into administration groups on June 14th. Since the Army had the largest number of POWs, it was divided into Groups I and II while Group III was Naval personnel. An Army major was the adjutant for both Groups I and II and some officers did various jobs under him. Each group had several officers who dealt with the enlisted men.

Filipino guerrillas ambushed a convoy that had POWs in it on June 16th. Four POWs were wounded and one died the next day. The “Blood Brother Rule” was put into effect on June 21st. If one POW escaped, the other nine men in his group would be executed. The Japanese allowed the first church services on June 28th. The next day, the POWs organized a morale program. The POWs played volleyball, basketball, softball, ping pong, and created singing groups, and a band. 

The first church services were held in the camp on June 28th. To improve morale among the POWs, on June 29th, the officers organized activities for the men. Softball teams, basketball teams, volleyball teams, and ping-pong teams were formed as well as singalong groups to provide entertainment. The POWs were joined by 151 civilians in the camp on July 6th. The Japanese handed out a limited number of shoes, shirts, trousers, and blankets on July 17th. It is not known how it was determined who would receive any of the clothing.

POWs during this time were sent out on details and returned to the camp. On July 14th, 100 POWs were sent to Manila. Twenty-six sick POWs were transferred to Camp 1 on July 20th. Three Hundred Sixty POWs left the camp, on July 24th, for Palawan Island. Another group of 150 men was sent there on July 30th. Dysentery was a real problem in the camp and to slow the spread of dysentery, a program was started to catch flies on August 17th. Any POW who turned in a full milk can of flies received two biscuits and a few cigarettes. They also dug deep latrines, which were 18 feet deep, to slow the spread of disease.

On September 1st, 198 POWs were transferred to the Manila detail which was followed by another 120 men on September 8th. Also on that date, 120 returned to the camp from the Field Labor Detail. Another detachment of 198 men on September 1st was sent to Manila. One hundred POWs left the camp on an unnamed work detail on September 23rd, followed by another 100 POWs the next day. Another 32 men were sent to the detail at Manila on September 28th followed by 119 POWs the next day.

The next day, while the POWs were eating dinner, the Japanese marched the men to where the prisoners were eating. They had the men dig their own graves and gave each man a cigarette and water. They also offered blindfolds to the men. All the men took a blindfold except one. That man spat at the Japanese before they shot him. After they were shot, the men fell backward into the graves. When one man who had survived the execution attempted to crawl out of the grave, a Japanese officer shot him with his pistol. He next shot each man to make sure they were dead.

The first meal the POWs received was an onion soup that had no onions on it or carrots in it. After the initial meal, the daily meal for the POWs was squash, mongo beans, and greens (which were the tops of native sweet potatoes) for soup, and rice. They also received Carabao meat about once a week. Other sources state a whistle weed soup with rice in it was the main meal. Men in the camp reported that most meals were 1½ cups of rice and a watery soup.

The American officers convinced the Japanese, on June 8th, to allow them to hand out punishments for minor offenses. The POWs organized themselves into administration groups on June 14th. Since the Army had the largest number of POWs, it was divided into Groups I and II while Group III was Naval personnel. An Army major was the adjutant for both Groups I and II and some officers did various jobs under him. Each group had several officers who dealt with the enlisted men. Thorman and Burholt were in Group II and they were two of seven officers assigned to administer the group.

On June 17th, trucks left the camp on a lumber detail. The trucks were ambushed by Filipino guerrillas resulting in three POWs in one truck being wounded. The fourth POW from the truck was not found. One of the three wounded men later died.

On June 21st the Japanese initiated the “Blood Brother” rule. The POWs were placed in groups of ten men. The men worked together, lived in the same barracks, and slept together. If one man of the group escaped from the camp, the other nine would be executed. To prevent escapes, the day before this took effect, the POWs organized a patrol that walked the inside perimeter of the camp fence. The POWs went out on work details.

The first church services were held in the camp on June 28th. To improve morale among the POWs, on June 29th, the officers organized activities for the men. Softball teams, basketball teams, volleyball teams, and ping-pong teams were formed as well as singalong groups to provide entertainment. The POWs were joined by 151 civilians in the camp on July 6th. The Japanese handed out a limited number of shoes, shirts, trousers, and blankets on July 17th. It is not known how it was determined who would receive any of the clothing.

POWs during this time were sent out on details and returned to the camp. On July 14th, 100 POWs were sent to Manila. 26 sick POWs were transferred to Camp 1 on July 20th. 

When he realized that he was going to be transferred to another part of the Philippine Islands, Fred sent the following letter to Lt. Henry Knox. The letter was smuggled into Cabanatuan #1 most likely by a POW who was transferred there and was a member of A Company. 

Dear Knox,

How are you and the boys? I hope that you are making contact with the boys of the company and the Janesville boys in Headquarters Company. I would you to make a list of the dead ones and get the cause of death and date of their death so that we can have something to go by when the day comes. I hope the dying siege is over with. Things are in good shape here, and I wish they were all up to this camp. I mean the whole battalion.

I would like to visit a few days down at your camp so that I could say hello to all the officers and men that you can see. And tell them to keep clean and healthy for the day is coming and I want to see them alive. So take good care of yourself and tell the rest goodbye. And do what I told you.

Capt. Bruni 

Three Hundred and Fifty POWs left Cabanatuan #3 on July 24, 1942, and were driven by truck to the Port Area of Manila. There, the POWs loaded building supplies onto the Santos Maru which they took to Palawan Island. On August 2, 1942, Fred was selected to be the ranking American officer on a work detail to Palawan Island in the Philippines. The original POW detachment to the island arrived on August 12th, 1942. The POW camp was designated 10-A and the POWs occupied the old Constabulary barracks. Since the quarters had fallen apart, the POWs spent the next week attempting to make the barracks livable. Little is known about the food given to the POWs. What is known is that the food was wormy rice and a cup of soup. Those who were sick had their rations cut in half.

When work was started on the airfield, the Japanese expected the prisoners to build it with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The POWs were taken to Puerto Princess where the men had been divided into two detachments of 150 men each. The POWs referred to these detachments as A Company and B Company. Since they were clearing a jungle, trees had to be removed. This was done by the POWs taking turns chopping down the trees. It took the POWs about a year to clear the area for the airfield. 

The work was so hard that POWs were returned to Manila and new POWs arrived regularly. The POWs worked under a scorching sun with inadequate food, water, and clothing. The POWs worked in tidal water that was alive with jellyfish. They also unloaded bags of cement from the holds of ships and were given nothing to drink although the air was full of dust from the cement. What made the situation worse was that the officers were not required to work which caused resentment between the enlisted men and them. To get out of work, POWs paid other POWs two cigarettes to break their arms.

The Japanese referred to the camp as, “The Happy Place.” The camp commander would call the POWs together and say, “You moost work harder, you moost work faster.” After saying this, he had the guards hit the POWs with two-inch-thick clubs.  They also received brutal treatment at the hands of the Japanese guards, and the men were beaten with pick handles. They were kicked and slapped daily, and prisoners who attempted to escape were executed.

Ten POWs on the detail worked as mechanics at a Japanese garage repairing trucks, while the remaining POWs were divided into two detachments of 150 men each. The POWs referred to these detachments as A Company and B Company. Since they were clearing a jungle, trees had to be removed. This was done by the POWs taking turns chopping down the trees and then removing the stumps. The Japanese expected the prisoners to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. It took the POWs about a year to clear the area for the airfield.

The treatment received by the POWs was brutal. On another occasion, 29 POWs were bathing using water dripping from a tank alongside their barracks. Nishitani had the 29 men thrown into the brig. On their way to the brig, he stood in their path and swung at their heads with an iron bar as they went into the building. His excuse for beating the POWs was that the water they were using was dirty and not fit to bathe in.

According to Sgt. Rufus W. Smith who was in the original POW detachment sent to the island, the camp commander, and guards were changed three times while they were on the island. With each change, the treatment of the POWs got worse. The first camp commander gave the POWs one day off a week. He also gave them balls and gloves and let them play baseball and basketball. There were beatings under the first and second commanders, but they were not as frequent. The third commander forgot about days off and beatings of POWs hung by their thumbs or toes were common. Of this, he said, “I never heard of a prisoner going before the Jap MPs for any reason without being beaten. I will never know how some of the men lived through them.”

In December 1942, six POWs had been in communication with a Filipino. When the man was caught, he was tortured until he gave up the names of the Americans he had been communicating with. The POWs were taken to trees in the POW camp and had their arms stretched and tied around the trees. They were then beaten with a small metal wire whip across the small of their backs.

Bruni was the ranking American officer and was in charge of the detail. In this role, he often found himself giving orders that created resentment among the enlisted men. Many failed to see that Fred had little choice in the matter; either he gave the order or he and the men would be punished. 

In February 1943, four POWs escaped but were not missed until the next morning.  Two of the POWs were recaptured and taken to a Kempei-Tai (Japanese secret police) dungeon. It is known that one of the POWs was decapitated. On June 28, 1943, two POWs escaped and were recaptured on July 4. They were severely beaten before they were turned over to the Kemper-Tai who hit the men with clubs and swords and used judo on them. The Japanese put the men on a truck that made its way toward a beach. According to Filipino civilians, they heard four shots. Later, some of the POWs saw the men’s graves.

Nine POWs were beaten after they were caught stealing corned beef from the camp in April. It appears that the same men also had made contact with Filipinos about getting them food. In a second incident, the POWs were stripped to the waist and beaten with a whip made of a piece of leather about 3 feet long.  They were also hit with a bamboo pole that was 6 feet long and 2 to 3 inches thick until they passed out. They were then revived with water and beaten again. When Nishitani got tired of beating them, he turned the beating over to his subordinates. If he did not like the way they were beating the POWs, he took over and demonstrated how he wanted it done. It was stated the beatings went on for two weeks. When they ended, the men were sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila.

In May 1943, 66 POWs were lined up in the prison compound. One at a time each man was ordered out of line and was hit on his buttock and spine about 30  times with a club the size of a baseball. Also in May, fifteen other POWs were beaten for another unknown reason. 

Two POWs escaped from the camp in August 1943 but were recaptured four days later. They were brought into the compound and tied up in front of the guard house with their hands behind their backs. The POWs remained in the position for about 16 hours and were beaten with clubs and rifle butts, jabbed with bayonets, and hot needles were stuck into them. One POW was blinded by the hot needles which had been stuck into his eyes. They were later taken away and executed.

In May, his wife received a letter from the War Department that was part of a mass mailing to families who had not received any news about their relatives.

Dear Mrs. Bruni:

    The records of the War Department show your husband, Captain Fred T. Bruni, O,370,664, Infantry, missing in action in the Philippine Islands since May 7, 1942.

    All available information concerning your son has been carefully considered and under the provisions of Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, an official determination has been made continuing him on the records of the War Department in a missing status.  The law sited provides that pay and allowances are to be credited to the missing person’s account and payment of allotments to authorized allottees are to be continued during the absence of such persons in a missing status.

    I fully appreciate your concern and deep interest.  You will, without further request on your part, receive immediate notification of any change in your son’s status.  I regret that the far-flung operations of the present war, the ebb and flow of the combat over the great distances in isolated areas, and the characteristics of our enemies impose on us the heavy burden of uncertainty with respect to the safety of our loved ones.

                                                                                                                                 Very Truly Yours, 

                                                                                                                                      “J. A. Ulio 

                                                                                                                                  The Adjutant General 

The Japanese government through the International Red Cross, on July 31, 1943, notified the War Department that Fred was a POW. On August 11, 1943, his wife received word from the War Department that Fred was officially listed as a Prisoner of War by the Japanese government.

HAZAL BRUNI=211 TENTH AVENUE JANESVILLE WIS

REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR HUSBAND CAPTAIN FRED T BRUNI IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.

Two weeks after receiving word that Fred was a POW, his wife received a POW postcard from him dated August 26, 1942. In it, he said:

“I am uninjured. I am well. Please see that my insurance and all your pay allotment receipts are kept. Everything taken care of. Keep your chin up. Hope to see you soon. Lots of love. God Bless you. Keep in good health.”

On October 3rd, seven POWs were punished by the Japanese. They were beaten, clubbed, and hit with swords, and had judo used on them before they were suspended above the ground and beaten again.

Fred frequently was involved in situations where no matter what he did, he would anger either the enlisted men or the officers. Things really came to a head during Christmas of 1943. The Japanese promised the POWs a large Christmas dinner. There was already a great deal of resentment toward the officers since they did not have to work while the enlisted men did. When Christmas arrived, the “large dinner” turned out to be a total of six chickens. Fred found himself having to make a choice between giving all the chickens to the enlisted men or giving five chickens to the enlisted men and one chicken to the officers. This meant 100 enlisted men had to share five chickens. Many of the men carried hard feelings toward Fred because of this decision.

It was around this time that his wife received a POW postcard in which he said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be home soon. Regards to the boys at the plant, relatives, friends, and neighbors.” She also received two undated postcards in August 1944. In one he said:

“Dear Hazel, Mother, Dad, Sisters, Brothers, Gladys, Kids, Neighbors, and Friends – I hope everything is rolling along 100 percent back there. That everybody is in good health and happy because (censored). Hope this will be over soon. Worry not. With lots of love. Fritz.”

When the majority of work was completed on the airfield, the Japanese decided that half the POWs would be returned to Manila. The POWs were divided into two groups of 150 men. One of the groups was returned to Manila on a ship on September 22, 1944.

On October 19, 1944, the POWs saw their first American planes in over two years. Seventeen B-24s raided the airfield. The planes strafed and sank three inter-island boats, sank three seaplanes that were anchored, and then destroyed some of the planes at the airfield. Sgt. Rufus W. Smith recalled, “After that, the Japs let us fix some air raid shelters in the compound yard. They only wanted us to fix them with only one entrance, but we kept insisting they let us leave both ends open — but only wide enough for one man at a time.”

The planes returned on October 28th and strafed and bombed the airfield again. The Japanese Air Force squadron that was based at the airfield was moved out at that time, and the POWs were ordered to fill in craters on the runways from the bombings. For some unknown reason, the Japanese command in Manila failed to issue orders to send the remaining POWs on the island back to Manila or the decision of what would happen to the POWs had already been made.

After the second air raid, the POWs were ordered to dig three air raid trenches. The trenches were five feet deep and four feet wide. Each trench could hold 50 men and, at first, had one entrance. The officers had a smaller trench. The Japanese seemed to believe that the POWs were the cause of the air raids so the treatment given to them got worse. 

It was December 11th, and an American convoy was spotted approaching Palawan, and the Japanese believed this was an invasion force heading to the island. According to Smith, “The Japs starting running madly through the camp going on beach defense. We picked up from some of them that an American convoy was nearby.” The fact was the convoy was heading to the Island of Mindoro just south of Luzon. The Japanese believed that Palawan would soon be invaded by the advancing American forces. It was on December 13th, these orders were issued, “At the time of the enemy landing, if the prisoners of war are harboring an enemy feeling, dispose of them at the appropriate time.”

The POWs knew something was going on on December 14th. After working that morning they returned to the camp at noon. During lunch, there were two air raid warnings and the POWs went into the trenches. As they entered the trenches, they noticed that extra guards had been placed around the compound. Around 2:00 P.M., another air raid warning was given. Since they had been through two false alarms that day, the POWs did not go into the trenches until forced to do so by the Japanese. Once the POWs were in the trenches, the Japanese armed their guns. Of this, Smith stated, “They brought us in from work at noon, something that had never happened before. About 12:40 p.m. am air raid and we went to our shelters.

“Presently a small group of Jap guards accompanied by two or three officers entered the compound yard. They told us to stay in our shelters and not to look out.”

One of the survivors during the post-war trial in 1948 described what happened. 

“No sooner were the last men ‘safely’ hidden from the dangers of an American air raid than two companies of Japanese soldiers armed with buckets of gasoline, torches, rifles, machine guns, fixed bayonets and hand grenades entered the compound and preceded to carry into effect the plan for the annihilation of every single POWs”

The Japanese approached the first trench, and threw lit torches into it and one or two buckets of gasoline. which set the POWs on fire. Those who ran from the shelter were shot. Those who begged to be shot in the head were shot or bayoneted in the stomach. The Japanese laughed at the POWs as they killed them. The guards also fired into the other trenches and threw hand grenades into them.

Sgt. Douglas W. Bogue who was in a trench said, “I looked out and screaming heathens were pouring gasoline into A Company’s shelter and tossing torches inside. When the yanks in flames came scrambling out, they mowed them down (with machine guns).

Smith was able to see what was going on and stated, “I saw the Japs throw gasoline in each end of the biggest shelter and toss torches in after it. They did the same thing immediately after at two other shelters. Men screamed. Men moaned, Men broke from the shelters, their clothes, faces, and hands afire. Japs shot them down. Laughing. Japs jabbed them in their guts with bayonets.

“In our shelter, they didn’t believe me at first when I saw and quickly told what was going on. Two others looked out. We went out through our hole.”

He also said, “The ones that managed to get out of the fire and on their feet, well, they were shot, bayoneted, knocked down where they couldn’t do any damage and left there to suffer until they died.”

According to Bogue, he was hiding on the cliff and could see the trench that Lt. Commander Harry C Knight, Lt. Carl Mango, Warrant Officer Glen C. Turner, and Bruni were in.  According to him, the trench was on fire and the four men were hopelessly trapped in it.

Forty or fifty men still managed to get out of the trenches and jumped from a fifty-foot cliff to the beach. Shore sentries and guards on barges shot at them from the cliffs and boats. The POWs who escaped were hunted down. Those who were recaptured by the Japanese were buried alive while men who attempted to swim to safety were shot in the water by the Japanese in boats. Those who hid in the crevices in the cliffs were killed when the Japanese dynamited them. Seven POWs were behind a  huge rock. A passing patrol boat saw a leg sticking out from behind it and opened fire and hit the man. After he had been hit, the man came out from behind the rock and was machine-gunned to death saving the lives of the other six men. Believing they had killed the only man there, the patrol boat left the area. The POWs who did survive managed to make the swim to another island at night. On the island, they were protected by Filipinos until rescued by American forces.

After the war, Fred’s family learned that he had been executed. This information was provided by another soldier, from Janesville, who liberated the island. The soldier told Fred’s family the events of his death. He told them how, as the POWs rushed from the shelters, the Japanese bayoneted and machine-gunned them. After this, dynamite was thrown into the trenches to ensure that the POWs were dead. In Bruni’s case, he and three other officers, Lt. Cmdr. Henry Knight, Lt. Carl Mango, and Warrant Officer Glen Turner had their own trench.

Once in it, the Japanese poured gasoline on it and set the trench on fire. Mango, the camp doctor, made it out of the trench, with his clothes on fire, pleading with the Japanese to show mercy to the prisoners. He was shot and his body was set on fire.

Of the POWs who had managed to escape, only eleven survived what became known as the Palawan Massacre. Capt. Fred T. Bruni was not one of these men. Early in 1945, his wife received several POW cards from her husband. She hoped that this was a sign that he would be home soon and had no idea that he had already been murdered. His murder was confirmed when his wife received the small notebook he had kept as a diary while a POW. The book had a mark on it that indicated it had come from the Island of Palawan.

Capt. Fred T. Bruni was burned to death with 138 other POWs on Palawan Island, by the Japanese, on Thursday, December 14, 1944. He and the other POWs were murdered because the Japanese did not want them to be liberated by advancing American troops. When American troops did land in Palawan, they found the mass grave for the POWs and the diary Fred had kept while a POW. In it, he recorded the deaths of the other members of A Company. The remains were buried in Palawan Cemetery #1. The official announcement of what had been done on Palawan was not made known until March 3, 1945.

In May, his wife received a postcard from him from Palawan. It was the third that she had received in 1945. On the card, he stated, “Received 11 letters.  Hoping for more.  Letters very rejoicing—pleasing news.  Send box—foods, tobaccos.  Thank all.  Hoping to see you soon.  Lots of love to you all. Fritz”

In August, his wife received a package from the Effects Bureau in Kansas City, Missouri, in it were a map case and a record book recording the deaths of members of the 192nd. The bureau did not explain to her where it came from or how it got Fred’s possessions. A communique to Mrs. Hazel Bruni told her of her husband’s death in the POW execution on September 1, 1945. It said:

Capt Fred T. Bruni was in the brutal massacre of 150 members of the U.S. army, navy, and marine corps in a gigantic gasoline bonfire on December 14, 1944, at Puerto Princess prison camp, Palawan, in the Philippine Islands.

This group of prisoners was attacked without warning by their Japanese guards who attempted to massacre the prisoners to the last man. Ten prisoners succeeded in escaping and these were the only survivors. It had now been officially established by reports received by the war department that all the remaining prisoners perished as a result of this ruthless attack.

Respectfully yours,

Edward F. Witsell, acting adjutant general of the army

His wife received a second communication from the War Department which somewhat repeated what she had been told earlier. The following is an excerpt from it.

“on December 14, 1944, this group of prisoners was attacked without warning by the Japanese guards, and ten of the prisoners succeeded in escaping. These were the only survivors.  It had been officially established by reports received by the war department that all the remaining prisoners, including your husband, perished as a result of this ruthless attack.”

Bruni’s family held a memorial service for him in Janesville on Sunday, November 11, 1945, at Overton Funeral Home. On February 9, 1952, the remains of Capt. Fred T. Bruni Jr. and 122 other American soldiers, who had died on Palawan Island and were not identified, were returned to the United States. Since the remains of the POWs were so badly burned that they could not be identified, the soldiers were buried in a common grave on February 14, 1952, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The remains were placed in 109 caskets which were placed in 28 burial vaults in Section 85 of the cemetery. Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant services were held and followed by full military rites with all branches of the military participating. His mother, wife, sister, and three brothers attended the reburial. When his flag was presented to his widow, Hazel, the commanding officer said to her, “This I give you. You are his next of kin.”

After the ceremony, Claude Yeast, who had been a member of D Company, 192nd, sought out Hazel Bruni. He told her that he had been with her husband the entire time he was a POW on the island until two months before the massacre when he was sent to Manila and then Japan. Yeast told her that just before he left Palawan, he witnessed Fred plead and talk to the Japanese commanding officer all night trying to save the life of one of the enlisted men. Bruni won his point but was worn out from the ordeal. Yeast was at the ceremony because his brother, Willard, who was in HQ Company, also died on Palawan.

The picture below is of Capt. Bruni’s name is on the headstone of the Palawan Massacre victims at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. His wife never remarried and passed away on October 22, 1975.

Finally, the airfield that the POWs built with picks and shovels is now Puerto Princesa International Airport.

Palawan Mass Grave Headstone

Bruni_Fred_1

Palawan Inscription

Continue A Co.

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