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Keith, Pvt. Edward C. Jr.


Pvt. Edward Charles Keith Jr.
Born: 18 May 1923 – New Lisbon, Maine
Parents: Edward C. Keith Sr. & Mary Sotak-Keith
Hometown: Gary, Indiana
Enlisted: September 1940
– because of his age, he was not required to register with Selective Service
Training: Fort Knox, Kentucky
– 18 May 1940
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– first six weeks was the primary training
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Weeks 7,8,9: Time was 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
Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– Company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
– August 1941 – took part in maneuvers in Arkansas
– 17th Ordnance Company
– A Company, 19th Ordnance designated 17th Ordnance Company
– received orders to go overseas the same day
Note: The decision for this move – which had been made on August 15, 1941 – was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island which was hundreds of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
– Philippine Islands
– Boarded: S.S. President Calvin Cooledge – Monday, 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser – U.S.S. Astoria and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
– 27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
Overseas Duty:
– Philippine Islands
– Boarded: San Francisco, California – 8 September 1941
– Sailed for the Philippines – Monday – 8 September 1941 – 9:00 P.M.
– Arrived Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:30 A.M.
– Sailed: Same Day
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – Friday – 26 September 1941
– unloaded tanks of 194th Tank Battalion
– taken to Ft. Stotsenburg by bus
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents along the main road between fort and Clark Airfield
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– converted WWI anti-personnel shell for use by tanks
– set up fuel depots for the tanks as they withdrew toward Bataan
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– headquartered in an abandoned ordnance depot building
– maintained tanks on the front lines in combat conditions
– manufactured and scavenged spare tank parts
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March – POWs made their way from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan to San Fernando
– the march took Edward eight and a half days to complete
– POWs received no food and little water
– POWs put in small wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane
– each car could hold forty men or eight horses
– Japanese put 100 men in each car
– those who died remained standing until the living left cars at Capas
– POWs walk last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never to
  write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs were their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– Edward lost 100 pounds during his time in the camp
Work Detail:
– In early May, Edward and two other POWs were digging a drainage ditch near the camp with one Japanese guard with them.
– The guard turned his back on the POWs and was hit, by one POW, in the back of the head with a shovel killing him.
– The three POWs escaped into the jungle.
– The other two POWs were recaptured and executed by the Japanese.
– Edward was saved by Filipino guerrillas who helped him regain his strength
– It was during May 1942, that his family received this message from the War Department:

“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Pvt. Edward C. Keith Jr., who according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“We deeply regret that it is impossible for us to give you more information. 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 of other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese government has indicated its intentions of conforming to the terms of the Geneva convention with respects 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 the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is hoped that the Japanese government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At this time you will be notified by this office in the event his name (Edward C. Keith) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”

– Fassoth Camp
– Bulacan Military Area
– Edward became the leader of a Filipino guerrilla unit of 500 men
– held the acting rank of lieutenant
– The unit raided Japanese garrisons and airfields between Clark Field and Manila.
– Their primary mission was to gather information and radio it to American submarines
– Americans supplied the unit with ammunition and other supplies
– His guerrilla group rescued an American pilot shot down over Manila Bay.
– December 1944 – his unit met elements of the 30th Infantry Division after their landings at Subic Bay
– supplied Americans with intelligence about the Japanese
– Promoted: Tec 5
– after making contact with Americans, his parents were informed he was alive and well
– the military had not informed his family that he was alive even though they knew he had been liberated
– taken to New Guiana to recuperate – 21 December 1944
– returned home
– Promoted:
– Sergeant
– 4 July 1945 – Camp Atterbury
Selective Service Registration: 10 July 1945
Contact person: Edward Charles Keith – father
– 12 October 1948
– Rank: Sergeant
– 9 December 1957
Military Career:
– fought in Korea
– retired – 31 January 1961
– Violet Baker
– married – 21 April 1946
– divorced
– Doris M. Drake
– married – 1947
– 1 daughter, 1 son
– divorced – March 1952
– Mildred B. Fisher
– married: 3 October 1974
Died: 5 February 1995
– Southern Nevada Veterans Cemetery
– Section: C-0311

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