1st Lt. John F. A. Bushaw was born to Frank Bushaw & Mollie Albright-Bushaw on August 5, 1913, in Milton, Wisconsin, and was one of the couple’s five children. When he was eight, his family moved to Janesville, where he attended school. After he completed his education, he worked at the Rock River Woolen Mills and was the custodian for the National Guard Armory in Janesville.
John enlisted in the National Guard on October 14, 1931. He rose in rank from private to sergeant. On June 11, 1933, he was promoted to First Sergeant. He also married, Julia Ann Courtney, on April 10, 1934, and together they had three children; Thomas, Raymond and Doris Ann – who was born in March 1942 – and lived at 1009 Harding Street in Janesville.
In the National Guard, he was joined by his younger brother, Delmon and his brother-in-law, Dannie Courtney. After ten years as a member of the National Guard, he resigned as an enlisted man, on November 24, 1940, and was commissioned a second lieutenant on November 25, 1940. This was done because the company had been federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and men too old for military service had been released.
Traveling to Fort Knox, Kentucky, by train, the tank company was joined by an Illinois National Guard tank company which had been designated B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. At Ft. Knox, he was a tank platoon commander and would later become tank maintenance officer and transferred to HQ Company.
From September 1 through 30, the tank battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on September 6, 1941. Upon completion of the maneuvers, John and the other tankers were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side of a hill that the soldiers learned that they were being sent overseas. Although, where they were being sent was supposed to be a secret, most of the men figured that the code word “PLUM” meant Philippines-Luzon-Manila. John was given a furlough home to say his goodbyes and settle any unfinished business.
The decision for this move – which had been made in August 1941 – was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of 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.
It was also at this time that many of the men of battalion officers, who were considered “too old” to go overseas, were released from service. When Capt. Fred Bruni was made commander of HQ Company, John became the battalion’s maintenance officer.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and was ferried. on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft, McDowell on Angel Island, where they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion’s medical detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two-day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.
On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. It intercepted a number of ships which all turned out to be from friendly countries.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm’s way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
On Monday, December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion was assigned the northern half of the airfield while the 192nd protected the southern half. At all times, two crew members had to remain with their tank or half-track and received their meals from food trucks.
About 12:45 in the afternoon, on December 8, as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
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, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night the members of the company slept in a dry latrine that was near their bivouac since it was safer then their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night on a bed. The next morning, they saw the bodies of the dead lying on the ground. Pilots who had night duty lay dead in their tents.
On December 21, the 192nd was ordered to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf to relieve the 26th Cavalry Philippine Scouts. HQ Company was to support B and C Companies. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
December 23 and 24, found the battalion in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going used 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 at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27 until ordered to withdraw.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this 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 bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
During the withdrawal into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown up. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leapfrog past it and then cover the 192nd’s withdraw. A Company was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan’s east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
During the Battle of Bataan, John was so successful as the battalion’s tank maintenance officer that he received the Silver Star. In one case, he commanded the effort to recover a disabled tank that the Japanese were using as cover.
John also attempted to do his best to supply his tank crews with the necessities of life. On one occasion, he managed to get beans to feed his tank crews. He sent a radio message out to his tank crews that he had food for them. Before the crews arrived, the beans had been eaten by officers, of the 192nd, who had heard the message and came for a share of the food. When the tankers arrived, there was nothing left to eat.
The Japanese launched an all-out attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company’s offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order: “You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word ‘CRASH’, all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished.”
When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, April 9, 1942, John became a Prisoner Of War and part in the death march with Sgt. Ozzie McDonald and Sgt. Alva Chapman. It took the three men 14 days to complete the march to Camp O’Donnell.
Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
Since there was no water for washing clothes, the POWs threw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150-bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scraped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. When Col. Theodore Wickord, the 192nd Tank Battalion Commander, went out on a work detail, John was selected to command the battalion’s men still in Camp O’Donnell.
It was while he was a prisoner at Camp O’Donnell that John developed spinal malaria and returned to Camp O’Donnell. When Cabanatuan opened on June 1, 1942, the healthier prisoners were moved there. It was determined that Lt. John F. A. Bushaw was too ill to be transferred to Cabanatuan, so he remained at Camp O’Donnell.
On Saturday, August 8, 1942, at approximately 10:00 in the morning, 1st Lt. John F. A. Bushaw died of spinal malaria and was buried at the camp cemetery at Camp O’Donnell. He was 29 years old.
After the war. his family requested that John’s remains be returned to Janesville. This was done in 1949. After a funeral mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 1st Lt. John. F. A. Bushaw was reburied in the Veteran’s Section of Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville. His wife would later remarry.