2nd Lt. Albert J. Bartz on May 24, 1913, in Albion Township in rural Edgerton, Wisconsin, to Albert E. Bartz & Ida Hawkinson-Bartz. He was the fourth of the couple’s seven children. The family later moved to Janesville and lived at 208 West Dodge Street. It is known he was married and the father of a son.
Albert joined the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Tank Company from Janesville, Wisconsin, on December 17, 1932, and during the following eight years, he rose in rank from private to the first sergeant. On October 30, 1940, just prior to the tank company being called to federal service, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. At some point, he was joined in the company by his brother, Robert.
After training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Albert took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through 30th. According to members of the battalion, they were part of the Red Army and the Blue Army was under the command of General George S. Patton, but it appears that the battalion had been selected for overseas duty as early as August 15, 1941.
Instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. On the side of a hill, they were told they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, most had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service and replaced with men for the 753rd Tank Battalion. Those men who remained were given leaves home to say their goodbyes to families and friends.
The reason the battalion was being sent overseas was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one pilot, who was at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island hundreds of miles to the northwest. The island had a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron finished their flight plan and when they landed he reported what he had seen. Since it was too late to do anything that evening.
The next morning another squadron was sent to the area the next morning and found the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was making its way to shore. Since radio communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was sent to intercept the boat. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the U.S.A.T General Frank M Coxe. They were given physicals by the battalion’s medical staff and those men with minor medical conditions were designated to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. 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. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two-day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 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. President 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.
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 Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers 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 remained with the battalion, made sure they had what they needed, and that they had Thanksgiving dinner – which was stew thrown into their mess kits – before he went to have his own dinner.
Sometime after arriving in the Philippines, Albert was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He was with this company when the Japanese bombed Clark Field. The morning of December 8, the officers were called to the battalion’s radio room and told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the attack, Albert’s tank platoon was sent out to locate Japanese paratroopers. While performing this duty, a Japanese pilot who had been captured by Filipino civilians were turned over to him. Upon completion of this duty, his platoon returned to Clark Field.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.
The morning of December 8, December 7 in the United States, the tankers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They went to their positions around the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. At 8:30 that morning, American planes took off and filled the sky. They landed at noon and their pilots lined up, in a straight line, near their mess hall.
The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American. As they watched, what was described as “raindrops” fell from the planes. When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The tankers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and on anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics placed the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing. The battalion remained at Clark Field and lived through several additional attacks.
On December 11, 1941, Japanese bombers again appeared over Clark Field. C Company tanks were stationed along the southern perimeter of the airfield. The bombers began pattern bombing along the southern perimeter. Albert told the corporal with him to get into the tank. Since Albert believed he would never make it in himself, he ran for cover in a trench. As he ran, a bomb exploded in front of him. Shrapnel from the bomb hit him in the shoulder breaking his collarbone. Other shrapnel hit him and caused other wounds including one to the abdomen.
Seeing what had happened to Albert, the corporal climbed out of the tank’s turret and dragged Albert to safety and proceeded to bandage Albert’s wounds. Albert was sent to a hospital on a freight car with the other wounded. His injury was considered bad enough that he was sent to either the Philippine Women’s College of Saint Scholastica College, in Manila, which had been converted into hospitals. While a patient there, he and the other patients could hear the bombs exploding that were being dropped by Japanese planes. The patients lay in bed wondering if they would be the next to be bombed.
American forces began to withdraw from the city and the soldiers, in the hospital, began to wonder if they would be left to the Japanese. It was at that time that the Japanese commanding officer agreed to allow one ship out of Manila carrying wounded. The conditions of the deal were the ship could only carry wounded and nothing of military value.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, asked if there were any ships available in the harbor and was told there were two. One was a lumber schooner which was not fit for the open sea. The other, the S.S. Mactan, had been used for inter-island travel for years and had been condemned. MacArthur ordered that the Mactan be made ready, and within two days it had been painted white, by Filipino workers, and red crosses were painted on its sides.
On December 31, 1941, the patients were informed that the Japanese had agreed to allow a ship to leave Manila with the wounded. Emmett and other patients were moved to the docks to be put on the Mactan. The ship was only about 2000 tons and was infested with copra beetles, red ants, and cockroaches. The patients were placed on mattresses on the deck of the ship because there was no room for them below deck.
At ten o’clock at night, the ship sailed and zig-zagged its way through the harbor to avoid mines. As it left Manila, the patients could see and hear the explosions of gasoline storage tanks and ammunition dumps being dynamited by American troops. The patients had not been told about their destination so when the silhouette of Corregidor loomed out of the darkness they believed this was their destination. When the island began to fade into the darkness, the patients knew for the first time that they were being sent to Australia.
The ship headed south, in Japanese controlled waters, and the wounded expected that any time it would be hit by a torpedo. On January 7, it arrived at Makassar, East Dutch Indies, and a Dutch pilot came aboard to dock the ship. While there, a plane was spotted and air raid sirens and alarms sounded. It turned out that the plane was from a friendly country. The men on the ship learned later that the pier where they were docked was mined and almost blown up while the ship was docked to it.
The ship’s crew and medical staff attempted to get supplies but were unsuccessful. On January 11, the ship sailed and again took a southerly route. At this point, the freshwater was shut off and water and food were rationed. Two days later, on the 13th, the ship arrived at Darwin, Australia, and again attempted to get supplies. As it turned out, Darwin was rationing what it had and could not spare any supplies for the ship.
On January 14, the ship sailed again. The next day, whistles and alarms began blowing on the ship. The soldiers learned that there was a fire in the engine room and were issued life jackets. As it turned out the waters they were in were infested with sharks. The ship’s crew put out the fire but one engine room crew member was badly burned.
The ship ran into a typhoon on January 16 and rode it out. Two days later, the men heard that a Japanese radio broadcast had been intercepted that claimed the S.S. Mactan had been sunk at sea resulting in the deaths of all on board. The ship arrives at Townsville, Australia, on the 20th and seven bags of cement were brought aboard. It turned out it was used on the ships haul to waterproof it. The next day, food, water, clean linens, and medicine were brought aboard.
The ship sailed on the 23rd and arrived at Brisbane, Australia, the next day. While there, the men drank milk and were fed. It sailed on the 25th For Sydney, finally arriving there on January 27. The wounded and sick were told that a new hospital, 113th Australian General Hospital, had opened ten miles from Sydney and they would be transported there.
Albert spent six months in the hospital and was reassigned to another unit and where he continued to fight in the South Pacific. During this time, he was wounded a second time. After recovering in August 1944, he returned to Janesville.
For the remainder of the war, Albert was assigned to military supply movement as a Military Distribution Planning Officer on the West Coast in San Francisco. He rose in rank to captain and was discharged from the army on January 15, 1946.
Albert J. Bartz married Jeanette Worthington on September 5, 1947, and went to work for General Motors plant in Janesville and retired in 1970. He died on March 30, 1973, in Janesville, and was buried at Fassett Cemetery in Edgerton, Wisconsin.