Pvt. Emery B. Boardman was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1919 to Charles W. Boardman & Edna Leeman-Boardman. With his two brothers, he was raised at 731 Highland in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and attended Glenbard High School. Before the war, he worked in his father’s reality and insurance business.
Like many young men, Emery knew that the recently passed draft act would most likely result in his serving in the army. To fulfill his military obligation, Emery joined the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Tank Company in Maywood, Illinois, in August 1940. In November 1940, the company was federalized and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to train. It was there, that the tank company became Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.
A typical day for the soldiers started at 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. 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, pistol, 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. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
From September 1 through 30, the tankers took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as they had expected. On the side of a hill, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service and were replaced by men of the 753rd Tank Battalion, and the battalion received the tanks of the 753rd. The decision to send the battalion to the Philippines was made on August 15, 1941.
In January 1941, Emery was transferred to the Headquarters Company when the company was formed with members from the four letter companies and made the company clerk. His specific duties with the company are not known.
In the later summer of 1941, he continued his training during the Louisiana maneuvers. After the maneuvers, the 192nd was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, as they had expected to do. At the fort, on the side of a hill, the members of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. So much for one year of military service. It is not known if he returned home on leave or if he remained at the base while the battalion readied its equipment for transport.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion’s medical detachment. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled 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. 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. 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 the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but the fact was that he had not learned of their arrival until just days before their ship docked. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner – which was a stew thrown into their mess kits – 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.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks. As they sat in their tanks, Japanese planes flew reconnaissance missions over the airfield unchallenged.
At six in the morning on December 8, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of the airfield. All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. As they watched, the saw “raindrops” falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks’ machine guns, were useless against planes. After the attack, the tankers saw the damage done to the airfield. They remained at the airfield for a week before being sent north.
The battalion was sent to Lingayen Gulf, on December 21, where their job was to hold a position until the Filipino and American forces had established another defensive line. They would then disengage and fall back.
It was sometime in the middle of January that Emery wrote a letter to his family which was taken out of Bataan on an American submarine. In the letter, he said, “We’ll make the Japs pay double for what they have done.” His parents had no idea when they received it, it would be the last time they heard from him.
It was the evening of April 8 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.”
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ’s commanding officer, 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.”
On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company’s encampment which made him a Prisoner of War. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans. They remained along the sides of the road for hours.
HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit. As they sat waiting, the 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 prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off. The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs were ordered to move and taken to a schoolyard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces. The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them. Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit. When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.
It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. The first five miles of the march were uphill. They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando. During the march men who had fallen were shot and bayoneted where they fell.
When the march started, Emery was already suffering from dysentery and was very weak. Pvt. William Hauser and another GI helped Emery by carrying him between them.
The second night of the march the POWs were held by a stream from which they were able to get water. It was also there that he was reunited with a friend from high school. The men began to share stories of where they wanted to be instead of where they were at that moment. Emery began telling the other men that he would like to be at a restaurant in his hometown of Glen Ellyn. He described what he would be eating if he were there.
As he spoke, another POW not too far from him heard Emery. When Emery named the restaurant the other man looked to see who was speaking, It turned out that this second GI was Harold Baker who had grown up with Emery in Glen Ellyn. The two friends talked about the good old days and the meals they ate at the restaurant.
The next day during the march the POWs heard a rumor that men who were too ill to march would be taken by truck to the next bullpen. Suffering from dysentery, Emery left his company and attempted to make this arrangement.
As it turned out, the rumor of sick prisoners receiving rides on trucks turned out to be untrue. Emery continued to march, but outside of San Fernando, he had an attack of dysentery and went to the side of the road to relieve himself. A guard seeing this approached Emery and raised his gun to hit him with the butt. Emery raised his arms to his face to soften the blow. Seeing this as an act of defiance, the guard bayoneted Emery in the stomach. When Emery did not die after being bayoneted the first time, the guard bayoneted him a second time. This time the guard left the bayonet in Emery until he slumped over onto his gun. Knowing Emery was dead, the guard pulled the bayonet out of him. The Japanese allowed the other members of the battalion to bury him alongside the road.
In May or early June, his parents received a message from the War Department which said:
“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Pvt. Emery B. Boardman 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 (Emery B. Boardman) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”
They also received a second message from the War Department during July 1942. Part of it stated:
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Pvt. Emery B. Boardman had not been reported as a casualty. 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, until definite information to the contrary is received.
“Efforts to secure prisoner of war lists from the Philippines have not been successful to this date due to the lack of communication and the fact that the Japanese Government has not yet given permission for the Swiss representative and the International Red Cross delegates to make visits to prisoner of war camps in the islands. When the lists of prisoners are received, we will clear the name of your son and send you any additional information that we may have.”
When they received these messages, they had no idea that he had been executed months earlier.
On April 18, 1942, at the age of 23, Pvt. Emery B. Boardman died near the town of Balanga. The Japanese allowed him to be buried by his friends. After the war, his remains were recovered and his body now lies in Plot F, Row 15, Grave 62, at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.