Burke, Capt. Edward L.

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Capt. Edward Louis Burke
Born: 19 September 1914 – Brainerd, Minnesota
Parents: Patrick J. Burke & Anne Gresbeck-Burke
Siblings: 4 brothers, 1 sister
Hometown: 1007 Grove Street – Brainerd, Minnesota
Education: high school graduate
– St. Paul College of Law
– two years of college
– worked as a process server while in school
– left school to help support his family
– Minnesota National Guard
– 10 June 1936 – rose in rank from private to the rank of First Sergeant
– 30 June 1940 – resigned from National Guard as an enlisted man
– 1 July 1940 – Second Lieutenant
Married: Rachel Pernina Oliver – 30 September 1937
– Children: 1 daughter, 1 son
– after the war, the couple had 2 additional daughters and 2 additional sons
– U. S. Army
– 10 February 1941 – Brainerd, Minnesota
– remained at armory until 19 February 1941
– marched to Northern Pacific Train Station
– 12:19 A.M. – 20 February 1941 – board train for Fort Lewis, Washington
– the company had two tanks, one reconnaissance car, and six trucks
– Ft. Lewis, Washington
– described as constantly raining during the winter
– many men ended up in the camp hospital with colds
– Typical Day – after they arrived at Ft. Lewis
– 6:00 A.M. – first call
– 6:30 A.M. – Breakfast
– During this time the soldiers made their cots, policed the grounds around the barracks, swept the floors of their barracks, and performed other duties.
– 7:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. – drill
– 11:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. – mess
– 1:00 P.M. – 4:30 P.M. – drill
– 5:00 P.M. – retreat
– 5:30 P.M. – mess
– men were free after this
– a canteen was located near their barracks and was visited often
– the movie theater on the base that they visited.
– The theater where the tanks were kept was not finished, but when it was, the tankers only had to cross the road to their tanks.
– Saturdays the men had off, and many rode a bus 15 miles northeast to Tacoma which was the largest town nearest to the base
– Sundays, many of the men went to church and services were held at different times for the different denominations
– later the members of the battalion received specific training
– many went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for training in tank maintenance, radio operation, and other specific jobs
– the soldiers wore a collection of uniforms. Some wore new uniforms while other men had World War I uniforms
– The situation was resolved when Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower and other officers rode up on horseback to where C Company was training.
– one of the officers asked why they were dressed like they were
– later that afternoon, at 4:00 P.M., a truck pulled up to the barracks
– inside were brand new Army overalls
– the soldiers wore these as their dress uniforms until real dress uniforms were received weeks later
– some members of the battalion received specific training
– Ft. Knox, Kentucky
– attended radio school, tank mechanic school, automobile mechanics school
– those men who remained at Ft. Lewis often found themselves policing the base collecting garbage and coal
– the battalion did most of its tank training on weekends
Note: When Maj. Miller was made Commanding Officer of the
194th, Edward Burke commanded A Company as a First Lieutenant – 10 February 1941
– 194th Tank Battalion
– A Company commanding officer

Note: On August 15, 1941, orders were issued, to the battalion, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. 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, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.

The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

Overseas Duty:
– Battalion took the train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco
– ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: 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
– took a southern route away from main shipping lanes
– escorted by U.S.S. Astoria – heavy cruiser and the U.S.S. Guadalupe a fleet replenishment oiler
– several times smoke from unknown ships seen on the horizon
– intercepted ships from friendly countries
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembarked ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents upon arriving
– 15 November 1941 – moved into barracks
– the barracks walls were open and screened from the floor to three feet from the bottom of the wall
– above that, the walls were woven bamboo that allowed the air to pass through
– washing facilities seemed to be limited with the lucky man being able to wash by a faucet with running water
Work Day:
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
– 6:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. 
– Noon – lunch
– 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. – worked
– the shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that the climate made it too hot to work
– the tankers worked until 4:30 P.M.
– the term “recreation in the motor pool” was used for this work time
– during this time, the tank crews learned about the M3A1 tanks
– tank commanders read manuals on tanks and taught crews about the tanks
– studied the 30-caliber and 50 caliber machineguns
– spent three hours of each day taking the guns apart and putting them back together
– did it until they could disassemble and assemble the guns blindfolded
– could not fire guns since they were not given ammunition
– the base commander was waiting for General MacArthur to release the ammunition
– the soldiers spent their free time bowling, going to the movies,
– they also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around
– on Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming
– they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– they also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits
– the country was described as being beautiful
– the battalion wore fatigues to do the work on the tanks
– the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms while working
– they continued to wear fatigues in their barracks area to do their work
– if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms
– 1 December 1941 – tanks ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field
– their job was to protect the airfield from enemy paratroopers
– two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times
– 194th guard north end of the airfield and the 192nd Tank Battalion guarded the south end of the airfield
– meals served by food trucks to men with the tanks
– those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at the command post
– Battle of Luzon
– 8 December 1941 – Clark Field
– Burke and his driver had gone to Mass
– it was a Catholic feast day
– they were returning to their quarters when the attack took place
– both men jumped out of their peep (jeep) and dove into a ditch
– during the Japanese attack on the airfield, Burke was wounded in his left buttocks above his leg
– taken to the hospital
– the medical officer wanted to send him to Australia
– he responded, ” My men need me, I can command a tank standing up”
– He returned to his company the same day stating the hospital was overcrowded with soldiers who were more seriously wounded
– in his own words, “They had too much to do at the hospital.”
– after the attack on Clark Field, the battalion was ordered to the barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 10 December 1941
– the battalion sent to Mabalcat
– C Company was sent to Southern Luzon to support troops
– 12 December 1941
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived at 6:00 A.M.
– 14 December 1941
– A Co. & D Co., 192nd moved to just north of Muntinlupa
– 15 December 1941
– received 15 Bren gun carriers
– turned some over to 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts
– Bren gun carriers used to test ground to see if it could support tanks
– 22 December 1941
– sent to Rosario
– west and north of the barrio
– ordered out of the 71st Division Commander
– said they would hinder the cavalry’s operation
– 22/23 December 1941
– operating north of Agno River
– main bridge at Carmen bombed
– 24 December 1941
– operating in Hacienda Road area
– promoted: Captain
– 25 December 1942
– at the Agno River
– walking on road inspecting tanks
– fired on by Japanese
– severely wounded
– Lt. Harold Costigan saw him hit and saw the blood and flesh fly
– Ed was thrown into a ditch
– he had suffered four separate wounds
– a ricochet bullet had torn into his left shoulder
– a bullet was embedded into each of his feet
– another bullet chipped a vertebra temporarily paralyzing him
– he could not answer the men who were searching for him and calling to him
– lay in the ditch for almost 24 hours
– captured by Japanese the next evening as they came through mopping up the area
– although he still could not move, they beat him with bamboo poles
Prisoner of War:
– 27 December 1941
– taken to the Pasay School
– other POWs were being held there
– drank as much water as the Japanese gave him since he had lost a lot of blood
– his clothing, including boots, were cut off him since they were caked in blood
– Major Bob Beason cared for Ed
– dressed Ed’s wounds every day
– washed the soiled dressings and hung them to dry so they could be used again
– Ed credited Beason with saving his life
– the two men would remain together their entire time as POWs
– A Japanese officer ordered his troops not to harm him because he had shown he was not afraid to die
– New Years Day
– lay naked on a concrete floor shivering in the night in the cold with his teeth chattering
– someone covered him in a tablecloth decorated with poinsettias
– he managed to tear the tablecloth with his good arm and made himself a pair of shorts
– he found humor in the fact that each cheek of his buttocks had a poinsettia on it
– when asked if he thought he was going to die, he said, “Oh no. I knew I WASN’T going to die.”
– when asked how he knew this, he said, “I made the Novena of Nine First Fridays as a grade-schooler, and I knew I would not be
  allowed to die without the presence of a priest. “

POW Camps:
– Philippines:
– Unknown
– Cabanatuan
– original name: Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from the death march and Camp O’Donnell
– Camp 2: four miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– POWs later moved to Camp 1
– Camp 1:
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins
with their hobnailed boots
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– to prevent escapes, the POWs set up patrols along the camp’s fence
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed after being beaten
– the other POWs were forced to watch the beatings
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given the name because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– 1 November 1942
– 1500 POW names drawn by Japanese
– POWs selected were sent to Japan
– POWs never were told this, they figured it out on their own
– 5 November 1942
– 3:00 A.M. – POWs left camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan
– before they left camp, they were given their breakfast to take with them
– rice and what the Japanese called a “large piece of meat”
– the piece of meat was two inches square and a quarter inch thick
– it was large compared to a piece of meat they usually received
– boarded train
– 98 POWs were put into each car
– the POWs could move if they worked together
– rode train to Manila
– arrived at 5:00 P.M.
– marched to Pier 7
– slept on a concrete floor inside a building
Hell Ship:
Nagato Maru
– Boarded: Manila – 6 November 1942 – 5:00 P.M.
– Japanese attempted to put 600 POWs into one hold
– settled for somewhere between 550 and 560
– 9 POWs had to share a 4 foot, 9 inches, by 6 foot, 2 inches, space
– to sit, POWs had to draw their knees under their chins
– Sailed: 7 November 1942
– two latrines were supposed to service 1500 POWs
– the POWs had to stand in line to use them
– extremely sick could not reach latrines
– tubs put in holds for the sick
– to reach them, they had to walk on other POWs
– floor quickly became covered in human waste
– hold infested with lice, fleas, and roaches
– Meals: no system in place for distribution of food
– the sickest POWs did not eat
– water was almost non-existent
– holds were extremely hot
– POWs were rotated on deck
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 11 November 1942
– stayed three days in the harbor
– POWs were allowed on deck for short periods of time
– Sailed: 15 November 1942
– Arrived: Mako, Pescadores Islands
– same day
– Sailed: 18 November 1942
– Arrived: Keelung, Formosa – same day
– Sailed: 20 November 1942
– POWs felt explosions from depth charges
– Arrived: Moji – 24 November 1942
– stayed in on ship until 5:00 P.M. the next day
– as they left the ship, POWs received a piece of colored wood
– the color determined what camp the POW was sent to
– POWs deloused and showered after coming ashore
– inoculated
– given new clothing
– POWs ferried to Shimonoseki, Honshu
– boarded train and rode along the northern side of the Inland Sea to Osaka-Kobe Area
– divided into detachments, according to colored wood chips, and sent to camps
POW Camps:
– Japan:
– also known as Osaka #4-B
– Arrived: November 1942
– Work: regardless of rank, the POWs were required to work at removing the side of a mountain for a Japanese Navy dry dock
– in violation of the Geneva Convention.
– Punishment:
– subjected to daily beatings at morning and evening muster.
– during many of the beatings, they were forced to stand at attention from 2 to 2½ hours
– sometimes resulting in them not receiving their next meal
– shoes, rifle butts, belts, sticks, shovels, clubs, fists, and even furniture were used in the beatings
– no real reason was needed for the beatings, but a violation of some camp rule usually was the given reason
– POWs were beaten if their detail did not remove their quota of material from the work site
– they failed to meet the quota because they were too hungry and weak to meet the quota
– while being beaten, the POWs were forced to hold a heavy log or rock above their heads.
– on one occasion 30 officers were made to stand at attention so that the Japanese found out who had misplaced a Japanese book

– 14 December 1942 – his wife learned he was a Prisoner of War


A few days later she received a letter from the War Department.

“Pernina Burke
515 Sixteenth Street

“The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your son, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:

“It is suggested that you address him as follows:

“Capt. Edward L. Burke, U.S. Army
Interned in the Philippine Islands
C/O Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan
Via New York, New York

“Packages cannot be sent to the Orient at this time. When transportation facilities are available a package permit will be issued you.

“Further information will be forwarded you as soon as it is received.


                                                                                                                                               Howard F. Bresee
                                                                                                                                               Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                               Chief Information Bureau”

– January 1943 -selected to be sent to Zentsuji Camp
– during the trip, when American planes were seen the train cars were uncoupled from the engine and left on tracks to be strafed
Zentsuji Camp
– Arrived: 15 January 1943
– POWs worked as stevedores at railroad yard and the Port of Takamatsu
– when American planes bombed rail yard, the POWs were locked inside boxcars
– poor diet resulted in deaths of POWs
– medicine and medical supplies were available to POWs
– Punishment:
– two civilian guards, Leatherwrist and Clubfist hit POWs
– both had bad hands
– Leatherwrist hit the POWs with his leather brace
– Clubfist also hit the POWs
– they would also kick the POWs
– both guards hit the POWs for no reason
– often used a kendo stick, bayonet, or rifle butts
– Australian Jesuit Priest, Fr. Victor S. Turner, was known as “The Pope of Zentsuji”
– cared for POWs regardless of faith
– when Japanese gave the POWs the first meat they had seen in months, in their soup, on Good Friday, he told them to eat all of it and not      to waste a piece of it, or waste a drop of soup
– told them they would sinning against their bodies if they didn’t eat
– foiled the Japanese who wanted to use the POW refusal to eat the soup as proof of how well-fed they were
– Red Cross Packages withheld from POWs
– 25 June 1945 – a large group of POWs transferred from camp
– during the trip, American planes were everywhere
– the Japanese believing the train was going to be strafed, again uncoupled the engine and left the baggage cars and boxcars the
POWs were in as targets on the tracks
– did this several times
Rokuroshi Camp
– 29 July 1943 – wife learned he was a POW in Japan
Broadcast: November 1943

“I am in good health and getting along well. Colonel Miller, captain Muir, and Lt Swearingen from Brainerd are at this camp and in good health. Fred Gross from Crosby is also here and asks that his uncle, A. F. Gross, 5808 London Road, Duluth, Minn, be informed of his well being.

“I have not yet received any answer from you in reply to the letters I have written. I would certainly appreciate word as to how you are getting along. Some of the officers have received radiograms or letters so use any means available to let me know how you are.

“All my love to you, Marionne and Perry. Keep your chin up and let’s hope we will be together again soon. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas.

“This is Captain Edward L. Burke at the Zentsuji War Prison Camp in Japan, broadcasting to my wife Pernina Burke at Brainerd, Minn., or 1817 Berry Street, Olympia, Washington.”

– Mrs. Burke had written regularly and even was told by the Red Cross that he had received her Christmas Message in 1942
Broadcast: August 1945
– Pernina Burke received a telegram from the War Department that her husband had made a radio broadcast.

“It has been an awful long time since your last letter. Received those, however; written on on our anniversary and my birthday. I hope you are all well and I’m looking forward to our stay at Silver Creek. Give all my love to yourself, Mary Ann, and Perry (his children) also to mother, dad, and our friends. Scotty (Capt. Muir), Russ (Lt. Swearingen) and the colonel (Col. Miller), are also well, so is Bob (Maj. Bob Beason, Mt. Vernon, N.Y., who had been with him since he was captured in December 1941.) …. send snapshot when you write. Just staple them to the inside of the letter folder. Once again all my love. May God keep you safe for me and keep praying for me. Your loving husband, Ed. Capt. Edward L. Burke, Hiroshima Camp.”

– POWs told that the war was over
– raised an American flag that one POW had sewn into his jacket
Liberated: 7 September 1945
– during food drop, one 50 gallon drum broke free and barely missed the POWs
– 7 September 1945
– American Recovery Team arrived
– POWs evacuated – 8 September 1945
– rode the train to Yokohama
– when they got there, there was an Army band playing, “California, Here I Come”
– many men overwhelmed by their emotions upon hearing the song
– former POWs were taken down to the docks for a meal of hotcakes, jam, butter, and coffee
– returned to Philippine Islands
Transport: S.S. Storm King
– Sailed: Manila – not known
– Arrived: San Francisco – 15 October 1945
– Letterman General Hospital – San Francisco, California
Promoted: Major – October 1945
Discharged: 8 January 1947
– returned to National Guard
– left National Guard – 1 January 1949
Residence: Saint Cloud, Minnesota
– fought alcoholism and had been sober for almost nine years in 1970
Occupation: Dispatcher – Minnesota State Highway Department
– 9 November 1970 – Sterns County, Minnesota
– cancer
– Fort Snelling National Cemetery – Saint Paul, Minnesota
– Plot: N, 0, 1995

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