Durner, Sgt. Herbert A. Jr.

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Durner Herb

Sgt. Herbert August Durner Jr. was one of the three sons of Herbert A. Durner Sr. & Bessie May Fellows-Durner. He was born on June 15, 1916, and grew up in Evansville, Wisconsin, and graduated from Evansville High School in 1935. After high school, he worked as an electrician’s apprentice. Knowing that a draft act had been passed, Herb joined the Wisconsin National Guard’s 33rd Tank Company in Janesville, Wisconsin.

In the fall of 1940, the 32nd Tank Company was called to federal duty as A Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion and ordered to Fort Knox, Kentucky. An advance team of three men was sent to the fort followed by a detachment of 23 soldiers that left the armory at 7:00 A.M. on November 27th in a nine truck convoy. It is known that the roads were ice-covered so the trip was slow which resulted in one truck hitting a civilian’s car. No other information is available about the incident. The driving conditions improved the further south the convoy traveled. The soldiers spent the night at an armory in Danville, Illinois, before heading south to Ft. Knox arriving there sometime the next afternoon.

The next day, November 28th, between 4:00 and 5:00 P.M., the main detachment of soldiers marched from the armory to the Milwaukee Road train station in Janesville where they boarded special cars that were added to the Marquette to Chicago train. One was a flatcar with the company’s two tanks on it. At some point, the train cars were uncoupled from the train and switched onto the Chicago & North Western line that went into Maywood. There, the members of B Company boarded the train. In Chicago, the train cars were switched onto the Illinois Central Railroad and taken to Ft. Knox arriving around 8:00 A.M. When they arrived, trucks were waiting at the station to take them to the fort. Their first housing were six men tents since their barracks were not finished. 

On December 22nd, many of the members of A Company returned to Janesville for Christmas. It appears because of his duties, that Herb was not one of them. 1st Sgt. Dale Lawton – on December 26th – was given the job of picking men to be transferred from the company to the soon to be formed HQ Company. Men were picked for the company because they had special training. Many of these men received promotions and because of their rating received higher pay. 

A Company moved into its barracks in December 1941. The men assigned to the HQ Company still lived with the A Company since their barracks were unfinished. 25 men lived on each floor of the barracks. The bunks were set up along the walls and alternated so that the head of one bunk was next to the foot of another bunk allowing for more bunks to be placed in the least amount of space allowing for 50 men to sleep on each floor. The first sergeant, staff sergeant, and master sergeant had their own rooms. There was also a supply room, an orderly room – where the cooks could sleep during the day – and a clubroom.

The one problem they had was that the barracks had four, two-way speakers in it. One speaker was in the main room of each floor of the barracks, one was in the first sergeant’s office, and one was in the Capt. Walter Write’s office. Since by flipping a switch the speaker became a microphone, the men watched what they said. The men assigned to HQ Company moved into their own barracks by February. The guardsmen were housed away from the regular army troops in the newly built barracks. Newspapers from the time state that the barracks were air-conditioned. Although the barracks were finished, A Company shared D Company’s mess hall until the company’s mess hall opened.

The area outside the barracks was described as muddy and dusty most of the time. An attempt was made to improve the situation with the building of walkways and roads around the barracks.

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. The classes lasted for 13 weeks. Herb was sent sergeants’ school for communications.

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 they ate they stood in line to wash their mess kits since they had no mess hall. At first, A Company’s meals were served in D Company’s mess hall until heir mess hall was finished in December. 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. 

It was also at this time that all the battalion had 16 operational tanks and the first men from selective service were assigned to the company. On January 10th, these men took their first tank ride and all of them had the chance to drive the tanks. They would permanently join the company in March 1941.

During their free time during the week, the men could go to one of the three movie theaters on the outpost. They also sat around and talked. As the weather got warmer, the men tried to play baseball as often as possible in the evenings. At 9:00 P.M., when lights went out, most went to sleep. On weekends, men with passes frequently went to Louisville which was 35 miles north of the fort, while others went to Elizabethtown sixteen miles south of the fort. Those men still on the base used the dayroom to read since it was open until 11:00 P.M.

Capt Walter Write, during February, commanded a composite tank company made of men from all the companies of the battalion. The company left Ft. Knox on a problematic move at 9:00 A.M. The company consisted of three motorcycles, two scout cars, sixteen tanks, one ambulance, and supply, fuel and kitchen trucks. The route was difficult and chosen so that the men could become acquainted with their equipment. They also had to watch out for simulated enemy planes. Bridges were avoided whenever it was possible to ford the water.

At noon, the column stopped for a short rest and a lunch that did not materialize. A guide had failed to stay at one of the crossings until the kitchen truck arrived there, so instead of turning into the woods, the truck went straight. After the break, Capt. Write ordered the men back to Ft. Knox without having been fed.

In late March 1941, the entire battalion was moved to new barracks at Wilson Road and Seventh Avenue that had bathing and washing facilities in them and a day room. The new kitchens had larger gas ranges, automatic gas heaters, large pantries, and mess halls. One reason for this move was the men from selective service were permanently joining the battalion.

At 7:00 A.M. on Monday, June 16th, the battalion was broken into four detachments for a three-day tactical road march. The most important part of this march was to train the soldiers in loading, unloading, and setting up the battalion’s administrative camps. It also prepared them for the Louisiana maneuvers which they were scheduled to take part in during September.

The battalion traveled with 20 tanks, 20 motorcycles, 7 armored scout cars, 5 jeeps, 12 peeps (later called jeeps), 20 large 2½ ton trucks (these carried the battalion’s garages for vehicle repair), 5, 1½ ton trucks (which were the battalion’s kitchens), and 1 ambulance. The battalion traveled through Bardstown and Springfield before arriving at Harrodsburg at 2:30 P.M. where they set up their bivouac at the fairgrounds. The next morning, they moved to Herrington Lake east of Danville, where the men swam, boated and fished. The battalion returned to Ft. Knox on Wednesday, June 18th through Lebanon, New Haven and Hodgenville, Kentucky.

In August 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. During the maneuvers, the battalion, which was part of the red army, broke through the defenses of the blue army, under the command of Gen. George S. Patton, and was about to overrun its headquarters when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled.

It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill at Camp Polk that they were being sent overseas. Those men determined to be too old were released from federal service. Those going overseas received a ten-day pass home.

The overseas destination of the 192nd was given the designation “PLUM,” but Herb found that PLUM was known to everyone at Camp Polk. All over the camp on light poles and in day rooms, the army had posted bills seeking volunteers to join the 192nd. The volunteers were needed to replace those men released from federal service. The bills also stated that the battalion was being sent overseas to the Philippine Islands. In spite of this, Herb was actually threatened with a court-martial when he spoke about the battalion’s destination.

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.

The battalion’s new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto flat cars, on different trains. The soldiers also cosmoline put on anything that they thought would rust. Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island 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. The ship 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 9th, 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. The cruiser repeated this action several times during the voyage.

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 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 all 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.

For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance expecting to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

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 and received their meals from food trucks.

The morning of December 8, December 7 in the United States, the 192nd was guarding the perimeter of Clark Field. A week earlier, they had been given assigned positions around the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers. At 8:30 in the morning, the American planes took off and filled the sky. They landed at noon to be refueled and were lined up in a straight line near the mess hall. The pilots went to lunch.

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 until they watched raindrops fall from the planes. When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.

After the attack on December 12, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad from sabotage. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River. There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position.

On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. In spite of his wounds, he continued to give orders to his company. His main concern was for his soldier’s safety. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.

In an incident, that took place at the same time, the company was told by General Wainwright’s headquarters that he was the immediate commander of the area. This belief of the highest-ranking officer in an area being in command was a situation the tankers found themselves in repeatedly until tank command made it clear that the tanks would only take orders from it.

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.

The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, as the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River. Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep. It was that night that the Japanese launched an attack to cross the river.

The Japanese attempted to cross the river but were cut down by the tankers. The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks. To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smokescreen. Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line. The Japanese broke off the attack heaving suffered 50% casualties.

The tankers were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1, conflicting orders were received from the General MacArthur’s chief of staff about who had command of the troops. Gen. Wainwright was attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan and was unaware of the orders.

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.

A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. The company returned to the command of the 192nd.

The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan. The night of January 7, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek. The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.

The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets – from January 23 to February 17- to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed back to the original line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.

To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.

The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank going around in a circle dragging the unpowered track and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks so they wouldn’t smell the rotting flesh in the tracks.

While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.

On January 28, the tank battalions 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.

As a tank commander, it was Herb’s job to command the tank’s crew during engagements against the Japanese. He would also control which way the driver would go through a series of signals given by tapping the driver on his shoulders. Herb’s tank crew of Pvt. Ed DeGroot, Pvt. Bob Bohem, and Cpl. Ken Squire did what they could during the attack.

A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks’ machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened fire on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.

As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31 and January 1. Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep. It was that night that the Japanese launched an attack to cross the river.

As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers. The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks. To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smokescreen. Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had lost about half their men.

At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three tanks.

On January 1, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur’s chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.

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. It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half. It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers. The company returned to the command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.

While American and Filipino were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops. The morning of January 27, a new battle line had been formed and all units were supposed to be beyond it. That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were supposed to have withdrawn. While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point-blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.

On January 28, the tank battalions 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.

A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets – from January 23 to February 17 – to wipe out Japanese troops who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until the tank, which had been relieved, had left the pocket.

To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.

The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank going around in a circle and grinding its way down into the foxhole. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.

Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.

The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers’ rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.

The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantily clad blond on them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.

On March 2 or 3, during the Battle of the Points. The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line. The Japanese were soon cut off. When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket. Both of the pockets were wiped out.

The company’s last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines, he said, “There are times when men must die.” The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.

On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.

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.”

Once news of the surrender reached them, Herb’s tank crew and the other tank crews spent their remaining time as free men cutting the gas lines on their tanks and firing an armor-piercing shell into the engines of each of the tanks. After they had finished, they waited for the Japanese to arrive. This took place the next day.

When the Japanese arrived, Herb and the other men have pushed around, and the Japanese made menacing gestures with their rifles. Each rifle had a bayonet attached to it. The company was sent south to Mariveles, where they were searched and the Japanese took whatever they wanted from the men. It was from this barrio at the southern tip of Bataan that he started what became known as the death march.

It took Herb five days to complete the march. He recalled that there were men who did not have shirts to protect their skin from the sun. These men literally baked in the sun as they marched. With him on the march were Dale Lawton and Forrest Knox.

The POWs marched north toward San Fernando. As they walked they passed artesian wells. According to Herb, at one point he and the other POWs were stopped at wells. They could look at the water flowing from them, but they were not allowed to take any water. To keep moisture in his mouth, Herb kept a pebble in his mouth and worked it around his swollen tongue.

At another point on the march. Herb and the other prisoners were left sitting in the sun for hours. In his opinion, the Japanese wanted the POWs to bake.

At San Fernando, Herb and the other prisoners were boarded onto small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. They were packed in so tightly that the dead remained standing until the living left the cars. At Capas, the POWs climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O’Donnell.

Camp O’Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed 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.

There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw 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.

While a prisoner at Camp O’Donnell, the POWs were given permission to collect water for baths. The men organized a system were they carried water to the camp in small buckets. They then dumped the water into a 55-gallon drum. This job turned out to be long and hard. To protect their work, the men posted a guard. Somehow the system broke down and the drum of water was left unguarded. When Herb came up to the barrel, two officers were using the water.

Herb explained to the officers that the water belonged to him and his friends. The officers looked at Herb and said that it was their water and that they were going to use it. Herb kicked the barrel as hard as he could causing it to spill its contents on the ground. This left the two officers covered with soap with no place to rinse off. Herb didn’t stick around to find out how they got the soap off themselves.

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 cleaned area, and the area they had lain in 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. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick but could walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.

In May ore early June 1942, his family received this letter from the War Department.

“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Sgt. Herbert A. Durner 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 (Herbert A. Durner Jr.) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”

The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan. On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, they were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Pangatian.

To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.

The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. The POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them. Other POWs worked in rice paddies.

The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. The result was many became ill.

Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads. In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.

While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs bought or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.

The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as “Zero Ward,” which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two-foot-wide by six-foot-long area to lie in. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.

In July, his family received a second letter from the War Department. The following is an excerpt from it.

“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Sgt. Herbert A. Durner 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.”

Herb was also held as a POW at Cabanatuan. During his time at the camp, medical records show that he was admitted to the camp’s hospital on August 14, 1942. The reason why he was hospitalized was not given. His date of release was also not given.

In December 1942, Herb was selected to go out on a work detail. The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms, and thirty POWs were assigned to each room. The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy. The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war. The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.

Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942. The work was easy until the extension reached the hills. When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand. The Japanese replaced the wheelbarrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped the dirt as land-fill. As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.

At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and “bongo,” or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men. After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice. After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and a half to the airfield.

After arriving at the airfield, the POWs were counted again. They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted. At the end of the workday, the POWs were counted again, and when they arrived back at the school, the Japanese counted them again. Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs. They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.

The brutality shown to the POWs was severe. The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the “White Angel” because he wore a spotless naval uniform. He was the commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.

One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway. Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up. When he couldn’t four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School.

At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible. The other Americans were ordered back to the school. As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school. The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots. The American officer told the men that the POW had said, “Tell them I went down smiling.” Then, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him. As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time. The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.

The second commanding officer of the detail was known as “the Wolf.” He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform. Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up. The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups. If a man’s arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.

On another occasion, a POW collapsed on the runway. The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks. When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, so he banged the man’s head into the concrete floor, kicked him in the head, and finally, he took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.

A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him. The guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him. He was dead by evening.

The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in wooden boxes. The Japanese had death certificates with the causes of death, signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes. The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened. It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid that they learned what the detail was like. These men had been sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.

During his time on the detail, Herb developed pellagra and sent to Bilibid Prison where he was admitted on March 18, 1943. He remained in the hospital ward until June 28th, when he was discharged and sent to Cabanatuan.
In March 1944, Herb’s name appeared on a roster for transport to Japan. The POWs boarded the Nissyo Maru and sailed on July 17, 1944.

Later the same day, the ship dropped anchor at the harbor breakwater and remained there waiting for a convoy to form. The ship sailed as part of a convoy on July 24th and proceeded, hugging the coast of Luzon. On July 26, the ships ran into an American wolf pack resulting in two ships being sunk. A third ship was hit by torpedoes at night and shot flames over the open hatches of the Nissyo Maru which lit the sky.

The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th and remained in the harbor until the next day when it sailed again. It arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 3, 1944, and the POWs disembarked and rode a train to Hitachi arriving on April 11.

Upon arriving in Japan, Herb was held at Ashio Camp which was also designated as Tokyo #9B. He was given POW #3954 and worked as slave labor in the Ashio Copper mine which had been reopened during the war.

Living conditions in the camp were atrocious, and the camp had a limited amount of water because the water line to the camp was broken. This meant they could not wash after working and that there was limited water for cooking.

The POW kitchen was 40 feet from the latrines resulting in flies being everywhere in the kitchen. The Japanese also did not supply lids for the cooking utensils. The Japanese guard in charge of the POW mess stole food for himself that was meant for them. POWs reported he was seen carrying sacks of rice and sugar, assigned to them, from the camp.

In the camp, the POWs slept in barracks that were inadequately heated and during the cold nights, the POWs had only thin blankets to cover themselves with. The Red Cross blankets that were sent to the camp, for the POWs, were issued to the guards.

The Japanese appropriated the Red Cross packages for themselves and stored them in a warehouse inside the camp. Besides the blankets, they also took chocolate, canned meats, fruit, and milk, and clothing meant for the POWs.

Since a certain number of POWs had to report for work each day, the Japanese medic in charge of the sickbay, sent men to work who were too sick to do heavy work. The Japanese also withheld medicine and medical supplies sent for POW use and used it for themselves.

It appears Herb was transferred in July 1945 and would spend the remainder of the war at Tokyo Camp #1-B which also was known as Kawasaki #1. The prisoners in the camp were used as slave labor at the Kawasaki shipyard. At the shipyard, some of the POWs worked as welders while others worked as laborers.

When the POWs arrived at the camp, the commanding officer told them, to intimidate them, that they would never leave Japan. The Japanese practiced “collective punishment” in the camp. If one POW violated a rule all the POWs were required to stand at attention in the cold and snow. As they stood there, the Japanese would hit each POW in the face and club and kick them. They next made the POWs hit each other.

When the Red Cross came to the camp, the commanding officer told the POWs that anyone who complained about the treatment in the camp would be punished severely. The Japanese also pilfered the Red Cross packages taking canned meats, canned milk, chocolate, and cigarettes from them. They also withheld medication from the POWs. Red Cross clothing. like shoes, coats, and uniforms, was worn by the Japanese.

The punishments that were given to the POWs usually involved standing at attention. They were often made to stand at attention in a manhole and had cold water poured on them when it was cold. They also were often made to stand at attention and hold their arms out while holding two buckets filled with water. At other times, they were made to kneel on sharp pieces of wood for long periods of time or they were hung from iron bars. Some guards found it amusing to use jiu-Jitsu on the POWs.

When the war ended, Herb was the seventh member of A Company liberated on September 4, 1945. Of the 99 men who left Janesville on November 25, 1941, Herb was one of 34 to survive the war and Japanese prison camps.

After he was liberated, his parents received this telegram or a similar telegram:

“Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Durner Sr.=

 “Janesville, Wisconsin (222 N. Washington St.)

“The Secretary of War has asked me to inform you that your son Sgt. Herbert Durner Jr. returned to Military control 4 Sept 45 and is returned to the United States within the near future period. He will be given an opportunity to communicate with you upon arrival=

“Edward F. Witsell
“Acting Adjutant General if the Army”

When he returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Hugh Rodman, arriving at San Francisco on October 3, 1945, he was sent to Letterman General Hospital for more medical treatment. Herb returned to Evansville after the war, and when he arrived home, he learned that his parents had moved to Janesville.

Herb Herb was discharged from the Army on April 26, 1946, and married Majorie Hayne on June 1, 1946, and they became parents of two children. He worked as an electrician and served three terms as the president of Local #890 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Janesville.

One of the lasting effects of his time as a POW was that Herb had a hard time smiling. He also never forgave the Japanese for what he had gone through as a POW.

Herbert Durner Jr. passed away on May 26, 1995, and was buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Evansville, Wisconsin in Campbell Block 3, Section 036, Grave 8.

Default Gravesite 1

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