Erickson, Pvt. Charles F.

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Erickson_C

Pvt. Charles Frederick Erickson 
Born: 6 August 1913 – Durand, Wisconsin 
Parents: Andrew Erickson and Augusta Sobottka-Erickson 
Siblings: 3 brothers 
Hometown: Durand, Wisconsin 
Occupation: worked for the county highway department 
Selective Service Registration:
– 16 October 1940
– Next of Kin: Father
Inducted: 
– U. S. Army 
– 7 April 1941 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin 
Training: 
– Fort Knox, Kentucky 
– assigned to a company of the 1st Armor Division for training
– trained by officers and enlisted men from the companies of the 192nd Tank
Battalion 
Basic Training:
– basic training was shortened
– first six weeks was the primary training 
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week  – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Week 7: Time was spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping, and caring for
  weapons, and the cleaning of weapons
– trained in using equipment of tank battalion 
Louisiana Maneuvers
– half of the battalion left Ft. Knox on September 1st in trucks and other wheeled vehicles
– spent the night in Clarksville, Tennessee, 160 miles south of Ft. Knox
–  7:00 A.M. the next morning, the detachment was on the move
– On the second day, the soldiers saw their first cotton fields which they found fascinating
– they spent the night in Brownsville, Tennessee
– on the move the following morning at 7:00 A.M
– At noon, the convoy crossed the Mississippi River which they found amazing
– spent the night in Clarksdale, Mississippi
– at noon the next day, the convoy crossed the lower part of Arkansas
– arrived at Tallulah, Louisiana
– there, they washed, relaxed, and played baseball against the locals
– this also gave them a break from sitting on wooden benches in the trucks
– the remaining soldiers, the tanks, and other equipment were sent by train
– left the base on September 3rd
– arrived at Tremont, Lousiana
– the men and trucks were waiting for them at the train station
– when they arrived they lived in tents
– snake bites were a major problem
– it appeared that every other man was bitten at some point by a snake
– the tank platoon commanders carried a snakebit kit
– they were used to create a vacuum to suck the poison out of the bite
– the bites were the result of the nights cooling down and snakes crawling under the soldiers’ bedrolls for warmth while the soldiers were sleeping on them
– one multicolored snake – about eight inches long –  was beautiful to look at, but if it bit a man he was dead
– the good thing was that these snakes would not just strike at the man
– they only struck if the man forced himself on it
– when the soldiers woke up in the morning they would carefully pick up their bedrolls to see if there were any snakes under them
– to avoid being bitten, men slept on the two and a half-ton trucks or on or in the tanks
– another trick the soldiers learned was to dig a small trench around their tents and lay rope in the trench
– the burs on the rope kept the snakes from entering the tents
– the snakes were not a problem if the night was warm
– they also had a problem with the wild hogs in the area
– at night while the men were sleeping, they would suddenly hear hogs squealing
– the hogs would run into the tents pushing on them until they took them down and dragged them away
– the food was also not very good since the air was always damp 
– this made it hard to get a fire started
– many of their meals were C ration meals of beans or chili that they choked down
– washing clothes was done when the men had a chance
– found a creek, looked for alligators, and if there were none, took a bar of soap and scrubbing whatever they were washing
– clothes were usually washed once a week or once every two weeks
– the tanks held defensive positions during the maneuvers
– usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters
– the tanks were used to counter-attack and in support of infantry and held defensive positions for the first time
– some men felt that the tanks were finally being used like they should be used and not as “mobile pillboxes.” 
– some men described the maneuvers as being awakened at 4:30 A.M. and sent to an area to engage an imaginary enemy
– after engaging the enemy, the tanks withdrew to another area
– the crews had no idea what they were doing most of the time because they were never told anything by the higher-ups
– a number of men felt that they just rode around in their tanks a lot
– at Ft. Knox, the tankers were taught that they should never attack an anti-tank gun head-on
– one day, during the maneuvers, their commanding general threw away the entire battalion doing just that
– after sitting out a period of time, the battalion resumed the maneuvers
– at some point, the battalion also went from fighting in the Red Army to fighting for the Blue Army
– the sandy soil was a major problem for the tanks
– crews parked their tanks and walked away
– when they returned, the tanks had sunk into the soil up to their hauls
– to get them out, other tanks attempted to pull them out
– if that didn’t work, the tankers brought a tank wrecker in from Camp Polk to pull the tank out
– one good thing that came out of the maneuvers was that the tank crews learned how to move at night
– it was never done at Ft. Knox
– the night movements prepared them for what they would do in the Philippines
– the drivers learned how to drive at night and to take instructions from their tank commanders who had a better view from the turret
– at night a number of motorcycle riders from other tank units were killed
– they rode their bikes without headlights on
– this meant they could not see obstacles in front of their bikes
– when they hit something they fell to the ground and the tanks following them went over them
– this happened several times before the motorcycle riders were ordered to turn on their headlights
– the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, after the maneuvers
– on the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas
– men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service
– replacements came from the 753rd Tank Battalion
– the 192nd also got the 753rd’s tanks and half-tracks
– most men were given a 10-day furlough home to take care of unfinished business and say goodbye to family and friends
– when they returned to Camp Polk, they found themselves, once again, living in tents
– during their time there, it rained a great deal of the time
– the men always seemed to be wet and went over a week without taking a shower
Overseas Duty:
– two stories why the 192nd was being sent overseas
First Story: this move was caused by an event that took place in the summer of 1941
– A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf
– one of the pilots noticed something odd
– he took his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water
– he came upon more flagged buoys
– they lined up – in a straight line – for 30 miles to the northwest,
– lined up in the direction of a Taiwan hundreds of miles away.
– the island had a large radio transmitter 
– the squadron continued its flight plan
– flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field
– when the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
– the next day planes were sent to the area
– the buoys had been picked up 
– a fishing boat was seen making its way toward shore
– it had a tarp covering something on its deck
– communication between the planes and the Navy was poor
– nothing was done to intercept the boat
– the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines
Second Story:
– the battalion had done extremely well during the Louisana maneuvers
– they were picked to go overseas by Gen. George Patton
– he had commanded their tanks during the maneuvers
– the is no proof he had picked them
Fact: The United States was building up its military presence in the Philippines
– many units were being sent there
First Tank Group
– the unit was fully operational by early June 1941
– 192nd Light Tank Battalion was part of the tank group
– 193rd Light Tank Battalion, at Ft. Benning, Georgia, was also in the tank group
– 194th Light Tank Battalion at Ft. Lewis, Washington, was also in the tank group
– two medium tank battalions were in the tank group
– 71st Tank Battalion and 191st Tank Battalion – both were at Ft. Meade, Maryland
– a heavy tank battalion was also supposed to join the tank group
– none was ever selected
–  it appears that the decision to send the tank group to the Philippines had been made before June 1941
– only the 192nd and 194th had arrived before the start of the Pacific War
– the 193rd was on its way when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor
– after arriving in Hawaii, it was held there
– the 71st and 191st never received orders to the Philippines 
Transport:
– rode a train to Ft. Mason north of San Francisco
– it was followed by a second train carrying the company’s tanks
– ferried on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island
– received inoculations from the battalion’s medical detachment
Overseas Duty:
– Boarded: U.S.A.T. Hugh Scott
– Sailed: San Francisco, California – Monday, 27 October 1941
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Sunday, 2 November 1941
– Sailed: San Francisco – Monday – 27 October 1941
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Sunday – 2 November 1941
– remained in Hawaii until other ships in convoy arrived
– Sailed: Thursday – 6 November 1941
– took a southern route away from main shipping lanes
– joined by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and the transport, S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– smoke was seen on the horizon
– Louisville revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it intercepted the ship
– the ship was from a neutral country, but two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters carrying scrap metal
– Sunday – 9 November 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– soldiers woke up on Tuesday – 11 November 1941
– Arrived: Guam – Sunday 16 November 1941
– the ship loaded with water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables
– Sailed: next day
– passed Japanese held island in total blackout
– Arrived: Thursday – 20 November 1941 – Manila Bay – 7:00 A.M.
– soldiers disembarked the ship three hours after arrival
– boarded train for Ft. Stotsenburg
– maintenance section remained behind to unload tanks from the ship
– helped by the 17th Ordnance Company
– tanks and trucks were driven to fort
Stationed:
Ft. Stotsenburg
–  Gen. Edward P. King Jr. met the soldiers when they arrived
– apologized to soldiers about living conditions
– lived in tents along the main road between fort and Clark Airfield
– made sure they all had Thanksgiving dinner before he had his dinner
– the dinner was a stew thrown into their mess kits
– men unloading the tanks had a turkey dinner
Communications:
– 192nd had a large number of ham radio operators
– within hours of arriving, the battalion was in touch with the U.S.
– men radioed home they had arrived safely
– the monitoring station in Manila could not figure out where all the new radio traffic came from
-finally learned it was the 192nd
– the battalion was issued its own frequencies
Tents:
– The members of the battalion pitched the ragged World War I tents in an open field
– it was halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort
   Stotsenburg.
– the tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent
– there were two supply tents
– meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents
– the area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs.
– the planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet
– they blew dirt everywhere and the noise was unbelievable.
– at night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield
– they were Japanese reconnaissance planes
Uniforms:
– the battalion wore fatigues to do the work on the tanks
– the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing their dress uniforms 
– 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 their dress uniforms
– the khaki uniforms they had been issued were heavy material and uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat
Typical Day:
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– hygiene – 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
– followed the example of the 194th Tank Battalion on doing this
– 5:10 – dinner
– after dinner, the soldiers were free to do what they wanted to do
Recreation:
– 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
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– wrote letters home
– talked about the heat, people, and food
Alert:
– 1 December 1941 – tankers assigned positions around Clark Field
– two tank crew members remained with tanks at all time
– meals served from food trucks
– 8 December 1941
– parents received the only letter home written by Charles
– dated – 25 November 1941
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1941
– 192nd Tank Battalion had a radio communications tent
– Maj. Ted Wickord, CO of the 192nd, and Maj. Ernest Miller, CO of the 194th read news of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor
– Gen. James R. N. Weaver, CO of Tank Group were with them
– Miller ordered his battalion be brought up to full strength at the airfield
– the half-tracks took positions next to the tanks
– lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
– planes did not go after tanks
– after the attack, 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– the company’s transfer to the 194th Tank Battalion was suspended indefinitely
– it retrained its designation of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
– it was attached to the 194th
– 12 December 1941 – Barrio of Dau
– guarded a road and railway
– 23/24 December 1941
– Urdaneta. Pangatian Province
– while outside barrio the company’s commander Captain Walter Write was killed
– the tanks were not allowed to withdraw, they almost were captured
– tanks made an end run to a bridge in the Bayambang Province over the Agno River
– 25 December 1941 – tanks held the south bank of Agno River from Carmen to Taehyung
– held the position until 5:30 A.M. until December 27
– prevented the Japanese from crossing
– 30 December 1941
– A Company wiped out a Japanese Bicycle Battalion that rode into its bivouac at night
– the company had bivouacked on both sides of a road
– a noise was heard – the tankers grabbed Tommy-guns and stood behind their tanks
– as they watched the bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac
– the tankers opened up with everything they had
– when they ceased fire, the entire battalion had been wiped out
– A Company attached to 194th – east of Pampanga
– withdrew from the area
– 2nd Lt. William Read killed during withdraw
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 27 December 1941 -at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan
– 28 and 29 December 1941 – at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan 
– 31 December/January 1 – the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge 
– received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff, about whose command they were under
– ordered to withdraw from the bridge
-they were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 
– this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to enter Bataan
– General Wainwright was unaware of the orders
– the orders caused confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges
– about half the defenders withdrew
– 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
– 2 January to 4 January – the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape
– at 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remedios in force and using smoke as cover
– The attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions
– at 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties
– January 6/7 – that night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula 
– the 192nd held its position so that the 194th could leapfrog past it and cross the bridge
– the 194th covered the 192nd’s withdrawal over the bridge
– the 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
– The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa
– assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road
– the half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks
– the members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations
– after daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
– A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, B Co.
– its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa and keep it open 
– it was also to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use the road to overrun the next defensive line that was forming
– while in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire
– the rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road
– word came that a bridge was going to be blown up, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, including the composite company
– this could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation
– the tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road
– almost one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance
– most of the tank tracks had worn down to the bare metal
– the radial engines were long past their 400-hour overhauls

It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: “Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay.”

– 25 January 1942 – the battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Hacienda Road
– the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. – – — one tank platoon was sent to the front of the column of trucks which
   were loading the troops
– the tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw
– inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese
– Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads
– the withdrawal was completed at midnight
– the tanks held the position until the next night
– 26/27 January 1942 – they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.
– ordered to withdraw to the new line
– the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga had been destroyed by enemy fire
– to withdraw, they had to used secondary roads to get around the barrio
– tanks were still straggling in at noon the next day
– The Battle of the Points
– on the west coast of Bataan
– Japanese troops  landed ended up trapped
– Quinawan-Aglaloma point from January 22 to February 8
– Sililam-Anyasan point from January 27 to February 13
– the defenders successfully eliminated the points 
– drove their tanks along the Japanese defensive line firing their machine guns
– the Japanese had dug “spider holes” among the roots of the trees
– made it hard to eliminate foxholes
– the tankers could not get a good shot at the Japanese
– The 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts followed the tanks eliminating any resistance – – drove the Japanese Marines over the edge of the cliffs
– they hid in caves
– the tanks fired into the caves killing or forcing them out of them and into the sea
– 27 January 1942
– tanks held the position for six hours to allow a new line of defense to form
– tanks and self-propelled mounts inflict 50% casualties on three Japanese units
– 28 January 1942 – beach duty
– prevented the Japanese from landing troops on Bataan
– The 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan’s east coast
– the battalion’s half-tracks were used to patrol the roads
– Battle of the Pockets
– 23 January 1942 – 17 February 1942
– wiped out Japanese troops cut off behind the main line of defense
– used two methods to do this
– one was to have three Filipinos ride on the back of a tank
– each man had a sack of grenades and dropped one into the foxhole when the tank went over it
– usually one of the three grenades exploded
– the second method was to park the tank with one track over the foxhole
– the driver gave power to the opposite track
– the tank went around in a circle dragging the unpowered track
– the unpowered track ground into the dirt
– the tankers slept upwind of their tanks
– they did not want to smell rotting flesh
– the Japanese sent soldiers with cans of gasoline against the tanks
– they attempted to jump onto the tanks and pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks
– attempted to set the tanks on fire
– the tankers tried to machine-gun the Japanese before they got to a tank
– the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank
– they 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 popped and wounded the men inside the tank
– the stress on the crews was tremendous
– the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time
– a tank entered the pocket
– 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
– one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter was disabled and the tank just sat there
– when the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there
– during the night, its crew was suffocated inside the tank, by the Japanese.
– they through dirt openings into the tank
– after the Japanese had been wiped out, the tank was turned on its side
– the crewmen were removed and dirt emptied out of the tank
– the tank was put back into use
– the battalion received one of its Distinguished Unit Citation for its performance during the battle
– 1 March 1942
– rations were cut in half again
– the soldiers ate anything they could get their hands on to eat
– Carabao was tough but if it was cooked long enough it could be eaten
– the Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantily clad blond on them
– a leaflet with a hamburger and milkshake would have been more effective
– the amount of gasoline in was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks
– Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks should be sent to Corregidor
– Wainwright declined
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launch new offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– near Mt. Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight
– 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
– His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left.
– 6:30 P.M. – order went out. “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.”
– 10:30 P.M. – the decision was made to send a white flag across the battle line
– 11:00 P.M. – the company is given a half-hour to leave the ordnance depot before the ammunition dumps are destroyed
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
– At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier, and Major Marshall Hurt to meet
   with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender.
 – The white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
– Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment
– the tankers received this message over their radios at 6:45 A.M. on 9 April 1942
– circled tanks and fired an armor-piercing shell into each tank’s engine
– opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into the crew compartment
– as King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through the tank group and spoke to them
– he told them he was going to get them the best deal he could get
– he also said, “Boys. When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say to you, you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.”
– Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag
– They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it
– As the jeeps made their way north, they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane
– The drivers of both jeeps managed to avoid the bombs and bullets
– The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing
– About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to
   negotiate a surrender and that an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations
– The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do
– After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed.
– King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags
– Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived.
– King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss
   King’s surrender
– King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter
– he was accused of declining to surrender unconditionally
– At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan
– He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners
– The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.”
– King found no choice but to accept him at his word
– 9 April 1942 – Bataan surrendered
Prisoner of War:
– 11 April 1942
– Japanese arrived at A Company’s bivouac
– searched the POWs and took what they wanted from them
– POWs ordered to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan
– the March
– Mariveles – POWs start the march at the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor
– Americans on Corregidor returned fire
– San Fernando – POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– 100 POWs packed into each car
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas – dead fell to the floors as living left boxcars
– POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippine Islands:
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to the guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– the Japanese never had a shortage of water
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– the POWs dug a trench, found the pipe, and put in a second water line
– the Japanese also turned off when they wanted water
– the POWs could turn the water on without the Japanese knowing it
Meals:
– Breakfast – a half cup of soupy rice and occasionally some type of coffee
– Lunch – a half of a mess kit of steamed rice and a half of cup of sweet potato soup
– Dinner – they received the same meal as lunch
– all meals were served outside regardless of the weather
Housing:
– barracks were designed for 40 men
– but as many 80 to 120 men slept in a barracks
– other men slept on the ground under the barracks
Toilets:
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
Hospital:
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never
  to write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by the Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– a second Red Cross truck was turned away at the camp gate
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six medics – assigned to care for 50 sick POWs in the hospital – was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the dead were moved to one area
– the ground under the hospital was scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered with lime
– usually the dead were not buried for two or three days
Work Details:
– if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– many of the POWs came back from the work details and died in the camp
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– as many as 50 men died each day
– In late May or early June 1942, his parents received this letter from the War Department:

Dear Mr. A. Erickson:

        According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Private Charles F. Erickson, 36,206,291, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the  Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender. 

        I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter.  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 other islands of the Philippines.  The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect 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 surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received.  It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date.  At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war.   In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired.  At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.

        Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months;  to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held;  to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress.  The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records.  Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.

                                                                                                                                                                    Very Truly yours

                                                                                                                                                                           J. A. Ulio (signed) 
                                                                                                                                                                      Major General
                                                                                                                                                                  The Adjutant General
  

– to get out of the camp he went out on a work detail
Tayabas Road Detail:
– 300 POWs left Camp O’Donnell – 29 May 1942
– took three days to reach the site
– POWs built a road
– food was prepared in a rusty wheelbarrow
– POWs slept on rocks
– many came down with malaria
– Charles became ill and was sent to Bilibid Prison
– Bilibid Prison
– U.S. Naval Hospital Unit
– doctors believed there was little they could do for him and the other POWs from the detail
– they referred to these POWs as “the living dead”
– the doctors believed POWs from detail were doomed to die
– admitted to hospital – 10 July 1942
– records indicated he was suffering from blood in his stools
– In July a second letter was sent to the families of men being held by Japan
– The following is an excerpt from the letter.

“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Private Charles F. Erickson 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.”

Died:
– Sunday – 8 August 1942 – dysentery and malaria
– time of death – 11:30 A.M.
– date of death verified by the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion and records kept by doctors on the Tayabas Road Detail
Buried:
– Bilibid Hospital Burial Plot
– Row: 2 Grave: 28
– Parents learned of his death late on 29 May 1945
– In early 1943 – family received word he was a POW

REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE CHARLES F ERICKSON IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST MARSHALL GENERAL=
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL=

A week or so after this notification, they received a letter from the War Department.

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:

Pvt. Charles F. Erickson, 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.

                                                                                                                                                Sincerely

                                                                                                                                               Howard F. Bresee
                                                                                                                                               Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                               Chief Information Bureau

– when they received this message, they had no idea he had died as a POW
– 22 June 1943 – he was officially listed as having died as a POW
– his parents received a message from the War Department weeks earlier

=I AM DEEPLY DISTRESSED TO INFORM YOU REPORT JUST RECEIVED STATES THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE CHARLES F ERICKSON WHO PREVIOUSLY HAD BEEN REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION DIED AS A JAPANESE PRISONER OF WAR PERIOD THE SECRETARY OF WAR ASKS THAT I EXPRESS HIS DEEP SYMPATHY IN YOUR LOSS AND HIS REGRET THAT THE UNAVOIDABLE CIRCUMSTANCES MADE NECESSARY THE UNUSUAL LAPSE OF TIME IN REPORTING YOUR SONS DEATH TO CONFIRMING LETTER FOLLOWS=

           ULIO THE ADJUTANT

– In September 1945, his parents received a letter from Chaplain Perry O. Wilcox. He said:

I have recently returned to the States after imprisonment under the Japanese in the Philippine Islands and have just received permission to send letters of condolence to the nearest of kin of army men who were buried at Bilibid prison.

Your son, Pvt. Charles F. Erickson, 36026291, died in Bilibid Military prison hospital 8 August 1942. I noticed the war department probably informed you using a date 11 May 1943, that being the date on which they received the information. It was the custom to drop men as deceased on the date that the report was received. But the date I am giving you is the date on which I performed his burial in the prison cemetery. The cause of death was malaria, complicated with amoebic dysentery and lack of food. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to say what was the cause of death. Most of us had enough things combined to make it hard to attribute death to any one thing.

Bilibid prison hospital was staffed by American naval doctors and hospital corpsman of excellent skill and they rendered the best services that they could do to all patients considering their limitations as to equipment and medicines.

I may also say that all burials in Bilibid were made in individual graves, well marked with heavy plank crosses on which the name and date of death were carved with a chisel. The cemetery was well cared for, the grass mowed and flowers growing in large flower beds about the cemetery. None of the graves suffered any damage in the battle of Manila.

I find our prisoners of war are being accorded equal honors with those who served without falling into the hands of the enemy, and I hope it will be some comfort to you to feel your son did his best as long as he could and that his imprisonment under the Japanese was due to circumstances over which he had no control.

Note: Wilcox sent this same message to multiple families.
Memorial Service:
24 June 1945 – St. John Lutheran Church, Durand, Wisconsin
Transport:
U.S.A.T. Sgt. Morris E. Crain
– Arrived: 22 September 1948 – San Francisco
– the ship carried the remains of 3500 dead from Manila and Saipan
Reburied:
– October 1948 – Forest Hill Cemetery – Durand, Wisconsin

EricksonCGr

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