Erickson, Pvt. Charles F.

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Pvt. Charles F. Erickson 
Born: 6 August 1913 – Durand, Wisconsin 
Parents: Andrew Erickson & Augusta Sobottka-Erickson 
Siblings: 3 brothers 
Hometown: Durand, Wisconsin 
Occupation: worked for the county highway department 
– U. S. Army 
– 7 April 1941 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin 
– Fort Knox, Kentucky 
– assigned to a company of the 1st Armor Division 
– trained by officers and enlisted men from the companies of the 192nd Tank
Basic Training:
– length of training was shortened
– 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 
– Camp Polk, Louisiana 
– rode a train to Ft. Mason north of San Francisco
– ferried on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island
– received inoculations from 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: Wednesday – 5 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 ship three hours after arrival
– boarded buses for Ft. Stotsenburg
– maintenance section remained behind to unload tanks from ship
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– Colonel Edward P. King 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
– The members of the battalion pitched the ragged World War I tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort
– The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.
– There were two supply tents and 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 blowing dirt everywhere and the noise was unbelievable.
– At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes.
– In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat. 
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– hygene – 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
– 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
– the battalion wore fatigues to do the work on the tanks
– the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing 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 dress uniforms
– 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
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– Clark Field
– lived through the Japanese attack
– 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
– because 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 south bank of Agno River from Carmen to Tayung
– asked to hold the position for six hours
– held the position until 5:30 A.M. until December 27th
– prevented Japanese from crossing river
– A Company attached to 194th – east of Pampanga
– Lt.William Read killed in action
– remained with 194th until 8 January 1942
– 31 December 1941 to 1 January 1942 – Bamban River
– 192nd held south bank so troops could withdraw
– Japanese lunch a night attack wearing white shirts
– tankers massacre Japanese – 50% casualties
– used smoke in an attempt to cover the attack
– blew back into the Japanese
– Japanese disengaged
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 31 December 1941 – BamBam River
– stop Japanese attempt to cross the river at night
– Japanese suffered 50% casualties
– 23 January 1942 – 17 February 1942
– Battle of the Pockets
– wiped out Japanese troops cut off behind the main line of defense after a failed Japanese offensive
– Two methods used to do this:
– one method had three Filipinos riding on the back of the tank
– each had a sack of hand grenades
– as tank went over each foxhole, they drop three grenades into it
– since the grenades were from WWI, one out three usually exploded
– the second method was for the tank to park with one track over the foxhole
– the driver gave power to the opposite track which caused the tank to go around in a circle
– as it went in a circle it dug lower into the ground
– the tankers slept upwind from their tanks because of rotting flesh in the tracks
– the Japanese attempted to knock out the tanks with gasoline
– a soldier attempted to board the tank and dump the gasoline in its vents to light on fire
– tank crews machine-gunned them before they reached the tank
– those who made it to a tank were shot by the crew of another tank
– the tank crews did not like to do this because it caused the rivets in the hauls to pop wounding the crew members
– 28 January 1942 – beach duty
– prevented Japanese from landing troops on Bataan
– 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
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death 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 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 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
– 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
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– 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 Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– 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 ground under 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 not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria

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

– 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.”

– Sunday – 8 August 1942 – dysentery & 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
– 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


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.


                                                                                                                                               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



Note: 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
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
– October 1948 – Forest Hill Cemetery – Durand, Wisconsin


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