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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
Inducted:
– U. S. Army
– 7 April 1941 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Training:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– trained in using equipment of tank battalion
– Camp Polk, Louisiana
Transport:
– 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
– soldiers given shore leave
– Sailed: Wednesday, 5 November 1941
– escorted by U.S.S. Louisville and an unknown destroyer
– Arrived: Guam – Sunday, 16 November 1941
– ship loaded bananas, vegetables, water, and coconuts
– Sailed: next day
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – 20 November 1941
– tankers lived in tents along main road between fort and airfield
Pre-War:
– 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
– Clark Field
– lived through 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 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 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
– 24 July 1942 – family received word he was a POW
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:

“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Pvt. Charles F. Erickson 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 (Charles F. Erickson) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”

– 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, Pvt. 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 & 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 in May 1945
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
Reburied:
– October 1948 – Forest Hill Cemetery – Durand, Wisconsin

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