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Goemmer, Pvt. Milton J.

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Pvt. Milton J. Goemmer
Born: 9 June 1923 – Louisville, Kentucky
Parents: Harry O. Goemmer & Lillian Franklin-Goemmer
Siblings: 2 sisters
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Enlisted:
– U.S. Army
– 30 May 1940 – Miami Beach, Florida
Training:
– Ft. Knox, Kentucky
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– 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
– Weeks 7,8,9: 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
– the company
Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– Company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
– trained alongside 192nd Tank Battalion
– learned to do maintenance on 57 vehicles used by the Army
17 Ordnance Company
– August 1941 – one company inactivated and activated as 17th Ordnance Company
Note: On August 15, 1941, the company received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was 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, and had a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed that evening, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
– traveled by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– arrived Thursday, 5 September 1941
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– Boarded: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– became Thursday – 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
– 27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– 8 December 1942 – lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field
– the company went to a bamboo thicket where they could disperse vehicles
– the company set up a bivouac
– set up machine shop trucks, half-tracks, and trucks
– received orders to return to Ft. Stotsenburg
– the attack took place at 12:45
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– maintained tanks of the 192nd & 194th Tank Battalions
– headquartered in an ordnance depot building
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1941
– Death March
– started the march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– ordered to sit in front of Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– Corregidor returned fire
– knocked out the Japanese artillery
– San Fernando – POWs packed into small wooden boxcars
– Capas – POWs leave boxcars – dead fall-out of cars
POW Camps:
– Philippine Islands:
– Camp O’Donnell
– unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp – 1 April 1942
– 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 were 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 assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, but the Japanese decided who 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 scrapped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid 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
– to bury the dead, the POWs held the body down with a pole while it was covered with dirt
– the next day when they returned, the bodies often were sitting up in the graves or had been dug up by wild dogs
– Japanese opened a new POW camp to lower death rate
– 1 June 1942 – POWs formed detachments of 100 men
– POWs marched out the gate and marched toward Capas to train
– Goemmer left behind because he was considered “too sick” to be moved
Died:
– Friday – 12 June 1942 – dysentery
– approximate time of death – 5:30 PM
Buried:
– Camp O’Donnell Cemetery
– remains could not be positively identified after the war
– buried as an “Unknown” at the new American cemetery
Memorial:
-Tablets of the Missing – American Military Cemetery – Manila, Philippine Islands

 

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