2nd Lt. Donald Ray Bertrand
2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand was born in Roswell, New Mexico, on August 8, 1919. When he was two, his parents, Thomas Bertrand & Mary Pope-Bertrand, moved their family first to Estherville, Iowa, and later to Maywood, Illinois. In Maywood, he, his brother, and two sisters were raised at 205 South 8th Avenue and attended Emerson Grade School. He graduated from Proviso Township High School in 1939 and worked as a receiving clerk at a paper goods company.
Donald joined the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard to fulfill his military obligation. On November 28, 1940, Donald left Maywood for Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training. At Fort Knox, Donald learned to operate the all the equipment used by the 192nd. He attended radio operators school and qualified as a radio man.
When Headquarters Company was formed, in
January 1941, Donald was assigned to the
company as the technical sergeant in the
reconnaissance platoon. From September
1 to 30, the 192nd was sent to take part in
maneuvers in Louisiana. When
the maneuvers ended,
the battalion was
ordered to report to
members of the
battalion had no idea
why they were being
sent there. What
they were told, on the
side of a hill, was
that they were being
He returned home on leave and
got engaged to Evelyn Crowe.
The reason the battalion was being sent overseas was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was lower than the others, 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, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, hundreds of miles away, that had a large radio transmitter.
The squadron continued its flight plan south to
Mariveles and back to Clark Field. After the
planes landed, they reported what they saw, but it
was too late in the day to do anything. The
next morning, planes were sent to the area and saw
a fishing boat making its way toward shore with
the buoys under a tarp on its deck. Since
radio communication between the Air Corps and Navy
was poor, the boar escaped.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T.
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.
In the Philippines, Donald received a
battlefield commission as an officer and
reassigned to C Company.
He was made a tank platoon
commander. On December 1st, the
tankers were ordered to the perimeter of
Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese
paratroopers. From this time on, two
tank crew members, or half-track crew
members, remained with each vehicle at all
times and received their meals from food
On December 16, 1941, Donald and Lt.
Emmett Gibson were at Clark Field when
Japanese planes appeared and bombed the
airfield once more. The two
officers found themselves in a
slip-trench during a Japanese air
attack. Each one had a .30 caliber
machine gun and opened fire on the
planes. Both men watched as their
tracers went through the wings of the
Japanese fighters. The pilots of
the planes broke off the attack and took
off for home.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the
company crossed over the last bridge which was
mined and about to be blown. The 192nd
held its position so that the 194th Tank
Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover
the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last
American unit to enter Bataan.
night, while on beach duty, the Japanese
attempted to land troops on the beach
guarded by B Company. The company and
the Japanese got into a tremendous fire
fight. When morning came, not one
Japanese soldier had been landed on the
beach. The Japanese later admitted
that the tanks guarding the beaches
prevented them from attempting other
The company also took part in the
Battle of the Points on the west coast
of Bataan. The Japanese landed
troops but ended up trapped. One
was the Lapay-Longoskawayan points
from January 23rd to 29th, the
Quinawan-Aglaloma points from January
22 to February 8, and the
Sililam-Anyasan points from January 27
to February 13. The defenders
successfully eliminated the points.
Food for the prisoners was generous. The food was well prepared and each POW received a full mess kit of rice and a canteen cup filled with a thick cabbage soup containing pork. They even were given corn beef and cabbage one night.
The trip on the freighter lasted 13 days. The reason was the ship made frequent stops in ports along the coast of Luzon. The POWs disembarked the ship at Davao, where they joined another group of 1000 prisoners. To the POWs these prisoners at Davao appeared to be well fed when compared to the men in their group. Upon arrival of new POWs, the rations for these men were cut in half which caused friction between the two groups.
At Davao, the prisoners were assigned to a farm. The prisoners grew rice, sweet potatoes, cassava roots, coffee and squash. The food was used to feed the Japanese soldiers in the Philippines. Leftover food was ship to the military in Japan. The only part of this food the prisoners received were the plant tops from the sweet potatoes. The prisoners were fed rice three times a day. The evening meal would also include mongo beans. For three to four months, the POWs also received tuna fish once a week.
Unlike the many camps, there was plenty of water available to the prisoners and there was a well in the compound. The POWs could actually keep themselves and their clothes clean. Being clean was a great help in improving the health of the POWs. While he was a POW there, his parents received a POW card from him.
As the American forces got closer
to send as
many POWs to
Japan or other
On June 6,
the POWs to
the POWs were
held in the
holds for six days before it
sailed on the
for Cebu City
The POWs were
taken off the
ship and held
The POWs were
the dock and
and arrived at
Manila on June
25 and was
On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out. The next day, December 13, the POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection which started at 7:30 in the morning and lasted until after 9:00. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued. The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them. They were allowed to roam the compound.
By 11:30 A.M., the POWs were lined up, roll call was taken, and the POWs formed detachments of 100 men. The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march, down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
The Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports. There were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked. One was a old run down ship, while the other two were large and in good shape. They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship.
It was at this
time that the
allowed to sit
Many of the
until 3:45 in
5:00 PM and
The POWs remained on the tennis courts for nine days. During their time on the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. What is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
kilo bags of
rice for the
About half of
the rice had
fallen out of
Each POW was
spoons of raw
rice and a
quarter of a
While in harbor at Takao, the Enoura Maru came under attack by American planes the morning of January 9. The POWs were receiving their first meal, when the sound of ship's machine guns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard. The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.
One bomb that hit the ship exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 285 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in the hold for three days with the dead, and the stench from the dead filled the air. On January 11th, a work detail was formed and the dead were removed from the hold. placed on a barge, and taken to shore. The POWs on the burial detail were too weak to lift the bodies, so ropes were tied to the bodies, they were dragged to shore, and buried in a mass grave. Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold were moved into another hold.
On January 13, the surviving POWs were boarded onto the Brazil Maru. On the ship, the POWs found they had more room and were actually issued life jackets. The ship sailed for Japan on January 14th as part of a convoy. 2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand died in the ship's hold on January 20, 1945. The cause of death was listed as dysentery on the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion, but U.S. Army records show that he died from wounds he had received during the attack on the Enoura Maru. Donald was 23 years old.
After 2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand died, his body was thrown overboard after being stripped of its clothing. His clothing was given to other prisoners who needed it. Since he died at sea, 2nd Lt. Donald R. Bertrand's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.