2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca was
born on October 23, 1918, to Joseph and Sarah
Danca in River Forest, Illinois. He was
known as "Emmanuel" to his family and
friends. With his brother and sister, he
grew up at 26 Lathrop Avenue in Forest Park,
Illinois, and attended grade school there.
He was a graduate of Proviso Township High School
as a member of the Class of 1935.
On February 13, 1935, Richard joined the
Illinois National Guard while he was a senior in
high school. He was honorably discharged
as a private later that year. He
reenlisted and was discharged again in
1938. Richard again reenlisted in the
National Guard. During his time in the
National Guard, he worked as a company clerk,
truck driver and mechanic.
Richard married Elenore Drexler
on March 11, 1940. His family resided at
815 Marengo Avenue in Forest Park. He
worked for the U. S. Post Office as a postal
clerk at Hines Veterans Administration
Hospital. He was also a good father to his
infant son, Richard, who was born at Fort Knox,
while Danca was training there. He was a
devoted husband to his wife.
On November 25, 1940, the
Maywood Tank Company was called to federal duty
as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. It was
at this time that "Dick," as he was called by
his friends, was promoted to 1st Sergeant.
This made him the "Top Kick" or highest ranking
enlisted man in B Company.
With the creation of Headquarters Company in
January of 1941, B Company was in desperate need
of officers. To fill the vacancies,
Richard, along with Matthew MacDowell and Ed
Winger, was promoted to the rank of second
lieutenant. Each of these new officers
went to a service school to help them learn the
skills of administering a tank company.
Richard was given command of the first tank
platoon of the B Company.
After training at Fort Knox, Kentucky was
completed, Richard went with the 192nd to take
part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was
after these maneuvers that the battalion was
called together at Camp Polk and informed that
they were being shipped overseas.
The decision to send the 192nd to
the Philippines 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 noticed
something odd. He took his plane down and
identified a buoy in the water. He came
upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight
line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied
island. When the squadron landed he
reported what he had seen. By the time a
Navy ship was sent to the area, the buoys had
been picked up. It was at that time the
decision was made to build up the American
military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion's men and equipment were loaded
onto trains and headed west to San
Francisco. On the train, Capt. Donald
Hanes called his platoon commanders together to
select combat numbers for their tanks.
Richard being third in seniority picked
third. These numbers were to painted on
the tanks after they arrived in the Philippine
battalion traveled west by train to San
Francisco. Arriving there, they
were taken by ferry to Angel Island in
San Francisco Bay. At Ft.
McDowell, they were given physicals and
inoculated. Those men found
to have a minor medical condition were
held back and scheduled to rejoin the
battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto
the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on
Monday, October 27th. 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
2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers
were given shore leave so they could see the
On Wednesday, November 5th,
the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly
route away from the main shipping lanes.
It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy
cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and,
another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to
bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11th. During the night,
while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Date Line. On Saturday,
November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was
seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved
up its engines, its bow came out of the water,
and it shot off in the direction of the
smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a
ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on
Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water,
bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing
for Manila the next day. At one point, the
ships passed an island at night and did so in
total blackout. This for many of the
soldiers was a sign that they were being sent
into harm's way. The ships entered Manila
Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th,
and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.
At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by
bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove
trucks drove them to the fort, while the
maintenance section remained behind at the pier
to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by
that they had
to live in
the main road
fort and Clark
He made sure
that they all
he went to
was the date
members of the
expected to be
The grease was
put on the
belts and did
On December 1st, the tanks were
ordered to the
Clark Field to
members had to
be with their
tank at all
The morning of
ordered to the
As they sat in
At noon, the
and the pilots
At 12:45, the
they knew the
At 12:45 in the afternoon on
December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the
attack on Pearl Harbor, the soldiers lived
through the Japanese attack on Clark
Airfield. That morning, they had been
awakened to the news that the Japanese had
bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.
The tankers were eating lunch when planes
approached the airfield from the north. At
first, they thought the planes were
American. They then saw what looked like
rain drops falling from the planes. It was
only when bombs began exploding on the runways
that the tankers knew the planes were
Japanese. The company remained at Clark
Field for the next two weeks.
tank battalion received orders on
December 21st that it was to proceed
north to Lingayen Gulf. Because
of logistics problems, the B and C
Companies soon ran low on gas.
When they reached Rosario, there was
only enough for one tank platoon, from B
Company, to proceed north to support the
On December 23rd and
24th, the battalion was in the area of
Urdaneta. The bridge they
were going to use to cross the Agno
River was destroyed and the tankers made
an end run to get south of river.
As they did this, they ran into Japanese
resistance early in the evening.
They successfully crossed at the river
in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25th, the
tanks of the battalion held the southern
bank of the Agno River from Carmen to
Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th
holding the line on the
Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks
held the position until 5:30 in the
morning on December 27th.
The tankers were fell
back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan
on December 27th, and December were at
San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on
December 28th and 29th. While
there, the bridge over the Pampanga
River was destroyed, they were able find
a crossing over the river. On
January 5th, Richard was wounded in an
engagement with the Japanese. His
wife received this news in a telegram
the week of January 18th.
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.
Over the next several months,
the battalion fought battle after battle with
tanks that were not designed for jungle
tank battalions, on January 28th, were
given the job of protecting the
beaches. The 192nd was assigned
the coast line from Paden Point to Limay
along Bataan's east coast. The
Japanese later admitted that the tanks
guarding the beaches prevented them from
B Company also
took part in the Battle of the
Pockets to wipe out Japanese
soldiers who had been trapped
behind the main defensive
line. The tanks would
enter the pocket one at a time
to replace a tank in the
pocket. Another tank did
not enter the pocket until a
tank exited the pocket.
exterminate the Japanese, two
methods were used. The
first was to have three Filipino
soldiers ride on the back of the
tank. As the tank went
over a Japanese foxhole, the
Filipinos dropped three hand
grenades into the foxhole.
Since the grenades were from
WWI, one out of three usually
method to use to kill the
Japanese was to park a tank with
one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave
the other track power resulting
with the tank spinning around
and grinding its way down into
the foxhole. The tankers
slept upwind of their tanks from
the tanks because of the smell.
The last news that Richard's
family received from him was in a letter dated
February, 1942. They did not receive the
letter until August 1942.
On April 9, 1942, Richard became a Prisoner of
War when the defenders of Bataan were
surrendered to the Japanese. The tankers
destroyed their tanks before making their way to
Mariveles. It was from there that Richard
began the Death March.
Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, the POWs
made their way to San Fernando. At one point,
they had to run past Japanese artillery that was
firing at Corregidor. Corregidor returned
fire. At San Fernando, they were held in
cattle bins that were covered in human waste.
POWs were then boarded onto small wooden boxcars
used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold
forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed
100 POWs into each car. At Capas, the POWs
disembarked the boxcars and walked the last ten
miles to Camp O'Donnell.
As a POW, Lt. Richard Danca was held at Camp
O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. At Cabanatuan,
he was assigned to Barracks #29 which was an
officers barracks. He was then sent to
Bilibid Prison for transport to Japan.
Sometime during these imprisonments, he
developed an infection which resulted in his
developing blood poisoning.
It was on the Hell Ship, Nagato Maru,
that 2nd Lt. Richard E. Danca died. His
date of death was November 13, 1942. It is
known that he died after the ship had docked at
According to other members of B Company,
Richard's body was taken ashore and
cremated. His ashes were returned to the
ship and given to Lt. Col. Ted Wickord.
Upon the ship's arrival in Japan, the Japanese
authorities took Richard's ashes at Umeda POW Camp.
At the end of the war, no one knew what had
happened to his remains. His wife
learned of his death on September 2, 1943.
the final resting place of 2nd Lt. Richard E.
Danca is unknown, his name appears on the Tablets
of the Missing at the American Military
Cemetery outside of Manila.