Danca

 

2nd Lt. Richard Emmanuel Danca


 

    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. 

    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.

   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 for this move -  which had been made on August 15, 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying 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 an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away.  The island had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
     When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore.   Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  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 Islands.
    The battalion traveled west by train, over different  routes, to Ft. Mason in San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
    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.
    On Wednesday, November 5, 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 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.  On Saturday, November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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 Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.  Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
    On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.   
    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.

    The tank battalion received orders on December 21 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 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23 and 24, 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 25, 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 27.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  On January 5, 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 warfare. 
The tank battalions, on January 28, 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 attempting landings. 
   
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.
    To 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 exploded.
    The other 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.

    From 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 a bullpen that were covered in human waste. How long he remained there is not known.

    The POWs were organized into detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station where they were boarded onto small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses and known as "Forty or Eights.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floor of the car.  At Capas, the POWs disembarked the boxcars and walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.  When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them.  They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse.  Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp.  These POWs had been executed for looting.
    There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink.  The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again.  This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
    There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled.  In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed.  The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery.  The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
    The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant.  When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
    The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp.  When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
    The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them.  When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
    Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it.  The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria.  To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it.  The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
    Work details were sent out on a daily basis.  Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work.  If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work.  The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.  The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
    On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas.  There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards.  At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan.  The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup.  From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
    To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp.  The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch.  It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.  The POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening.  Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them.Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
    The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting.  The result was many became ill.
   Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call.  While they stood at attention, it wasn't uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads.  In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools.  As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.  While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard.  Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
    The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards.  The ward for the sickest POWs was known as "Zero Ward," which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted.  The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die.  Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each.  Each man had a two foot wide by six foot long area to lie in.  The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.

    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.  According to Ben Morin, Richard was sick and not doing well. His date of death was November 13, 1942.  It is known that he died after the ship had docked at Tokao, Formosa.

    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.  After the ship's arrival in Japan, the Japanese authorities took Richard's ashes after the POWs arrived at Umeda POW Camp.  At the end of the war, no one knew what had happened to his remains.   His wife, Elenore, learned of his death on September 2, 1943.

    Since 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.


 

 

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