Graff

 


Pvt. Richard W. Graff


    Pvt. Richard W. Graff was born on February 17, 1913, to Frank Graff and Frances Prusvoscky-Graff.   With his two brothers and sister, he grew up in Chicago at 4354 South Princeton Avenue.  He left high school after one year and was employed by the Chicago Tribune as an advertising order clerk for eleven years.  He was known as "Rick" to his family while his friends called him "Dick.".

    Richard was married to Cecelia Fleischer.  On January 21, 1941, knowing that it was just a matter of time until he was drafted, Richard enlisted in the United States Army.  He had always had a desire to serve his country.  At the time, he had no idea how fateful this decision would be for him.

    After enlistment, Richard was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  His drill sergeant was Ben Morin.  At the same time, Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion was formed creating vacancies in the rosters of the tank companies.  Since B Company had been an Illinois National Guard Company and Richard was from Illinois, he was assigned to B Company as a radio man, but he was also qualified as a tank driver.

    During this training, Richard and the other new members of the 192nd were housed in tents.  Being it was late winter, the heaters did not always keep them warm.  It was while living in the tent that Richard became friends with Ed DeGroot who had been assigned to A Company.    

    Richard finished his training as a radio operator and with Company B and was assigned to a tank.     In the late summer of 1941, Frank took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.

    During the trip to the Philippines, Rick wrote to his wife, "Our letters will take longer to reach each other from now on because of the distance.   I'll bet it is 10,000 miles. Don't worry.  I don't believe I would want a furlough after all.  It costs too much from where we are going, and I don't like the idea of traveling too much. If I do go home, I want it to be for good."  
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. 

    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.  They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
    The 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 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed.  The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.  Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
    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, when they withdrew following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
    On December 31st/January 1st,  the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge.  The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6th/7th the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.

    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver:  "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    The 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, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.

    To prevent the Japanese from locating the tanks and half-tracks assigned to guarding the beaches, the tankers would move their tanks out onto the beaches at night and into the jungle during the early morning.  Every morning a Japanese reconnaissance plane known to the Bataan defenders as "Recon Joe" would fly over the jungle trying to locate the tanks.  Since the jungle canopy was so thick, the Japanese had no idea where the tanks where or how many tanks the Americans had.

     One morning, an attempt was made by a Sgt. Walter Cigoi to end the daily flyovers of Recon Joe.  Sgt. Cigoi pulled his half-track out, from under the jungle canopy, onto the beach and started shooting at the reconnaissance plane, but his attempt to shoot down the plane failed.  As a result of this decision, the Japanese now had a good idea where the tanks were located.  Twenty minutes later, four Japanese dive bombers flew to the location and  pasted the tanks and half-tracks.

     According to Frank Goldstein, when the bombs began exploding,  Richard and he were about five feet apart.  To hide from the bombs, Frank dove into a hole, while Richard attempted to hide beside his tank, which unfortunately, provided very little protection.  The falling bombs exploded upon contact with the tree canopy high above the tanks creating shrapnel which flew in every direction. 

    When the bombing ceased, Richard was found, by Frank and other member of B Company, crouching beside the side of his tank with his hands shielding the sides of his head.  Frank recalled that Richard had a "peaceful" look on his face.   Since they did not see any wounds at the time, they did not know that Richard had been hit in the back of the head by a small piece of shrapnel.  Richard was 28 years old when he died.  It should be mentioned that Richard was also the first former employee of the Chicago Tribune to die in WWII, and the flag on top of the Tribune Tower was flown at half-staff in his honor.

    Pvt. Richard W. Graff was reported Killed In Action on Tuesday, February 3, 1942.  He was buried in the Cabcaban Army Airfield Cemetery in Plot B, Row 1, Grave 8 .  His mother received word of his death on February 7, 1942.  When his wife, Cecilia, learned of his death, later the same day, she told a reporter of the Chicago Tribune, "Rick wanted to go last January and be a radio operator with the army.  I was proud at the time and am prouder now."  A memorial service was held at Saint Cecilia's Church, in Chicago, on February 11, 1942.  On April 11th, the Chicago Tribune dedicated an employee service flag to honor its former employees serving in the military.  Richard's wife and mother were present at the ceremony.

    On November 15, 1942, a service flag was also dedicated in his neighborhood on Chicago's south side.  Over 1000 people were present for the ceremony.  The flag had 194 blue Stars and two Gold Stars to indicate the two men from the neighborhood who had died in service. 

    After the war, in 1946, his remains were recovered at Cabcaben Army Airfield Cemetery, and his family had his remains returned to Chicago.  He was buried at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery on October 19, 1948.  Today, he lies next to his mother and father at the cemetery on the southwest side of Chicago .


 


 

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