Heinrich

Pvt. Kenneth A. Heinrich


    Pvt. Kenneth A. Heinrich was born on April 24, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, to Otto Heinrich & Grace Schmacher-Heinrich.  He grew up, in Chicago, at 1909 West Wilson Avenue with his two brothers and graduated from Senn High School in 1937.   After high school, he attended the RCA  Radio Institute and worked as a repairman at a radio store.

    On April 7, 1941, Ken was inducted into the U. S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  Once there, he was assigned to B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Since the company had been a Illinois National Guard tank company, the army filled the vacancies in the company with men from Illinois. 
    A typical day started at 6:15 A.M. with reveille, but most of the soldiers were already up so they could wash, dress, and be on time for assembly.  Breakfast was from 7 to 8 A.M. which was followed buy calisthenics from 8 to 8:30.  After this, the remainder of the morning dealt with .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in military tactics.
    At 11:30, the tankers got ready for lunch, which was from noon to 1:00 P.M., when they went back to work by attending the various schools.  At 4:30, the tankers day ended and retreat was at 5:00 P.M. followed by evening meal at 5:30.  The day ended at 9:00 P.M. with lights out, but they did not have to be in bed until 10:00 P.M. when taps was played.

    While at Ft. Knox, Ken became friends with Charles Corr, who was one of the soldiers in charge of training radio operators.  On January 13th, Ken was sent to radio operator's school as a radio and qualified as a radioman during his training and assigned to a tank crew.

    In the late summer of 1941, Ken 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. 
    Ken received a pass home and said his goodbyes.  Ken and Corr met at the train station for their return trip to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  Corr introduced his girlfriend to Ken before they left Chicago.
    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 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 island.
    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 Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    The first week of December, 1941, the tankers were ordered to Clark Field to assigned locations.  At all times, two members of each tank crew or half-track crew had to remain with their tank or half-track and received their meals from food trucks.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed the men of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. Many of the men believed that this was the start of the maneuvers they were expecting. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes which had taken off at 8:30 A.M.  At noon, all the planes landed, to be refueled, lined up in a straight line outside the mess hall, and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, planes approached the airfield from the north, and 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.   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 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.   
    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 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 attempting landings.   
     On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.   
    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.

    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  The situation on operational tanks was also critical with C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, having seven tanks left.
    At this time, the tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese and they received fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.

    The morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, B Company received the word "crash" to destroy their tanks.  They circled their tanks and fired an armor piercing shell into the engine of each tank.  They then opened the gasoline cocks inside the crew compartments and dropped hand-grenades into the tanks.   At 7:00 A.M., they officially became Prisoners of War.  When the Japanese made contact with them, Ken's company was ordered to Mariveles, where they were searched and the Japanese took what they wanted from the POWs, before being herded into a field.  It was from this barrio that Ken started what became known as the death march.

    Ken made his way north to San Fernando, where they were ordered into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane which were known as "forty or eights," since each one could hold forty men or eight horses.  One hundred men were packed into each car and the Japanese closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living disembarked the cars at Capas, since there was no room for them to fall to the floors.  From Capas, they made their way to Camp O'Donnell.

    Upon arriving at the camp, the POWs were told by its commandant that they were not POWs but captives and would be treated as captives.  Conditions in the camp were terrible and as many as 55 POWs died each day.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp and men literally died for a drink.  The Japanese finally admitted that they had to do something, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
    Ken was sent to Cabanatuan when it opened, and medical records kept by the camp's hospital staff show that he was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday, June 12, 1942, suffering from malaria and cellulitis and remained in the hospital until January 28, 1943, when he was discharged.  His family did not learn that he was a POW until June 9, 1943. 

    Ken was sent out on a work detail to Clark Field to build runways and revetments.  He remained on the detail until August 17, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison.  It was also on this date that his family received a POW postcard from him.  The card was the first news they had from him in over a year.  During his time as a POW, his weight dropped from 140 pounds to 98 pounds, and he also suffered from pneumonia,  pellagra, and  dysentery. 
    On September 1, 1944, he was admitted to the hospital ward - from Building 12 which was known as "the Casual Group" - at the prison suffering from acute bronchitis.  While he was in the hospital, the Clark Field Detail ended and the other POWs were sent to Bilibid, where they were held until their names appeared on lists of POWs being sent to Japan.

    Ken was scheduled to be sent to Japan on the Hokusen Maru, but at the last minute, a Japanese doctor determined that Ken was too ill, with pneumonia, to go to Japan.  This decision caused Ken to remain at Bilibid, and it also saved his life. 

    As it turned out, Ken's POW detachment was put on the Arisan Maru instead of the Hokusen MaruThe reason this happened was that the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail but not all the POWs, in the detachment, had arrived at the pier.  Since another detachment of POWs which was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru had arrived, the Japanese switched POW detachments and Ken's original detachment was put on the Arisan Maru.  As it turned out, the ship was sunk by an American submarine, and only nine, of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship, survived its sinking.

    On February 4, 1945, Ken was liberated by American troops at Bilibid Prison.  Upon liberation, he was assigned to the 12th Replacement Battalion which meant that he was receiving medical treatment.  His family learned he had been liberated on February 20, 1945.

    Ken returned to the United States arriving in San Francisco on March 16th on the U.S.S. Monterey and sent to Letterman General Hospital.  He was sent to Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago, which had been the Chicago Beach Hotel before the war, and had been commandeered by the military as a hospital. 

    While a patient, Ken met Charles Corr's girlfriend, Joanne Budimier, who he had been introduced to four years earlier.  Her reason for visiting the hospital was to see if any of the former POWs had known Charles Corr.  It was Ken who told her that Charles had died while a POW at Cabanatuan. 

    Ken and Joanne visited many times and fell in love. The two were married on June 28, 1945, at Gardiner General Hospital.  They became the parents of two children.

     Ken was discharged, from the army, on October 4, 1945.  He supported his family as a television repairman and would later move to Schaumburg, Illinois.  After he retired he and his wife would moved to California.

    Ken Heinrich passed away on October 16, 1992, and was buried in Section  8, Site  213-D, at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

    It should be noted that while Ken was a POW, his parents received a letter that he had written right before the surrender of Bataan.  Ken had mailed the letter, but the ship that it was on was sunk by the Japanese.  An American submarine fished the mailbag, the letter was in, from the sea.  When the letter arrived at his parents' home, it showed signs of its time in the water.


 



Return to Company B

 

Next