Noworul

Pvt. Harry J. Noworul


     Pvt. Harry J. Noworul was born in Chicago on June 20, 1917.  He was the son of Walter Noworul & Veronica Kaczmarczyk-Noworul and the brother of Adolph and Florence.  He grew up above the grocery store his parents owned at 2250 South Albany Avenue.  While growing up in Chicago, he attended Farragut High School and then Harrison High School.  In 1940, he enlisted in the United States Army because he wanted to do something with his life.  

    Sometime during 1941, he was assigned to Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  At this time, the army was still  attempting to fill openings in companies with men from the home state of each company.  Harry joined the company while it was training at Fort Knox in 1941.  

    From September 1st through 30, 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After these maneuvers, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was at that time the battalion was informed it was being sent overseas as aprt of Operation PLUM.  Many of the men figured out that "PLUM" stood Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  The battalion received replacements for men released from service from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  It also received the battalion's tanks. 
    The 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 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.
    For the next seventeen days, the tankers loaded ammunition belts and worked at cleaning the cosmoline out of their weapons.  They were scheduled to take part in maneuvers.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field the morning of December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  At all times, two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks.  On December 8, 1941, they were informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor and returned to their tanks.  At 8:30 that morning, American planes began taking off to guard the airfield and filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and were parked in a straight line outside the mess hall.  The pilots went to lunch.

    At 12:45 in the afternoon, planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers had time enough to count 54 planes in the formation.  They saw what some described as raindrops falling from the planes and knew they were bombs when they began exploding on the runways.
    The tankers only could watch the attack on Clark Field since most of their weapons were useless against airplanes.  They fought the best they could with weapons that were not designed to fight aircraft.

    The tank battalion remained at the the airfield until it 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 at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 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.
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    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 number of operational tanks also became more critical with C Company, 194th - which was attached to the 192nd - having only seven tanks left.
   The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving 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.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.    On April 9, 1942, Harry became a Prisoner of War when Filipino and American Forces were surrendered to the Japanese.  To him, the worst thing  was the sight of hundreds of Japanese troops surrounding the men in his detachment. 

    In one of the strangest twists of fate, the Japanese assembled members of Harry's company and asked those who could drive an American car to step forward.  When all the members present stepped forward, the Japanese became angry.  Through an interpreter, the POWs were able to explain that almost everyone in the United States could drive a car.  This was a fact the Japanese found hard to believe.  

    Harry was selected by the Japanese to drive a car along the route of what would become known as "The Bataan Death March."  While driving the Japanese officers, Harry saw his neighborhood friend from Chicago, Anthony Czerwin, from the 17th Pursuit Squadron. 

    After Harry had completed his car driving duty, he too took part in the death march with his friend from B Company Pvt. Andy Aquila.  While Harry was on the march, he came close to being bayoneted by a Japanese guard because he was caught bartering with a Filipino civilian for food.    

    As a POW, Harry was held at Camp O'Donnell.  While there, he came down with malaria.  He was extremely ill and was close to death when Tony Czerwin gave Mike Wepsiec quinine pills that Tony had gotten by bartering with a Filipino civilian.   These pills saved Harry's life.    

    While at Camp O'Donnell, Harry was among 100 POWs selected to go out on a work detail to Bataan to retrieve American vehicles that had been destroyed by the army before it was surrendered.  It was while he was on this detail that Harry and Sgt. Ray Vandenbroucke would bury Cpl. William Burns, Pvt. Charles Peterson and Pvt. Edwin Singletary.  All three men were members of Company B.  

    Harry was also held as a prisoner at Bilibid Prison and did dock work in Manila before he was sent to Japan on a hell ship.  Harry was boarded onto the Taga Maru which was also known as the Coral Maru.  The ship sailed on September 20, 1943, and arrived at Tako, Formosa, on September 23rd.  It sailed again on September 26th and arrived at Moji, Japan, on October 5th.  During the voyage, 70 POWs died and their bodies were thrown into the sea.
    In Japan, he was held at Tokyo #2-B arriving there on November 13.  The POWs in this camp worked at a steel mill owned by the Nitsui Corporation. 
    The barracks in the camp were poorly built and had little heat.  The clothing the POWs had to wear was thin and did not offer much protection for the climate.  The POWs were also poorly fed and received very little medical treatment.  Red Cross packages meant for them were appropriated by the Japanese who ate the canned meats, fruits, and milk.  They also took the chocolate for themselves.  The clothing and shoes sent by the Red Cross, for the POWs, was also used by the Japanese.  Beatings in the camp were common, and the POWs were forced to stand at attention while they were slapped, punched, clubbed for braking a camp rule.  Since a certain number of POWs were needed each day, the sick who were able to stand were sent to work. 

    Punishment in the camp took various forms and lasted for hours.  POWs were made to stand at attention in a sewer manhole and had cold water thrown on them.  They were also hung from a bar, forced to hold two buckets of water with their arms outstretched, and kneel on sharp pieces of wood.
    As the war went on, American B-29s began to appear in the sky.  On July 25, a bombing mission near the camp resulted in the POW barracks being destroyed, so the POW were moved to Nisshin Flour Mill. 

    Harry was liberated by American Occupation Forces and was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  On the U.S.S. Yarmouth he returned to the United States at San Francisco on October 8, 1945.  After receiving more medical treatment, he returned to Chicago.  He married his girlfriend, Dorothy, who had waited for him to return home not knowing if he was alive or dead.  Together they would raise a son and a daughter.  

    After he returned home, Harry helped the families of William Burns and Charles Peterson bring the remains of their sons home by drawing a map to show where they had been buried.  This map also allowed the army to rebury the remains of Edwin Singletary at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.  

    Harry was discharged, from the army, on May 10, 1947.  The effects of the war did not end with Harry's return home.  Harry's son recalled the first time he ever saw his father cry was on the day that his mother died.  Harry's wife had provided the support he needed to start his life over again.  Harry J. Norowul passed away on October 18, 1989.

    The picture at the top of the page was taken of Harry, by the Japanese, while he was a prisoner.  The number 487 is written on it.  This was Harry's POW identification number.  Harry's son, Walter, received the photo at his father's wake.  A man came up to him and said that he thought Walter might want the picture.  Right after the man handed Walter the photo, Walter was temporary distracted by someone else, when he turned back to talk to the man, the man was gone.  Walter never learned who the man was and how the man came to have his father's POW photo.


 

 


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