Rusch

 

Pvt. Henry Andrew Rusch


    Pvt. Henry A. Rusch was the son of Frederick Rusch & Anna Koenig-Rusch.  He was born in June 10, 1922.  With his two sisters and two brothers, he grew up in Maywood and attended local schools.  He was a member of the Proviso Township High School Class of 1940 but left school before graduating.  He was known as "Henry" or "Hank" to his family and friends.  When he was called for federal service, he was working with the Civilian Conservation Corps.

    Harry was one of the original Illinois National Guard members who was called to federal service on November 25, 1940.  At Fort Knox, Kentucky, he trained to be a member of a tank crew.      
    In the late summer of 1941, Henry 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.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King, who 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.  King remained with the tank battalion until they had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.
    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.
   
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times.  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 back to their tanks. 
    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. 

    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 at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff. 
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  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.
   
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 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.  
   
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.

    After four months of fighting, on April 9, 1942, at 6:45 A.M., he and the other tankers heard the order "crash".  This was the order to destroy their tanks and surrender to the Japanese.  At this time, it is not known if Harry surrendered or escaped to the Island of Corregidor.

    What is known is that he was held as a Prisoner of War at Cabanatuan.  Medical records, kept at Bilibid Prison, show that he arrived at Bilibid Prison, from Cabanatuan, on October 10th and was admitted to Ward 8 suffering from cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, on his right foot.  
     On October 19th, Harry was discharged from the hospital but remained at Bilibid.  He and other POWs were sent to the Port Area of Manila and on the November 6th boarded onto the Nagato Maru for shipment to Japan. 

    The ship sailed as part of a three ship convoy the next day.  At some point the hatch covers were put on the holds when the Japanese believed a submarine was in the area.  The POWs felt the explosions from the depth charges through the haul. 
    The convoy arrived at Takao, Formosa, on November 11th and remained in harbor for three days before sailing on the 14th and arriving at the Pescadores Islands the same day.  The ship remained off the islands for two days, because of a storm, before sailing for Keelung, Formosa, on the 17th.  The ship sailed for Moji, Japan, on November 18th.

    Arriving on November 24th, the POWs disembarked and were deloused, showered and issued new clothing. 

    In Japan, Harry was sent to Tanagawa.  The camp there would later be known as Osaka Section Camp #4-B.  The POWs arrived at night and were housed in five flimsy barracks that were unheated.  In the camp they were used to construct a dry dock for Japanese submarines.  To do this, the POWs tore down the side of a mountain.

    On April 13, 1945, Harry and 105 other POWs were transferred to Omi POW Camp.  There, he labored in a quarry and cement factory.  He also may have cleaned furnaces by cleaning out carbon from them.

    Harry was liberated in September 1945.  On September 9th, he and the other POWs were sent to Yokohama by train.  From there, they were returned to the Philippines to be fattened up before being sent back to the United States.  In early September, he wired his mother that he was being flown home.  He was flown to Hickam Field in Hawaii, and then to Hamilton Field north of San Francisco.

    Harry returned home to Maywood after the war.  According to his family, he was just a happy go lucky person who loved life.  On December 19, 1958, he married Mayme Ledford.  The couple was extremely happy. 

    Harry supported his wife and himself by working as a cab driver.  On October 3, 1962, after working all day, he sat down in a chair, at the cab station, and slumped over.  He had died of a heart attack.  Henry Rusch was buried at Glen Oak Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. 

   It should be mentioned that while Henry was a POW, his sister married, David Deckert, the brother of Henry Deckert of B Company.



 

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