Wisniowski

 

Pvt. Joseph L. Wisniowski


    Pvt. Joseph L. Wisniowski was born on March 12, 1919, in Chicago.  He was the son of Frank Wisniowski & Bernice Kadzik-Wisniowski .  With his five sisters and two brothers, he grew up at 2108 West Eighteenth Street in Chicago.  Like so many other boys of the time, Joe never went to high school.  Instead, he went to work at an assembler at a company that manufactured globes.

    Joseph was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 4, 1941, and joined B Company during its training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Joe was a replacement put into B Company to fill-out the company roster after the original National Guardsmen from Illinois were transferred to Headquarters Company in early 1941.

    During his training at Ft. Knox, Joe attended cooks' school.  This was the same job that he had once held as a civilian.  It was in this role that Joe took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  Being a cook, he did not participate in the maneuvers directly.  After the maneuvers,the battalion was ordered to remain at Camp Polk.  None of the members had any idea why.
    On the side of a hill, the members of the 192nd were informed that they were being sent overseas.  They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  After replacements joined the battalion, they received new tanks and half-tracks.

    The battalion traveled by train, over different train routes, to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Calvin Coolidge and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    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 20th 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 8th, Joe was serving meals to the tankers when planes appeared over Clark Field.  When the bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack, he witnessed the destruction done to the airfield.

    Joe was later assigned to the tank of Sgt. Jim Griffin.  With him in the tank crew was Pvt. Orrie Mulholland.  He would serve with this tank crew until the surrender on April 9, 1942.

    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.
   

    When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, Joe became a Prisoner of War.  B Company made its way to Mariveles, at the southern tip of Bataan, where they were searched.  The Japanese took whatever they wanted from the POWs.  It was from Mariveles that Joe began what became known as the death march.  
    The POWs made their way north, out of Bataan, on the east road.  The first five miles were uphill, which for men who had been underfed and sick was difficult.  At one point, the POWs had to run past artillery that was firing at Corregidor.  The American guns, on Corregidor, returned fire knocking out three of the four guns.  The shells also landed among the POWs.
    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were herded into a bull pin which was covered in human waste.  In a corner was a slit trench which moved from the flies that covered it.  The POWs remained in the pin until the Japanese ordered them to form detachments of 100 men.  Once this was done, the POWs were marched to the train station in the barrio. 
    At the train station, the POWs were packed into boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold 40 men of eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar car.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing until the living left the boxcars at Capas.  From Capas, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell as unfinished Filipino Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp. 
    It is not known if he went out on a work detail to escape the conditions in the camp.
  At some point, he was sent to Cabanatuan.  Which was opened to lower the death rate among the POWs.   It was while he was at this camp that he was came down with dysentery and malaria. 

    Pvt. Joseph L. Wisniowski died on Wednesday, October 7, 1942, at approximately 5:00 PM.  He was buried in the Plot 3, Row 1, Grave 128, in the camp cemetery.  After the war, his family requested that his remains be returned to the United States.  In April 1949, he was buried at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Justice, Illinois.



 

 

 


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