Pvt. Robert Edward Boehm
Pvt. Robert Edward Boehm was born on November 25, 1921, to Edward H. &
Marguerie Boehm. He was the couple's only child and was raised at 113 North Walnut Street in Janesville, Wisconsin.
He attended local schools.
On November 25, 1941, he was called to federal service with the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard. Traveling to Fort Knox, Kentucky, he spent nearly a year there training with his company. His company was designated as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
In the fall of 1941, Robert took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. There, he and the rest of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas. After receiving a leave home, he returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana. From there, the battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.
Sailing from Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, the battalion arrived at Manila on Thanksgiving Day. Robert and the other members of the company were taken to Ft. Stotsenburg by train. Since their barracks were not finished, Robert and the other men lived in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.
For the next two weeks, Bob and the other members of his tank crew, Ed DeGroot, Herb Durner, Dale Lawton and Ken Squire worked to prepare their tank for maneuvers. The morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Capt. Walter Write ordered the tankers to the perimeter of Clark Field. Their duty was to prevent the use of paratroopers.
As they sat in the tankers sat in their tanks, they watched as American planes flew overhead all morning. Around noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared overhead. Like the other men, Robert believed they were American until they felt and heard bombs exploding. During the attack, Bob and the rest of his tank crew fired at the planes, but could do little damage since they did not have the proper weapons.
As the Filipino and American forces entered Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River. Knowing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep. It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river. Robert climbed out of his tank to see what was going on and had the steel helmet he was wearing shot off his head. He got back into the tank.
As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers. The tankers created gapping holes in their ranks. To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smoke screen. Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line.
Robert spent the next four months fighting the Japanese. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He and the other members of A Company made their way to Mariveles where they began the death march.
Robert, and the other POWs, marched for days without food or water. At San Fernando, he and the other POWs were packed into wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane. The POWs were packed in so tightly, that men suffocated from lack of air.
At Capas, the prisoners disembarked and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. This former Filipino Army Camp was pressed into service by the Japanese without prior preparation.
As a POW Robert was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. He remained in the Philippines until December, 1944. Sometime in late 1944, Robert was taken to Bilibid Prison. He waited there to be sent to Japan.
Robert sailed for Japan on December 27, 1944 on the Enoura Maru which also carried survivors of the Oryoku Maru sinking. From this ship, he was joined on the Enoura Maru by Lt. LeRoy Scoville. The ship reached Formosa safely.
While in harbor at Formosa on December 31, 1944, the Enoura Maru was attacked by American planes. One of the bombs exploded in the hold Robert was being held in. The bomb fatally wounded Leroy Scoville. Scoville asked Robert to give his parents a aluminum wristlet he was wearing. It was the only possession that he still had after the Oryoku Maru sank. Scoville died from his wounds and was buried at sea.
Robert arrived in Japan at Moji on the Brazil Maru and was held as a prisoner at Fukuoka #3-B. The POWS in the camp worked in the Yawata Steel Mills. With him in the camp, was Thomas Samek of A Company. Samek would die from an intestinal infection.
Robert and the other POWs shoveled iron ore and rebuilt the ovens in the mill. The POWs were also sent into the ovens to clean out the debris. The ovens were hot because the Japanese would not let them cool off. This meant that the POWs worked faster on this detail.
Robert remained in the camp until he was liberated by American troops in September 13, 1945. After liberation, he was sent to Nagasaki for processing. In somewhat of an ironic situation, Robert was interviewed by Thomas W. Ehrlinger who had been his roommate at the University of Wisconsin. Ehrlinger's job was to process the former POWs.
Robert returned to Janesville after the war. When he met with LeRoy Scoville's family, he gave them the wristlet.
Robert transferred to the Air Force and remained in the military until July 31, 1962. While he was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at Dayton, Ohio, he married Helen Marie Fox on October 19, 1946. He became the father of one son and two daughters. In 1956, he and his family drove the Alcon Highway when he was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. His youngest daughter was born on the base.
During this time, Robert rose in rank to Sergeant Major and Personnel Officer. After he retired, he moved to Eagle River, Alaska. There, he and his wife raised their six children. He took tourists on hunting trips.
Robert Boehm died in a hang-gliding accident at Kincaid Park in Anchorage on September 11, 1977. He was buried at Ft. Richardson National Cemetery, Ft. Richardson, Alaska.