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 and attended school there
with his two brothers.
After high school, he worked as a repairman at a radio store.
On April 7, 1941, Ken was inducted into the U. S. Army. He was 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.
While at Ft. Knox, Ken became friends with Charles Corr who was one of the soldiers in charge of training radio operators. Ken would qualify as a radioman during his training.
In the late summer of 1941, Ken took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. He and the rest of the members of the 192nd, had no idea that they had already been selected to go overseas. 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 Ken to his girlfriend before they left.
Traveling west by train, B Company arrived in San Francisco. Form there, they were ferried to Angel Island. They were inoculated and sent by ship to the Philippine Islands. Arriving in the Philippines, the 192nd was housed in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Ken and the rest of the company learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Hours later, they lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.
For the next four months. Ken fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. The evening of April 8, 1942, he and the rest of B Company received the word of the surrender. They destroyed their tanks and waited to see what would happen to them.
Ken's company were ordered to Mariveles. It was from this barrio that Ken started what became known as the death march.
Ken made his way north to San Fernando. Once there, they were ordered into boxcars. One hundred men were packed into each car. Those who died remained standing until he living disembarked the cars at Capas. From there, the Prisoners of War made their way to Camp O'Donnell.
At this time it is known that Ken was held as a prisoner at Camp O'Donnell, Cabanatuan. He was sent out on a work detail to Clark Field to build runways. He remained on the detail until August 17, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison. At Bilibid, Ken was scheduled to be sent to Japan on a hell ship. At the last minute, a Japanese doctor determined that Ken was too ill with pneumonia to go to Japan. This decision caused can to remain at Bilibid and saved his life since the ship he would have been on, the Oryoku Maru, was sunk.
On February 1, 1945, Ken was liberated by American troops at Bilibid Prison. Ken returned to the United States and was held at the VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois. While a patient, Ken met Charles Corr's girlfriend, Joan, who he had been introduced to four years earlier. Her reason for visiting the hospital was to see if any of the former POWs in the hospital had known Charles Corr who had died while a POW at Cabanatuan.
Ken and Corr's girlfriend visited many times. He was discharged, from the army, on October 4, 1945. Ken and Joan married and had two children. He supported his family as a television repairman. He and his wife would later move to California.
Ken Heinrich passed away on October 16, 1992. He is 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, the letter showed signs of its time in the water.