Pvt. Emil Otto Schmidt
Pvt. Emil O Schmidt was born on September 14, 1915, in Illinois to Otto
& Shirley Schmidt. He was the third oldest of the couple's seven
children. As a child
his family moved to Sturtevant, Wisconsin. He would later live at 124 Corn
Exchange and 1020 Laurel Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin. He
worked as a maintenance worker for the park district.
Emil joined the Wisconsin National Guard on November 11, 1939, and was called to federal duty on November 25, 1940, as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. With his company, he traveled by train Fort Knox, Kentucky. There, he trained for nearly a year and went on maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of 1941. After the maneuvers, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.
After returning to Louisiana from a furlough, he and the other men loaded their equipment on a train and traveled west to California. Arriving in San Francisco, Emil and the other men were ferried to Angel Island on the same ferry which transported prisoners to Alcatraz Prison.
Emil and his company received physicals and inoculations before being boarded onto a transport bound for the Philippine Islands. After stops at Hawaii and Guam, the 192nd arrived at Manila. They were rushed to Ft. Stotsenburg and housed in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Air Field.
During the night of December 8, 1941, news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor reached the tankers. Capt Walter Write ordered his tanks to the perimeter of the airfield where they joined the other companies of their battalion. Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared over the airfield. It was only when the bombs began exploding that the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
Emil spent the next four months fighting a delaying action against the Japanese. He took part in the Battle of the Pockets where the battalion is credited in wiping out a thousands of Japanese marines.
While A Company was bivouacked, they were attacked by Japanese soldiers who only had small arms. The tankers could not get their guns low enough to return fire. While the company was withdrawing from the area, a Japanese soldier places a magnetic bomb near the port gun. When it exploded, part of Emil's leg had been taken off from the calf down.
On April 9, 1942, Emil received the word of the surrender of Bataan. He made his way to Mariveles and from there started what became known as the Bataan Death March.
Emil and the other members of A Company made their way to San Fernando. There, they boarded boxcars and rode to Capas. As they got out of the cars, the bodies of the dead fell to the ground. The Prisoners of War walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was a death trap with men dying daily. To lower the number of deaths among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. Emil was known to be a POW in the camp up to August 1943.
In September 1943, Emil was sent out on a work detail to Las Pinas. There, he and the other POWs were used as laborers to build runways for an airfield. He remained on this detail until September 22, 1944. The detail was disbanded when American planes appeared over the airfield on September 21st, for the first time, and bombed and strafed the airfield.
Emil was sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila in October 1944. Emil had been selected to be transferred to Japan. This was done to prevent the POWs from being liberated. The ship that Emil's POW detachment was suppose to sail on was the Arisan Maru. His entire detachment had arrived but their ship was not ready to sail. Another ship, the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail so the Japanese switched POW detachments.
Emil and the other POWs were taken to Pier 7 in Manila and put into the hold of the Hokusen Maru which also was known as the Benjo Maru. The ship sailed from Manila on October 3, 1944 and arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th. On October 13th, the ship was attacked by American fighters from an American carrier.
The Hokusen Maru remained at Hong Kong until October 21st when it sailed for Formosa. It arrived in Formosa on October 24th, but the POWs were not disembarked until November 8th. When he left the ship, Emil had spent 38 days in the ship's hold. When his ship left Manila, there were fifteen ships in the convoy. Only three of the fifteen ships reached Formosa.
It should be noted that Emil's original ship, the Arisan Maru, never reached Japan. The ship was sunk by an American submarine on October 24, 1944, in the South China Sea. Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.
Emil was held at Toroku Camp on Formosa. On January 14, 1945, he was transported by Melbourne Maru to Moji, Japan, arriving there on January 23rd. In Japan, he was held at Maibara Camp #10-B. At this camp, the POWs built canals. Emil remained in the camp until he was liberated in September 1945. He was discharged, from the Army, on May 5, 1946.
Emil O. Schmidt returned to Janesville and spent the rest of his life in Wisconsin. He passed away on March 16, 2003, at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin. He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Anitgo, Wisconsin.