Pfc. Daniel Joseph Courtney
Pfc. Daniel J. Courtney was the son of Donald E. & Eva Courtney.
He was born on October 23, 1917, in Janesville, Wisconsin, to Edward &
Eva Courtney. As a child, with his two brothers and four sisters, he grew up at
518 South Pearl
Street. He was known as "Dannie" to his family and
friends. One of his sisters was married to 1st Lt. John F. A. Bushaw who would
assumed commander of A Company in the Philippines. When he was called to
federal duty, Dannie was working crushing rocks for a park project.
Knowing it was just a matter of time before he would be drafted into the army, Dannie joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville. On November 2, 1940, the tank company was federalized and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
In January, 1941, Dannie was reassigned to Headquarters Company when it was formed with members of the four letter companies of the battalion. On April 1, 1941, Dannie married Mary Liptow at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Janesville. The couple would have a son within a year.
Later during the summer of 1941, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the maneuvers that he and the rest of the 192nd Tank Battalion learned that they not being released from federal service but being sent overseas.
By train, Dannie and HQ Company traveled to Angel Island is San Francisco Bay. There they received physicals and were boarded onto a transport for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in Manila, the battalion was taken by train to Ft. Stotsenburg. There they were housed in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. They spent the next two weeks getting their equipment ready for maneuvers.
Expecting war, the tanks were assigned guard duty around the perimeter of Clark Field. As a member of HQ Company, it was Dannie's job to make sure that the tanks got the supplies they needed.
At 12:45 in the afternoon, Dannie lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Since the members of HQ Company had no weapons that could be used against planes, all they could do is watch the attack. He spent the next four months attempting to keep the tank platoons supplied with ammunition and gasoline.
On April 9, 1942, Dannie, with the rest of HQ Company, were informed by their commanding officer, Capt. Fred Bruni, of the American surrender. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. He then had a "last supper" with his men. Bruni told the men that it was now each man for himself.
The men waited in their bivouac for two days. On the second day a Japanese officer and soldiers entered the camp and ordered the Americans to move. How they were dressed is how they left the camp. Dannie was now a Prisoner of War.
The Americans, with their possessions, went out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road. They were told to put their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
Dannie and his company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Dannie's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. These two islands had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese. Dannie and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march he received no water and little food. At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car. From Capas, Dannie walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Dannie was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan in the Philippines. He was transported to Japan on what became known as a "Hell Ship". Unlike many other POWs, Dannie's experience on the ship was not that bad. The ship was not crowded and the prisoners were given adequate food.
Dannie was sent to Hirohata 12-B. The prisoners in the camp worked in the Seitetsu Steel Mill. At the camp, Dannie ran a coal shovel that fired a boiler. Working with coal without eye protection resulted in Dannie having vision problems.
In September, 1945, Dannie and the other POWs were liberated by American troops. He was sent to Saipan and then Hawaii. He was flown by plane to the United States.
Dannie returned to Janesville and married Mary M. Schumacher. With his wife, raised a family of seven children. One son, Donnie, drowned 1962. After he returned to Janesville, Dannie worked at the General Motors manufacturing plant in Janesville.
Daniel J. Courtney passed away on March 23, 1974. He was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Janesville, Wisconsin, next to his son.