M/Sgt. George Ralph Prueher
George R. Prueher was one of five sons of George S. Prueher and Mary
Schoenichi-Prueher. He was
October 7, 1920, in Blumer, Wisconsin. With his brothers and sister, George grew up in Chippewa
Falls, Wisconsin, and attended St. Charles School before his family moved to Janesville in 1930. In
Janesville, he lived at 440 Bluff Street and attended St. Mary's School
where he played baseball. After grade school, he attended Janesville High School and
played tennis. He was a member of the graduating Class of 1938.
After George graduated high school, he worked construction as a bookkeeper. Like many young men of his age, he wanted to fulfill his military service before he was drafted into the army. He joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville.
In November of 1940, his National Guard company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. With the company, George traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky. There he attended classes and qualified as a company clerk.
In January of 1941, Headquarters Company was created with soldiers from the four letter companies of the battalion. During this time, he rose in rank from private first class to master sergeant. George was transferred to the company as a clerk and assigned the duties of battalion personnel sergeant.
With the 192nd, George took part in maneuvers in Louisiana and then was assigned to Camp Polk. It was there that he and the other men learned that they would not be released from federal service as planned, but that they were being sent overseas.
In late September of 1941, George received a furlough home to take care of unfinished business and to say his goodbyes. But within a few hours of arriving home, he was called back to Camp Polk to take care of the business of requisitioning the necessary supplies for duty overseas.
Sailing from Angel Island in San Francisco Bay on October 7, 1941, which happened to be his 21st birthday, George arrived in the Philippine Islands on Thanksgiving Day, 1941. A little over then two weeks later, just ten hours after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, he lived through the Japanese bombing of Clark Field.
On April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni informed the members of HQ Company of the surrender. George and the other men remained in the camp for two days before they were ordered to move out to the road that passed their encampment. As they lined up alongside the road the men were ordered to kneel. When the Japanese arrived, the Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from George's and the other men's possessions.
Not too long after this, the members of HQ Company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat down and waited. As they sat, George and the other Prisoners of War 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 there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up to the Japanese soldiers in a car. 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, George and the other men were moved to a school yard in Mariveles. In the school yard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum. After the Japanese had fired at Corregidor, shells from the American guns on the island began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide. Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells.
The POWs were ordered to move by the Japanese. George 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. It is not known how long it took George to complete the march, but it is known that upon arriving at San Fernando, he and the other POWs were crammed into small wooden boxcars and shipped to Capas. From there, he walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
George was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. He was next held as a POW at Cabanatuan when the camp opened. Since the death rate at the camp was high, George got out of Cabanatuan by going out on a work detail to rebuild runways at Clark Field.
It was at Clark Field that M/Sgt. George R. Prueher died of dysentery on July 1, 1942 at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon. He was 21 years old. His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. It is very likely that since his remains could not be identified that M/Sgt. George A. Prueher is buried in a grave marked "unknown" at the cemetery.
On October 6, 1944, his parents held a memorial service for George. It was held at Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Janesville.
It should be noted that George's younger brother, Franklin, was killed in action on December 25, 1944, when his troop ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in the English Channel.