Pvt. Ralph Raymond Shaffer
Ralph R. Shaffer was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 14, 1918.
He grew up on the north side of Chicago at 1605 North Lawndale Avenue and attended the LaSalle Grade
School and Lane Technical High
In anticipation of the United States involvement in World War II, the United States Congress passed a draft act requiring males to serve one year in the military. In 1941, Ralph was drafted into the United States Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky. At Fort Knox, Ralph became a member of Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion which had been an Illinois National Guard Tank Compauy. The army at the time attempted to fill vacancies in federalized national guard units with men from the same state.
Training as a tank crew member was extremely difficult since the Company B initially had only three tanks to train with. Due to this situation, the men of the company seldom trained with the same crew.
Ralph took part in the Maneuvers of 1941. Before these maneuvers took place, the 192nd had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands. In October 1941, the battalion left Angel Island for the Philippines arriving there on Thanksgiving Day. Two weeks later, the members of the company were thrust into World War II when the Japanese attacked Clark Field just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
During the next four months, the Filipino and American forces fought a delaying action against the Japanese invasion force. The tankers would hold a position until the other units had withdrawn. Then they would fall back.
Ralph believed that the soldiers knew that they were going to lose the Battle of Bataan because they had no air force, no navy, rations were very low, and they were fighting with leftover equipment from World War I. The defenders of Bataan were told that a convoy was on its way, but because of the Japanese blockade had to go south to Australia. When the soldiers heard this, they knew they were doomed.
On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and American forces were surrendered to the Japanese. With this act, Ralph became a Prisoner of War. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando where they boarded trains. After disembarking the train, the prisoners walked the final miles to Camp O'Donnell. For Ralph, everything about the march was terrible. It was too hot and there was not enough water and food.
After Camp O'Donnell, Ralph was sent to Nielson Field. There he repaired damage done during the battle for the Philippines. After this detail, he was sent to Cabanatuan and then Bilibid Prison outside of Manila. In the late summer of 1944, he was given an examination and selected for shipment to Japan on what became known as a hell ship. The ship he was on, the Canadian Inventor left Manila on July 2, 1944, and took 62 days to make the trip to Japan.
In Japan, Ralph was sent to Hiroshima #6, which was known as Omine Machi. The prison camp that supplied prisoners to work in a coal mine. Although the prisoners did not receive a great deal of outside news, there were times when they did know how the war was going. The prisoners knew the war was over when they no longer had to go to work.
Ralph returned to the United States in November of 1945. He was discharged from the army on May 11, 1946. He married and was the father of two sons. He would later move from Chicago to Indio, California, where he lived for 49 years. He was employed by the U.S. Post Office until he retired.
Ralph R. Shaffer passed away on May 20, 2002, in Indio, California. Ralph Shaffer was buried at Coachella Valley Cemetery in Indio, California.