Pfc. Harry Jerele
Pfc. Harry Jerele was born in January 1, 1916, in Clinton, Iowa. He was one of the seven children of Leo and Mary Jerele. His family moved to Maywood, Melrose Park, Bellwood, and finally Berkley, Illinois. Since his father was an employee of the Chicago & North Western Railroad, his family was allowed to live in a house, that sat on railroad, property at the intersection of St. Charles and Wolf Roads.
Harry attended Melrose Park Grade School and Proviso Township High School. Like his father, he worked for the Chicago & North Western Railroad. With his friend, Norman Spencer, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corp to have the opportunity to travel and take pictures. He also liked the idea of working outside. Together, Norman and Harry built roads and parking lots in national parks in Colorado and Wyoming.
Harry returned home and worked as a janitor for the National Youth Administration and joined the Illinois National Guard because his friend, Norman Spencer, wanted to join. Norman made this decision after talking to an officer in the National Guard who lived across the street from him. Harry became a member of the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard which was stationed in Maywood. When the tank company was federalized in November of 1940, Harry trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was there that Harry learned how to drive motorcycles, tanks and halftracks.
At Fort Knox, Harry was transferred to the Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. As a member of the Headquarters Company, Harry took part in the 1941 maneuvers in Louisiana and was shipped out for the Philippines in October of 1941.
When war broke out on December 7, 1941, Harry and the other members of the 192nd Tank Battalion fought to slow the Japanese advance. Harry as a motorcycle messenger carried messages between the 192nd Headquarters Company and the different companies of the battalion. While doing this job, he was twice reported Missing In Action during the Battle of Bataan.
When the Filipino-American forces in the Philippine Islands were surrendered, Harry became a Prisoner of War. He took part in the Bataan Death March and was first held as a prisoner at Camp O'Donnell. While at Camp O'Donnell, Harry was selected for a work detail which had the job of recovering vehicles that had been destroyed by the Filipino and American forces before they surrendered. The POWs would tie the vehicles together and then drive them to the designated destination.
When this detail was completed, Harry was sent to Cabanatuan Prison Camp #1. According to the final report on the 192nd, he died of cerebral malaria and pneumonia at the age of 27. His time of death was approximately 1:00 PM. His family received word that he had died on December 28, 1942.
In June 1943, Harry's father made his first attempt to find out if his son was dead or alive. He would make two more attempts before the end of the year. The family did not know anything about Harr until they were notified of his death.
The remains of Harry Jerele were buried in the camp cemetery at Cabanatuan. After the war, since his remains could not be positively identified, he was buried in mass grave, as an "Unknown" at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. Unfortunately, his name does not appear on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.