Pvt. Erwin Albert Glasenapp
Erwin A. Glasenapp was born on January 16, 1916, to Gustave and Hulga
Glasenapp in Douglas, Minnesota. He grew up, with his six brothers
and six sisters, on the family farm
fifteen miles north of Rochester, Minnesota, and attended school in a
one room wooden school house. During the 1920s, his father
After graduating grade school, Erwin went to live with his sister's family at 1018 North Twelfth Avenue in Melrose Park, Illinois. It was there that attended Proviso Township High School and was a member of the graduating Class of 1936. After high school, he worked in a restaurant.
Like most young men his age, Erwin knew that the recently passed draft act would result in his serving in the military. To have a say in his military service, he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard's Maywood Tank Company in September of 1940. Erwin also knew that the company was scheduled to be called to federal service and that this duty would fulfill his military obligation.
In the autumn of 1940, the 33rd Tank Company left Maywood for Fort Knox, Kentucky, and became Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. At Fort Knox, the men were trained to perform the various jobs of a tank crew. In Erwin's case, he was trained as a radio operator.
The battalion was next sent to Louisiana and took part in maneuvers in the late summer of 1941. Unbeknownst to them, they had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands. They learned of this assignment while sitting on the side of a hill at Camp Polk, Louisiana.
After receiving new equipment, the battalion was sent to Angel Island, where it left the United States for the Philippines. After a stop in Hawaii, the ship sailed under strict blackout conditions. This reinforced the belief in Erwin's and the other members of the 192nd that the United States would soon be at war.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1941, the 192nd arrived in Manila and were sent to Fort Stotsenburg. A little more than two weeks later, Erwin and the other members of the battalion found themselves involved in some of the first action against the Japanese in World War II.
During the next four months as a member of a tank crew, Erwin fought to slow the Japanese in their conquest of the Philippine Islands. The time they bought allowed the allies to reinforce Australia and prevented a Japanese invasion. This was done without adequate food, supplies and ammunition.
When the order came to surrender on April 9, 1942, Erwin became a Prisoner of War. He took part in the death march and believed that the worst part of the march was the 100 degree temperatures and the lack of food, the lack of water, and the lack of rest. He recalled watching American prisoners being beaten, shot and bayoneted by the Japanese guards because they could not keep up with the column.
For Erwin, the march took six days and nights to complete before he arrived at Camp O'Donnell. This camp was terribly inadequate for the number of men being held there. If a man wanted a drink, he had to stand in line at the water faucet for hours to get one. There was only one faucet for the entire camp.
As a POW, Erwin was next sent to Cabanatuan in May, 1942. He remained there until he was sent to Japan until September 18, 1943. The POWs were boarded onto the Taga Maru on September 20, 1943. After a stop at Takao Formosa, the ship arrived in Japan on October 20th. Erwin was sent to Hirohata #12-B, which was about 30 miles from Kobe and Osaka. There he was given the number of POW 1261.
At this camp, Erwin worked in a coal mine shoveling coal into mine cars. The work was extremely hard and done with very little food. The coal was then transported to the Seitetsu Steel Mills. What made the situation even worse were the beatings by the guards and the sickness of the prisoners.
Erwin and the other POWs had no idea of how the war was going until the guards disappeared, and American planes dropped supplies to them. On September 4, 1945, Erwin was liberated by American Forces.
Erwin returned to the United States and was discharged, from the army, on March 18, 1946. He moved back to Minnesota. He married Betty Sue Keeton, on June 15, 1947, in Arkansas. The couple ran a resort in Rochester, Minnesota. He was the father of one son.
Erwin Glasenapp passed away on June 28, 1999, just hours before his family received the medals he had earned in World War II. Erwin's medals include the Bronze Star, the American Defender of the Philippines Service Medal and the Prisoner of War Medal. He was buried at Grandview Cemetery, Rochester, Minnesota.
The photo at the top of the page was taken by the Japanese while Erwin was a POW. The photo below, was taken six months after he had been liberated from Hirohata and returned to the United States.