Sgt. Walter F. Cigoi
| Sgt. Walter
F. Cigoi was born in August 18, 1917, to
Louis & Olga Cigoi in York Township in DuPage County, Illinois.
The family first resided at 315 Elm Park Avenue in Elmhurst. He would later
live at 2235 West Huron
Street in Chicago. During the 1930s in Maywood, he joined the Illinois National Guard as
a member of the 33rd Tank Company. He also worked at Hines
Veterans Administration Hospital as an attendant. Among the members of his
company, Walter and Robert Bronge were known as the "Meatball
Walter went to Fort Knox, Kentucky when the company was "federalized" in November of 1940. At Fort Knox, he learned to operate tanks, halftracks and motorcycles. He next took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941. It was after these maneuvers that the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion learned that they had been selected by General George S. Patton to go to the Philippine Islands.
Two weeks after arriving in the Philippines the 192nd Tank Battalion found itself as part of the first line of defense against the Japanese. During the Battle of Bataan, the tanks of B Company were assigned to the east coast of Bataan to prevent the Japanese from landing troops. It was during this assignment that Walter took part in a firefight with Japanese ships.
Each morning, in an attempt to find the American tanks, the Japanese would send a reconnaissance plane known to the Americans as "Recon Joe" over the Bataan jungle. Since the jungle was dense, Recon Joe could never spot the tanks. One morning, Walter got angry that "recon Joe" woke him up, so Walter attempted to shoot down the reconnaissance plane. To do this, he pulled his halftrack onto the beach and began firing at the plane. Unfortunately, he missed. Twenty minutes later, Japanese dive bombers bombed the American position. The attack resulted in the deaths of three members of B Company.
When the Filipino and American troops on Bataan were surrendered, Walter began a Prisoner Of War. He took part in the death march from Marivales. It was on the march that Walter and Sgt. Robert Bronge are credited with twice saving the life of Pvt. Lester (Tennenberg) Tenney. Both times they carried him when he could not continue the march on his own.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars. After the train ride to Capas, Walter was unable to continue the march on his own. He was carried the last few miles of the march by Sgt. Jim Bashleben and Sgt. James Bainbridge to Camp O'Donnell. While they were exiting the train, they found Walter on the ground frothing at the mouth. When they arrived at Camp O'Donnell, they placed him under a building to get him out of the sun. When they returned to the hut later, Walter was gone. Walter survived and was next sent to Cabanatuan when the camp open. A few months later on October 6, 1942, he was sent to Manila for transport to Manchuria.
On October 8, 1942, Walter and another 1500 POWs were sent to the dock area of Manila and boarded onto Tottori Maru and shipped north. The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. It is believed that Walter was in the group sent into the hold. According to survivors, conditions on the ship were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck. This was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed.
Shortly after leaving Manila, the Tottori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine. The POWs on deck watched as all four torpedoes shot at the ship just missed. Next, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.
After an eight day stay on Formosa, the ship sailed for Pusan, Korea from Takao. It appears that Walter was considered to be too ill to continue the trip and remained on Formosa. Walter died from dysentery at Taihoku, Formosa. His date of death is listed as November 3, 1942. After his death, Walter's remains were cremated. He was buried Daichoku Cemetery at Taihoku, Formosa.
After the war in 1946, the remains of Sgt. Walter F. Cigoi and four other Americans were exhumed by the American Graves Registration Service and sent to Hawaii. The remains of these Americans were mixed with the remains of eleven British POWs. Since the British remains were dominant, the remains were transferred to the Imperial War Graves Commission and reburied at the Sai Wan Bay Cemetery in Hong Kong. His family was informed of the burial on June 12, 1951.
It should be noted that Walter's brother, Emil, joined the U. S. Marines so that he could fight in the Pacific Battle Theater. He hoped that he would be sent to the Philippines and liberate Walter. According to what has been learned, Emil was killed in action in the Philippines while attempting to find his brother. Emil had no idea that Walter had died two years earlier.