Sgt. Raymond J. Vandenbroucke
Raymond J. Vandenbroucke was born on April 15, 1916, and lived at 812 South
9th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois. He was the son of Joe &
Dorothy Vadenbroucke and attended St. James Catholic
School in Maywood and was a 1934 graduate of Proviso Township High
School. In high school, he was on the swimming team. After
he graduated, he worked in the Proviso Yard's machine shop, of the Chicago
& North Western Railroad, as an
In September 1940, Ray enlisted in the Illinois National Guard 33rd Tank Company with his boyhood friends James Bainbridge and Bob Peterson. All three had grown up on the same block. The three friends knew that the draft was coming and decided to join the Illinois National Guard to fulfill their military duty.
On November 25, 1940, Ray was called to federal duty when the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard from Maywood, Illinois was federalized. At Fort Knox, Kentucky, his outfit was renamed Company B of the 192nd Tank Battalion. Raymond was trained to operate motorcycles, halftracks and tanks.
After almost ten months of training, Ray took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941. The members of the battalion believed that their performance in the maneuvers resulted in their selection for overseas duty. The reality was that the decision to send the battalion overseas had been by General George Patton before the maneuvers were held. Before leaving for the Philippine Islands, Ray married Evelyn Floor and bought a house in Maywood two days before he was sent to California.
Ray arrived in the Philippines, with his battalion, and quickly found himself involved in some of the first battles of World War II. As a tank commander, Ray took part in tank to tank action with the Japanese. On December 22, 1941, his tank was a member of Lt. Ben Morin's tank platoon which had been sent to the Lingayen Gulf area to relieve the U.S. 26th Cavalry. The Japanese had landed troops and the 26th had been in heavy action against them. They engaged the Japanese, which allowed the 26th to withdraw from the area, but during the battle Morin's tank was lost with its crew.
On another occasion, while his tank was on a reconnaissance mission, they encountered a Japanese tank. The Japanese tank was able to get off the first round and knocked out Ray's tank which was the first American tank in the platoon. Ray survived this engagement but was wounded.
Ray would survive two other tank engagements with the Japanese in which each one of his tanks was lost. In one of these engagements, Ray lost his entire tank crew and found himself involved in hand to hand combat with a Japanese soldier. Although Ray would kill other men in the line of duty, this event haunted Ray the rest of his life.
When the Filipino and American soldiers on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese, Ray became a Prisoner of War. On the Death March, Ray and Bob Peterson "piggybacked" James Bainbridge, their boyhood friend, to keep him from dropping out. Ray and Bob knew that if Jim was allowed to drop out, he would be killed. Despite their efforts, James Bainbridge would later die from illness while a POW.
Ray was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell until late April 1942. Then he was sent to Camp Calumpet. The POWs were expected to rebuild a bridge with picks and shovels. The diet of the POWs was fed rice and fish. Many also were suffering from beriberi, malaria, and dysentery. At one point only twenty of the 120 men on the detail were able to work. The extremely ill were returned to Cabanatuan and replaced by healthier POWs. Ray may have become too ill to work since he was only on the detail until June 15, 1942.
Ray was then held at Cabanatuan. While Ray was a POW at Cabanatuan, he worked in the rice paddies. One time, Ray was beaten for stealing rice which was found by the guards when they did a search. To steal the rice, the prisoners had sewn hidden pockets into their clothes.
The final camp Ray was held at in the Philippines was at Las Pinas. He was on the detail until September 22, 1944. The day before, American planes plastered the airfield. He was then taken to Bilibid Prisoner and then the Port Area of Manila for shipment to Japan.
On October 1st, Ray was boarded the Hokusen Maru. The POWs remained in the hold until the ship sailed for Formosa on October 3, 1944. To avoid American submarines, the ship zigzagged on its way to Hong Kong. It arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th. The Hokusen Maru remained at Hong Kong for the next ten days.
On October 13th, American planes bombed the ships in Hong Kong Harbor. None of the bombs hit the Hokusen Maru. The ship sailed again on October 21st arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 24th. While on its trip to Formosa, the convoy the Hokusen Maru was in was attacked by American submarines and four ships were sunk. Arriving in Takao, it remained in harbor until November 11th. At that time, Ray and the other POWs were disembarked.
On Formosa, Ray was held at Toroku Camp until January 1945. He was then sent to Japan on the Enoshima Maru. The ship sailed from Keelung, Formosa, on January 25, 1945. The ship arrived at Moji on January 30th. He was sent Kobe, Japan. He remained there until March of 1945 when the damage to the camp from American bombings caused the Japanese to move the POWs. Ray was sent to Maibara 10-B. There he did farm and field work.
At Maribara 10-B, most of the guards treated the POWs fairly well. The only exception was a guard named Eiicho Ito. This guard seemed to be involved in every beating of a prisoner.
One night, Ray had to use the latrine. He entered the hall of the prisoners' barracks and asked Fiicho Ito for permission to go to the latrine. Ito told Ray, "No. One minute." After five minutes, Ray asked again. Ito gave him permission to use the latrine, but Ray never got there. As he passed Ito, Ito picked up a prisoner's shoe and beat Ray in the head with it. Ray counted eight hits on the head before he passed out. Ray was badly bruised for days.
Ray also recalled that another POW, Pvt. R. B. Carnell of Homedale, Idaho, who was caught stealing food from the Japanese mess, was taken to the guard house and beaten. It was Ray's belief that most of the camp guards were involved in the beating which lasted almost 24 hours. After the beating, Pvt. Carnell was put on half rations and not allowed to receive his cigarette ration.
The POWs had a good idea of how the war was going by the change in the attitudes of the guards. As the Americans got closer to Japan, the guards became friendlier. One morning, the Americans did not see the guards or other military personnel. All had disappeared during the night. The prisoners' belief that the end of the war had come was confirmed when American soldiers appeared at the camp.
After Ray had been freed, he would learned that his boyhood friend, Sgt. Bob Peterson, had also survived the war. The two men were reunite in the Philippines.
Sgt. Ray Vadenbroucke returned home to Maywood and was discharged on December 5, 1946. He married, Marie, and was the step-father to three sons and two daughters. He passed away on March 17, 1981, and was buried at Chapel Hill Garden West in Elmhurst, Illinois.