Robert Eugene Bronge
| Sgt. Robert
E. Bronge was born on June 14, 1917, to James V. Bronge & Julia
With his two brothers and his sister, he grew up in Maywood and
Melrose Park, Illinois. As a child he attended Mount Carmel
Catholic School and graduated in 1933. He then went to Proviso
Township High School and graduated in 1937. At some point, his
In 1940, he was living at 910 North 14th Avenue and caring for his younger brother. At the same time he worked for a pencil manufacturing company as a buffer.
In 1937, like many other men from the Maywood-Melrose Park area, Bob joined the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company. One reason for his joining was the tank company was headquartered in an armory across the street from his high school. Another reason for his joining the tank company was that many of the members of the company were friends of his. One of the other members of the company was his cousin, Daniel Boni.
On November 25, 1940, Bob's tank company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. His address when inducted was 1921 South 19th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois. For the next year, he trained with the company at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was during this time that he was promoted to sergeant and made a tank commander.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was at that time that Bob and the other members of the battalion were informed that they were not being released from federal service as expected. Instead, they were old that their time in federal service had been extended, and that they were being sent overseas.
Bob was given a ten day leave home to say goodbye to family and friends. He then returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana to prepare for duty overseas.
Traveling by train to San Francisco, Bob was taken by ferry to Angel Island. On the island the men received physicals and inoculations. They then sailed for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in Manila on November 20, 1941, the battalion was taken by train to Fort Stotsenburg. There, Bob and the other tankers loaded gun bets and de-cosmolined their guns.
The tankers were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to prevent the use of paratroopers if the Philippines were attacked. The morning of December 8, 1941, Bob and the men learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, Bob lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Not having the right ammunition, there was very little the tankers could do during the attack.
Bob spent the next four months fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. It was during this fight that he became a tank platoon commander because of the death of the platoon's commanding officer.
On April 9, 1942, Bob received the news of the surrender. He and his tank platoon, lined their tanks up, and fired armor piecing shells into the engines. They then opened the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. After this was done, his platoon made its way to Mariveles.
It was from Mariveles that Bob started what became known as the death march. Bob went days without food or water. In San Fernando, he slept on a concrete floor of a building. Since other prisoners with dysentery had used this building before, the floor was covered with human waste.
Bob and the other Prisoners of War were packed into steel boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane. The cars were about thirteen feet long and ten feet wide. The Japanese put 100 men in each car. Since the POWs were packed in so tightly, men suffocated from the lack of air.
At Capas, Bob made his way to Camp O'Donnell. The conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as fifty POWs died each day.
When the new camp was opened at Cabanatuan, Bob was sent there. It was while a POW there that Bob came down with dysentery. According to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion written by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield, Sgt. Robert E. Bronge died from dysentery and malaria on Saturday, July 31, 1942. His approximate time of death was 3:30 P.M. His family did not learn of his death until June 1945.
After he died, Bob was buried in a mass grave outside the camp. The grave was designated Grave 211. About March 26, 1946, the grave was disinterred and the remains of six of the POWs were identified. Although attempts were made to identify his remains after the war, the army was unable to do so.
Sgt. Robert E. Bronge was buried, as were the remains of fourteen other POWs who died at Cabanatuan, at the new American Military Cemetery outside Manila. Each man was buried in an individual grave.
Since the remains of Sgt. Robert E. Bronge could not be positively identified, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. His family had a memorial headstone placed at Fairview Memorial Park in Northlake, Illinois.