Donald M. Heddleston
M. Heddleston was born out of wedlock in Minnesota on
March 11, 1917. His mother, Anna H. Austerson, moved to Orfordville, Wisconsin, with
her infant son and later married Louis Sveom. The couple would
have two daughters together.
Donald was raised in Ordfordville and attended school there. He also took the last name of his step-father. As a young man, Donald worked as a automobile mechanic at the DeVoe Plymouth dealership in Orfordville.
In October 1940, Donald joined the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville. When he joined, he was required by the National Guard to use the name that appeared on his birth certificate. His birth name was Donald M. Heddleston.
On November 25, 1940, Donald's tank company was called to federal service as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The Guardsmen were told that they would be released from federal service after one year of service. Donald traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was transferred to HQ Company when the company was formed with men from the letter companies of the battalion in January 1941.
Donald continued to train at Ft. Knox until he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of 1941. It was after the maneuvers, at Camp Polk, that Donald and his battalion learned that instead of being released from federal service, they were being sent overseas. Donald returned home to say goodbye to family and friends.
Traveling west by train from Camp Polk, the tankers took four different train routes to San Francisco. Once there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated.
Sailing for the Philippine Islands, the battalion stopped at Hawaii and Guam before arriving in at Manila. Donald and the other tankers spent the next two weeks preparing for maneuvers.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the members of HQ Company were informed by Capt. Fred Bruni of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The letter companies of the battalion were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Air Field to guard against paratroopers.
At 12:45 in the afternoon, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first the soldiers assumed the planes were American. It was only after they saw and heard bombs dropping from the planes did they knew that the planes were Japanese.
Donald and the other members of HQ Company worked to keep the tankers supplied and the tanks running. On January 14, 1942, Donald was wounded by enemy fire. The exact details are not known. It is known that he did not return to active duty until March 11th which was his 25th birthday.
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Bruni told HQ Company of the surrender. Donald and the other members of the company remained in their bivouac for two days. When Japanese soldiers appeared, they ordered Donald and the other men out onto the road that ran near their bivouac. The Prisoners of War were ordered to knee along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
Donald and the rest of the company then road trucks south to Mariveles. Outside the barrio, they disembarked and were ordered into a field near a school. As they sat there, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form across from them. The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad.
As Donald and the other POWs watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a jeep. He got out and talked to the Japanese sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the jeep and drove off. The Japanese sergeant then ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Not too long after this, Donald and the other men were ordered to move. They moved to a second field where Japanese artillery was set up and firing on Corregidor. As they sat in the field, Corregidor began to return fire and shells began to land among the POWs. Several men were killed when a shell hit the hut that they had sought refuge in. By the time the artillery exchange had ended, the Americans had destroyed three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were again ordered to move. They did not know it, but they had started the death march. According to other members of the company, Donald had a leg wound and had a hard time on the march.
Donald and the other POWs made their way north to San Fernando. There, he and the other men were packed into small wooden boxcars that were used for hauling sugarcane. They rode the cars to Capas were the bodies of the dead fell out when the living disembarked. The POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Once in Camp O'Donnell, Donald was put in the camp hospital because of his wounds. He remained at Camp O'Donnell even after the new camp at Cabanatuan opened. It was while he was in the hospital that he became ill with dysentery. According to the final report on the 192nd written by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield, T/5 Donald M. Heddleston died from malaria and dysentery on June 8, 1942 at Camp O'Donnell. But, according to the surviving members of A Company, Donald became ill because he refused to eat and traded his rice ration for cigarettes.
After the war, the remains of T/5 Donald M. Heddleston were buried at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.