Birthday: February 08, 1917
Birthplace: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Family: Ferdinend and Marie Guelzow
Unit: Philippine Division, 31st Infantry, Co A
Post: Frontline Machine Gunner
Stationed in the Philippines.
"I enlisted in February 1941. I would have been drafted so I enlisted so I could pick a good place to go to. We were sworn in at Milwaukee and from there we went to San Francisco. From there we shipped out to what was Angels Island. The unit I was in had never done duty in the U.S. I did my infantry training in Manila. It was a foreign legion unit, the 31st Infantry. It was the only American infantry unit in the Philippines when the war started."
By November 27, 1941 the American government had decided that Japan was bent on war. In the Philippines the base was on constant alert. "We even had sentinels and guards on the highest buildings with binoculars watching for things..." Even though an attack from Japan was expected, her aggression on December 7 and 8 seem to take the United States completely by surprise.
As for the Filipinos themselves "the biggest problem there, they weren't well organized. There was one unit called the Philippine Scouts which was a good unit. They were very well trained, in fact they were part of our division. Our division was made up of the Philippine Scouts, Philippine Constabulary, Calvary and ours which was the U.S. 31st Infantry.
...The Filipinos had the draft. They were being drafted and they would take the non-commissioned officers from our unit and make them in charge of different units of the Filipinos and get them trained. But it wasn't soon enough. The war started.
The war started December 8th. Manila was declared an open city so the Japs wouldn't bomb it. See they moved us out, that was about Christmas Eve. We moved out of there and went over to Corregidor Island and we stayed there a day after Corregidor got bombed. Scared the heck out of me and alot of other ones....The troops that were on Corregidor they were in charge of artillery batteries. They had the Manlinta tunnel which was one big tunnel like a city in the mountain but we were outside.
Then we were run over to the Bataan Peninsula and from there we were put on buses and transported up to the Lingayen Gulf area. Up in that area, that's where the Japs were. They had landed before we came in. The Filipinos were the only ones there to keep them out. So the Japs were already established when we got there.
When the war started we were put on two meals a day, they were cut to one meal a day and for the last couple of weeks we were issued nothing, just what we could find to eat. There were bananas, they had the banana trees and sugar cane...had alot of juice in them as well as sugar.
We was in very poor condition and we was practically out of ammunition. (When) we started out I was in the light weapons platoon of a rifle company. The light weapons were 30 caliber air cooled machine guns. They didn't stand up if you fired them too fast or too long. They warped. So we ran out of machine guns and then I was transferred over to D Company which was a heavy weapons company. There they had 50 caliber water cooled machine guns. That's a good weapon.
We had good rifles. We had a new rifle that just came out. Otherwise we had WWI ...uniforms, WWI helmets and the mortars were WWI and the ammunition for the mortars WWI. The biggest percentage of the mortar ammunition ended up as dikes. They'd fire up and wouldn't explode. But the biggest thing we were out of was food. And we were out of ammunition."
The American and Filipino troops repulsed the relentless onslaught of the Japanese from within the protective jungle terrain of the Bataan Peninsula. This epic battle began on January 9th of 1942 with 80,000 defenders bracing themselves against the bombardment of the Japanese 70-mm batteries along with the vicious assault of 100,000 seasoned troops. Cut off from all aid and reinforcement, disease and starvation began to take its toll. Finally on April 9th, 1942, after a final four barrage from 150 heavy guns, after Japanese air support set the jungles aflame with incinderary bombs, the starving and bloody defenders of Bataan capitulated. 76,000 Filipino and American troops laid down their arms.
"After we were captured we would move everyday. There would be a common hole dug the day before just for those that were gonna be buried the next day. Anywheres from twenty to thirty to forty a day would be buried in that hole." The prisoners were herded together and force marched 140 miles. Their condition was critical at the time of surrender but irregardless of this the Japanese denied the fallen troops any water or aid throughout their grueling journey. Prisoners were beaten, clubbed, bayoneted and beheaded. No attempt was made to provide transportation and only twice during the week long march were the ailing captives fed. Mr. Guelzow endured the cruel treatment and along with 21,916 other Americans and over approximately 43,000 Filipinos was held captive in one of several camps. Mr. Guelzow's first camp was Camp O'Donnell.
"That was a terrible place. I was down and out for along time. We called this the hospital section, just Americans in there. The Japs never came down into that section. There were Americans in charge of each building and then we were split up into wards, one, two, three, four and so on.
There was also the zero ward which I was carried into and that held forty patients and there would be oh, two, three, four, five, six a day go out of there (died). There were some International Red Cross medical supplies, quinine and so. I know I had blood plasma, sulpha and quinine drugs and so forth. Pretty soon I got so I could get up....it took a couple of weeks." By the fall of 1942 "I could wrap my thumb and finger around my wrist and after a while you're skin and bones. I could wrap my thumb and finger around my wrist and go all the way up to my elbow...just skin and bones..."
Red Cross packages were rare in the camps. "I don't think the
Japs would let them come in. They let this shipload come in in '42, the end of
'42 when so many were dieing. You know there were alot more Filipinos
then there were us. When we were burying forty a day, fifty a day, they
were burying one-hundred because there were so many of them."
The Filipino people tried to help "but if they ever did they would be in big trouble. But even on the Death March they would set water out along the sides of the road or they would be out there and hand stuff to some of the guys on the edge of the group...they were beaten then. The Japs would even kick over the water that was left."
In June of 1942 Mr. Guelzow was moved to Camp Cabanatuan. " Now I know there was three guys...they had bribed the Jap guard so that they could get out and when he was on...duty they would go to a village...they could buy food...When they went back one time they had changed guards, they couldn't get in see? And they took them and they tied each one to a post...No food, water, nothing. One time it rained and the poor guys out there just holding his head up...When they couldn't stand anymore why they would get them out to a hole they had other prisoners dig for them and executed them, shot them. And they also burned the village."
In 1944 the Japanese shipped Mr. Guelzow to Japan to work in the copper mines north of Tokyo. He'll always remember what he was told upon arriving at the mines. "You are Americans and you are our enemy and you will always be our enemy. Now you will go work in the mines and there you will work until you die."
"After we went to Japan then we had British, Australians...we were all together. You had to do so much work...most of the time I worked with a Japanese blaster. You know you drill holes in the sides and fill them with explosives...A Japanese was always in charge of this but I was there with the helpers. We were using these big long bits, a couple of inches in diameter, and then drilling the hole and the bits would get stuck and you'd have to work them out again...it was a lot of work."
The food "it would be rice or it would be beans. We had a lot of soup. It was our own people that made it though. The stuff would be given to the kitchen ...and they would prepare it. But there was nothing, not very much to do other then put it all together and make a soup...There was one portion of rice and it was called a lugow and it was like oatmeal...it wasn't the best and it wasn't enough.
We knew (the Americans) were getting closer. One of the guys that worked in the kitchen was Chinese and he could read the Japanese papers..." When the atomic bomb was finally dropped "we didn't know what it was. There were some guys that said they had seen a flash and noise way off in the distance...We didn't see a military plane until it came over and dropped supplies down to us. I think it was the 15th of August that we got released from the Japanese. Probably it was later than that, you know we didn't have any calendars...I was bad enough that I was shipped back on a plane...I had never been on an airplane before in my life...They took us to a general hospital, I think it was Letterman General, in San Francisco
I called from Frisco. I didn't know when I was coming home. We were put on a train and shipped home. Nobody knew I was coming, got to Fond du Lac, took a cab...out to Oakfield which is where my folks live, went out there and surprised them.
In Europe they lost around 2% of their prisoners. We lost anywheres from 40% to 50%...I have no desire to go back there."
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104