The Origins of Maywood Bataan Day and the Maywood Bataan Day Organization

33rd Tank Company 33rd DivisionThey were barely more than kids, only in their teens and early twenties. Their buddies from Proviso High School called them "Weekend Warriors". They were members of the 33rd Tank Company, 33rd Infantry Division of the Illinois National Guard, based at the Armory in Maywood, Illinois. In September 1940, the Draft Act had been passed and selected National Guard Units were called into active duty to prepare for the possibility of entering the war in Europe. The 33rd Tank Company was organized May 3, 1929 at Maywood, Illinois and was inducted into active Federal service as Company “B” of 33rd Tank Company in training the 192nd Tank Battalion on November 25, 1940.

That day, one hundred twenty-two of these men left the Armory at Madison Street and Greenwood Avenue in Maywood to board a Northwestern Railroad train, which took them to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where Company B joined Company A from Janesville, Wisconsin. Company C from Port Clinton, Ohio, and Company D from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, to form the 192nd Tank Battalion.

After further training and participating in Louisiana maneuvers, the 192nd Tankers were at Camp Polk, Louisiana, to be fully equipped for overseas shipping. In October of 1941, 89 men of the original Battalion group left the United States for the Philippine Islands. They arrived in Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands on November 20, 1941 — Thanksgiving Day. From the port area, they went to Clark Field on Luzon, 60 miles to the north of Manila.

33rd Tank Company 33rd DivisionThe Army had expected to give these young Americans additional military training and develop the fighting skills of the newly mobilized Philippine forces, but that training never happened. In less than three weeks, on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked; six battleships went down to the bottom of the harbor. A few hours after the attack on the Hawaiian Base, Japanese bombs smashed into Clark Field and other bases on Luzon. Thereafter, Japan dominated both the air and the waters
around Luzon.

Japan’s next move was the actual invasion of the island, beach by beach. By Christmas Eve 1941, General Douglas A. MacArthur, Commander of all the Island Allied tank breaks through

General Wainwritght and General MacArthur

Forces in the Philippines, knew his exhausted troops could not stop this Japanese invasion. He put into action plans, made much earlier, for a mass withdrawal of all Philippine and American forces into Bataan; nearly 80,000 hungry and battle-worn troops. The 192nd Tank Battalion was tasked with providing cover for these with- drawal operations — they would be the last defenders into Bataan.

Clothing, barbed wire, gasoline, sand bags, medicine everything was in short supply. The scarcest commodity of all was food. By the end of January, after the forces had been only a month in Bataan, malaria, scurvy, and dysentery had reached epidemic proportions.

Pilots without planes, cavalrymen without horses, gunners Gen. Wainwright (L) and without tanks, and Filipinos without shoes all fought doggedly against the relentless tide of Japanese invaders and their unending artillery bombardment. In March,
General Douglas A. Macarthur was ordered out of the Philippines to Australia to assume command of all Far East forces. General Jonathan M. Wainwright III took command of the allied forces in the Philippines.

After 3 months of bitter fighting, which delayed the Japanese forces long enough to prevent an invasion of Australia, Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942. The following day, some 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers, as Japanese captives, all became victims of the greatest atrocity of the Pacific War: the Bataan Death March. A seemingly endless line of sick and starving men began their trip from the peninsula to Camp O'Donnell in central Luzon. The former Philippine cantonment was to have been an American airfield before the Japanese invasion, but had to be abandoned before completion.

The entire march to Camp O'Donnell was 112 kilometers (70 miles). Because of the deteriorated condition of these men and the brutal actions of their captors, no one knows how many died during that march. Probably 5,000 to 10,000 Filipinos and between 600 and 700 Americans lost their lives. What is known is that the dying and suffering did not end when the men reached Newspaper headline of surrender Camp O'Donnell; the "Death March" would not end for a long time. There would be more misery, more starvation, and more indignities, but most of all, there would be much, much more death before freedom. Of the nearly 10,000 Americans

Bataan Death Marchtaken prisoner at Bataan, between 6,000 and
7,000 died in Japanese prison camps during the three and-one-half years of their captivity. Of the 89 men of the 192nd who left the US in 1941, only 43 would return from the war.

Today’s Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO) traces its roots back to the American Bataan Clan (ABC). This small group arose out of the anguish of mothers over the welfare of their sons, who were lost Death March when Bataan fell.

After suffering through just over four
months of promises of military and supply relief, that was to be sent to the men fighting to slow or push back the invasion of Imperial Japan, these family members decided to take matters into their own hands. Viola Heilig, mother of Sgt. Roger Heilig of Co. B of the 192nd Tank Battalion, was one

of the founding mothers and also the first president. In the summer of 1942, the ABC registered itself as a charitable foundation and set about collecting the items, that prisoners of war would need. They conducted food drives, collected clothing, and worked with the Red Cross to determine where to send the items. During the summer, little information came out about the fate of the captured troops, but some heavily censored letters from the prisoners confirmed that at least some of the men of the 192nd were still alive.

On the second weekend of September, 1942, the ABC helped sponsor an incredible weekend of celebrations of the American spirit, just as America fully turned its efforts to the war effort. Recent victories in the Pacific Theater of the War led some to believe that the tide was turning. A parade through the streets of Maywood that weekend featured hundreds of marching bands, floats, soldiers, and celebrities. Even Chicago Mayor Kelley was there. (See back cover of this program for copies of the original program and ticket from that event)

Senator BrookesOne of the featured speakers at an evening rally was Illinois Governor Green (1941 – 1949), who
remarked, “...the heroism of the men who defended Bataan and Corregidor and our other outposts will endure forever, giving new inspiration and new courage to free men everywhere”. More than 30,000 people lined the parade route and jammed the grandstand area to hear the speakers. The families of the captured men had a place of honor on the reviewing stand.

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Thanks to our Source: Maywood Bataan Day Organization

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