Herbert (Bud) Kirchhoff, Jr.
Pvt. Herbert C.
Kirchhoff, Jr. was born in 1919 to Lucille & Herbert C. Kirchhoff, Sr in Peoria, Illinois.
He was known as "Bud" to his family and friends. Herb lived at 717 North Second Avenue in
Maywood, Illinois, and attended Proviso Township High School. Herbert joined the Illinois National Guard's Maywood Tank
Company because a friend talked him into it. In November of 1940, Herbert was sent to Fort
Knox, Kentucky, when the company was called into federal service. It was there that the
company became Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. While at Fort Knox, he trained as a tank
driver. The company next went to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and was personally selected by
General George S. Patton to go to the Philippines.
When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December of 1941, Herbert was
involved in a number of battles as a member of Sgt. Walter Cigoi's tank crew. Herbert
would later command his own tank.
Herb's worst memory of battle involved a Japanese attempt to break the Filipino-American
line of defense. The Japanese attacked after dark and the fighting went on all night. The
line of defense held by the 192nd almost broke. When dawn came, the tankers had held onto
their position. Despite being in the middle of several battles, Herb was never wounded.
Herb, with his company, continued to fight the Japanese until Bataan was surrendered on
April 9, 1942.
Herb took part on the death
march. The Japanese divided the Prisoners of War into groups of 100. Each group had six
guards who marched with them. Those prisoners who fell out were beaten by the guards. According to Herb, the worst part of the march was the lack of water and
the heat. At the end of each day, the POWs were placed in a bullpen for the night. The
next day the prisoners were led out of the pen four at a time. When 100 men had been
counted, their march would start anew. Only those prisoners who marched were fed. Those
who stayed in the bullpens were not fed or given anything to drink. Herb, on several
occasions, found himself unable to march because of sore feet. He stayed in the bullpens
and went without food or water.
As a POW, Herb spent ten days at Camp O'Donnell before being sent to
Cabanatuan. He spent seven of these days sick with pneumonia. He remained at Cabanatuan
until being sent to Japan in July of 1943.
Herb was boarded onto the Clyde Maru on July 23, 1943. On the trip
to Japan, one of the Japanese officers known to the prisoners as "Big Speedo" allowed the
POWs out of the hold. He also made sure that they were fed. In Herb's own words, "He was
a good guy." The ship arrived at Moji on August 7, 1943.
In Japan, he first was imprisoned at Fukuoka 17 with other members of
Company B, Jim Bashleben, Lester Tennenberg and Bob Martin. A short time later, Herb was
sent to another camp and unloaded boxcars. He also built earthen embankments for what the
Japanese believed to be the coming invasion of Japan.
During his imprisonment in Japan, Herb witnessed on several occasions
prisoners beaten to
death by a guard they called, "The
Beast." This guard would beat prisoners to death with his bare fists. Herbert believed
that this guard received "justice" from several prisoners after the war.
On several occasions, he experienced signs that the Americans were aware
of the POWs . While unloading ships, a B-29 bomber flew over the docks taking pictures.
The plane circled the POWs letting them know that its crew knew the POWs were there. The
plane then dropped a map to the POWs that showed the location of every camp.
On a different occasion, an American bombing mission leveled the town his
camp was located next to. The camp was next to a power station. In the morning, the
prisoners saw that the entire town had been leveled except for the power plant. It was
located too close to the camp.
The last camp Herb was held at was located 75 miles from Nagasaki.
Although he did not see the atomic bomb because he was working in a mine, he heard about a
"big boom." It was not long before the Japanese assembled the prisoners and announced to
them that they were free. The Japanese told the former POWs that they could leave, but
that they should leave behind the things they really did not need.
Herbert then spent the next month roaming Japan before returning to the United States.
Returning to Maywood, he would marry and raise a family. Today, he resides in Coeur d 'Alene,
194th Tank Battalion
Footnote: I have met Bud on
two occasions and find him to be a man with a wonderful sense of humor. Tho quiet about his
experiences, I am, blessed that he trusts me and opens up when I ask. June 2008 had a share
a time together at the NW reunion of ADBC in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It was there that he
related to me the following story...
"We worked 3 shifts in the coal mine at Fukuoka 17, all of which we
rotated. One time “swing” shift came in (from work) and it woke me up. I decided everyone
was busy with the shift change and so it would be a good time to steal food. I was going to
steal it from the Jap kitchen. Well, if you went anywhere you had to take your “Ban” (POW)
number and hang it outside your barracks on a tag. To say where you were, if you were gone.
I came out from the kitchen with a shirt full of onions and was caught by a guard.
I then realized, I had forgotten to hang my Ban number on a tag.
They (the Japs) made me say (in Japanese) “I am a thief”. Then they took 3 bamboo poles,
put one behind my knees as they were bent and 2 on the ground that I had to kneel on. I
had to kneel all night long.
Ironically they let me go. I do not know why, most of the time you
were tortured much longer or killed.
It was our Japanese interpreter who tortured me.
Recent Article Featuring Bud - April 6th, 2015
Featuring Bud - September 21, 2013
SPOKANE, Washington - KHQ News
In 1941, a young Bud Kirchhoff was deployed to Clark Air Base in
the Philippines. Just 18 days later his life would change dramatically. Friday, at a
ceremony remembering those who were taken as Prisoners of War and those who were never
found, he told his story.
A Staff Sergeant in the 192nd Tank Battalion, Bud remembers
December 7th vividly. Overshadowed by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Clark Air Base was also
bombed, destroying the airfield and all of the aircraft lining it.
Shortly after the attack, the Japanese took between 60,000 and
80,000 American soldiers as Prisoners of War. Among them was Bud Kirchhoff. For a year, and
a half Bud lived as a POW, even surviving the infamous Bataan Death March. Eventually, he
was moved to Japan, where he spent another two years under Japanese control working in a
Liberated at the end of the war, Kirchhoff finally jumped aboard an
Indian freighter and made it back to Seattle on Navy Day in 1945. He is now a commander
with the ex-POW's here in Spokane, offering his support for others who went through the
same thing he did.
Click here for photos of Bud