Sgt. Joseph H. O'Connell

Sgt. Joseph O'Connell was son of Mr. & Mrs. William O'Connell and born on May 15, 1924 in Indiana.  He grew up on Rural Route #2 in Rock County, Wisconsin.   While in high school, Joseph joined the Wisconsin National Guard.  He was only sixteen years old when his tank company was called to Federal duty as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion in November of 1940.  This resulted him leaving high school to fulfill his military obligation.

    Joseph trained for almost a year at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  While he was there, he received his high school diploma in 1941.  In February, 1941, Joseph was assigned to Headquarters Company was formed from the four letter companies of the 192nd.

    In the late summer of 1941, Joseph took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  After these maneuvers, Joseph and the other members of the battalion learned that their one year of military service had been extended from one to six years. 
He received a pass home to say goodbye to his family and friends.
Joseph traveled west by train to San Francisco.

There they he and the other soldiers received physicals and shots. 
The 192nd sailed for the Philippine Islands from Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. 
 After stops in Hawaii and Guam, the 192nd arrived at Manila on Thanksgiving Day, 1941.

    Seventeen days days after arriving in the Philippine Islands, Joseph lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  For the next four months, Joseph worked to supply the tank crews with the supplies they needed to continue the fight against the Japanese.

    On one occasion, Joseph was attempting to locate the A Company tanks.  He was not having too much luck since the tanks were constantly on the move.  As he sat in his truck he heard tanks approaching, to his surprise, it was his company's tanks.  They had received orders to withdraw from the area and head to the south.  If they had not ran into him, he would have been left behind and fallen into Japanese hands.  Since he had no radio, he had not heard the order to withdraw.

    On another occasion, he was at the battalion's headquarters.  The tanks were in contact with HQ by radio.  As he listened, he heard the conversation between the tanks as they fought a running battle with the Japanese.  While they were fighting the Japanese, the tankers were attempting to find a place where they could cross the Agoo River.

    When Philippines were surrendered, Joseph became a Prisoner of War.  He was held at Cabanatuan and Bilibid Prison in the Philippines.  He would later be taken to Japan on what became known as a hell ship. 
During his time in Japan, he was held at Fukuoka #1.  It is not known if this was the camp he was liberated from as a POW, but it is believed it was either Fukuoka #1 or Fukuoka camp #17 where he is listed on the roster of #17.

    Joseph O'Connell returned to Janesville after the war.  He went back to school and attended Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin.  He then attended Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  He married and became the father of four children,
spending much of his adult life as a employment counselor to the disabled.
Joseph O'Connell died in March of 1981 in Wausau, Wisconsin.

 

 Credit: Jim Opolony: 192nd & 194th Tank Battalion

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