Veterans

May 30, 2014

WWII veteran shares story

Tags:
Senior Airman DEVANTE WILLIAMS
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Harold Bergbower, 26th Cavalry Regiment air mechanic, is assisted by Debra Bergbower, his daughter, during a visit to Focus 56 as guest speaker May 15 at Luke Air Force Base. Bergbower spoke about his time in the Army Air Corps and Air Force, and his experience during World War II as a prisoner of war.

Everyone has a story. It could be a simple story or complex. Some may experience a moment that can change their lives forever. For retired Chief Master Sgt. Harold Bergbower, 26th Cavalry Regiment air mechanic, his time in the Air Force proved to be life changing, and he shared it May 15 at Club Five Six during a Focus 56 meeting.

Bergbower was born May 11, 1920, in Newton, Illinois. He joined the Army Air Corps May 12, 1939. One year later, he went to school at Chanute Field, Illinois, and became an air mechanic. In January 1940, he volunteered to go to the Philippine Islands.

Bergbower stayed there for a year and a half. Everything was good until Dec. 8, 1941.

“We just got word that Pearl Harbor was bombed,” he said. “We also heard that Clark Field had been bombed as well, but we were on Clark Field at the time, so we thought it was a joke.”

No more than 10 minutes after hearing the statements on the radio, Bergbower saw Japanese bombers fly over Clark Field and drop bombs.

“The first few bombs dropped and then it was silent,” Bergbower said. “Seconds later came the impact, and I was hit. I remember waking up in the morgue at Fort Stotsenburg about 80 km north of Manila. I crawled out of the morgue, went back to my squadron and went back to duty.”

After the incident in Clark Field, Bergbower fought with Troop B of the 26th Cavalry Regiment for about two-and-a-half months because his original squadron was miles away from where he was.

“The food was so scarce that we used the horses and mules that we rode on for food,” Bergbower said.

Bergbower found out that his squadron was at Mindanao. With the help of the 26th Cavalry Regiment, he was able to rejoin his original squadron. Engaged by the Japanese, they fought with all their might but had to surrender. Japanese soldiers took them to a prison camp called Malaybalay, which was in the northern part of Mindanao. They were there for about three months and then transferred to Davao Penal Colony, where they were forced to farm.

“We raised rice and learned how to use a caribou to plow in the fields and paddies,” he said.

Bergbower and other prisoners farmed the fields of Davao Penal Colony for about four months until the Japanese soldiers decided to throw them on a “hell ship” and send them to Japan to work as slave laborers.

“They packed us in that ship from shoulder to shoulder, front to back,” he said. “You couldn’t even sit down. The ship ride was all a blur. I don’t remember anything until we landed in Japan, and that’s when everything came together.”

The unit was dropped at a warehouse to be hosed off. The Japanese took them to a steel mill where they worked until the war ended.

“The way we found out the war had ended was when people with the Red Cross came into our camp and said, ‘The war is over. We have entered the atomic age,’” he said. “The atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese surrendered.”

The U.S. won the war and the American prisoners were set free. Bergbower and his crew were sent to Tokyo on a hospital ship called The Rescue where they received treatment, hot meals and new clothes. The unit was able to send a telegram home. It went to a telegraph service in Canada where it was then delivered to his parents’ house by regular mail.

“My mother had received a letter and a telegram from the president about the death of her son Dec. 8, 1941,” he said. “It’s September 1945, and she gets this telegram saying that I’m alive. Of course she went into shock, but the doctor took care of her.”

Bergbower came back to the states in October 1945. He took the train from San Francisco to Galesburg, Illinois, to Letterman General Hospital and from there he called his parents. He was released from the hospital and went back to his parent’s home in Decatur.

“It was an honor to have Chief Master Sgt. Bergbower as a special guest for our Focus 56 meeting,” said Staff Sgt. Arlene Gutierrez, 56th Security Forces Squadron secretary. “Hopefully attendees who were at the meeting will pass on this incredible story to young Airmen and use it as motivation to succeed in their Air Force career.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Grace Lee

Pilot saves six Marines earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor

Grace Lee Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, pins the Air Force Combat Action Medal onto Capt. Aaron Cavazos, 61st Fighter Squadron weapons officer, Jan. 16 in Club Five Six at Luke Air Force Base. Cavazos was...
 
 

Financial responsibility — vital to readiness

In the “Band of Brothers” miniseries, there is a line in the movie where the soldiers are told to make sure they sign up for life insurance to ensure their next-of-kin gets $10,000 upon the soldier’s death. While none of us are about to make a combat jump in 1944 to fight the Nazis, Airmen...
 
 

Adapt, overcome, succeed

Change is inevitable, especially in today’s Air Force. If you’ve been serving for more than a few years, it’s likely you’ve experienced everything from new physical fitness requirements to the implementation of force management programs. Enlisted performance reports and feedback forms have been altered and changes to the promotion system are rapidly approaching. We expect...
 

 
Courtesy Photo

Chrach saves lives, earns recognition

Courtesy Photo Tech. Sgt. Steven Bruner, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Chrach, 56th SFS MWD, pose for a photo in Afghanistan during their 2012 deployment. Chrach was recently awarded the 12th A...
 
 

News Briefs January 23, 2015

VH1 concert VH1 and sponsors supporting the event are hosting a Super Bowl Blitz concert featuring Fall Out Boy and Charli XCX at 5 p.m. Jan. 30 in Hangar 999 as a “Thank you” to those who serve in the U.S. military. Members of the Luke community are invited and the concert is free. Service...
 
 
Courtesy Photo

Civilian answers AF call, gets dream job

Courtesy Photo Senior Airman Kristina Inocencio, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron engineer technician, measures the distance from the tree to the building Jan. 15 during survey training at Luke Air Force Base. One of Inocencio’s ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin