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Harold Bergbower

Chief Master Sergeant (Ret.) Harold Bergbower was born May 11, 1920, in Newton, Ill. 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, where he stayed for a year-and a-half, until the attack on Pearl Harbor.  

"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 his own location.

"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, Philippines, and he was able to rejoin them. 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.

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. 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."

Bergbower came back to the states in October 1945. He took the train from San Francisco, Calif., to Galesburg, Ill., to Letterman General Hospital and was later released from the hospital and went back to his parents’ home.