Lester Albert Schade
|HOME OF RECORD
Route 1, Box 95, Abbotsford, WI
|NEXT OF KIN
Parents, Richard & Margaret Schade
|DATE OF BIRTH
May 30, 1917
February 17, 1943
|DATE OF LOSS
November 20, 1943
|CAMPAIGN / AREA
Aboard hellship Enoura Maru
Killed while POW
|CIRCUMSTANCES OF LOSS
Captain Lester Schade was captured in the fall of Bataan, and endured more than two and a half years of captivity at Cabanatuan POW Camp in the Philippine Islands. On 9 January 1945, he was killed during an attack on the Enoura Maru, a hellship transporting him to Japan.
Schade’s remains were exhumed from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and officially identified on 26 July 2018.
Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal
|LAST KNOWN RANK
|STATUS OF REMAINS
Manila American Cemetery
Lester Schade was born in Abbotsford, Wisconsin, on 30 May 1917. His parents, Richard and Margaret Schade, were farmers in the rural community of Holton, and the three boys – Ernest, Clarence, and Lester – grew up helping out around the farm. School was held in nearby Dorchester, where the boys were also active in 4-H and Scouts. Lester proved to be a particularly brilliant student – first at the Bruckerville School, and then at Dorchester High. In 1931, at the age of fourteen, he was chosen to represent his county in an event billed as “the first national test and demonstration of the educational value of sound pictures.” He placed second, and in addition to earning distinction as “one of the smartest boys in the country” received a white gold watch, a photo with President Hoover, and a cruise on a real Navy destroyer. (1) Lester was frequently on the honor roll at Dorchester High, and was one of six honor graduates in the class of 1935; in his first semester at the University of Wisconsin, he won a state-wide essay and scholarship contest. He graduated with a degree in agricultural education in 1939.
Schade got involved with ROTC while in college, and decided to serve in the Marine Corps. He accepted a commission as a second lieutenant on 9 August 1942, and set off for training at The Basic School in Philadelphia. Long hours in a classroom were no challenge for the former super student, and ROTC prepared him well for the world of drills and military courtesy. In May of 1940, Lieutenant Schade fired the small arms course at Cape May, received his certificate from The Basic School, and headed back to Abbotsford for a month’s leave. He probably savored every day, for packed in his bags were orders detailing him to report for duty with the Sixteenth Naval District in the Philippines. These orders, the lieutenant explained to his parents, would keep him overseas for the next two years.
On 20 July 1940, after exactly one month at sea aboard the USS Chaumont, Second Lieutenant Schade arrived at the Marine Barracks, Naval Station Olongapo. The senior officer was Major Stuart W. King, with First Lieutenant Clyde R. Huddleston as his second in command, and there was no shortage of work for a junior second lieutenant to do. Schade quickly assumed the duties of barracks Mess Officer… and then Recreation Officer, Reservation Patrol Officer, and Athletic Officer, too. After a few months an even more junior lieutenant, John W. Stevens II, arrived to share some of Schade’s workload. These four officers ran the barracks detachment of about seventy enlisted men for the remainder of 1940.
Lester Schade’s first few months at Olongapo were busy but otherwise unremarkable. In March of 1941, he contracted a fairly serious illness that sent him to the Naval Hospital in Canacao for six weeks. He would return to Olongapo just long enough to turn over his duties to Second Lieutenant Leon E. Chabot, then joined a brand new unit – the First Separate Marine Battalion – which was being organized to better defend the Philippine Islands in case of attack. Schade was assigned to Company B, and then Company D, both of which were based in Cavite Navy Yard. Each company consisted of infantry and shore defense batteries; Schade was placed in charge of his unit’s .50-caliber machine guns, which were deployed as antiaircraft weapons. When the senior officer, Captain Frederic Ramsey, transferred for duty aboard the USS Houston, Lester Schade also assumed the role of company commander.
In late November 1941, the number of Marines in the Philippines increased dramatically as the 4th Marine Regiment arrived from Shanghai. As the “China Marines” took to training in an attempt to “bust the rust” on their fieldcraft, the First Separate Battalion kept re-shuffling its personnel. Lieutenant Schade was posted to Company C in November – the date was omitted from battalion muster rolls – and was serving as the commander of a provisional antiaircraft battalion on 8 December 1941.
“The early morning quiet was shattered by the piercing sound of the battalion bugler’s call to arms,” writes Bob Wilbanks. “Lights went on throughout the barracks and the men, all in their skivvies, dressed hurriedly and ran to formation in front of the barracks…. Lieutenant Colonel John P. Adams [the battalion commander]… was not one given to long-winded oratory. ‘The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and we are at war. From now on you are to stand by your guns at all times.'”(2) From their positions in Caridad, Schade’s antiaircraft gunners had a clear view of the sky above Cavite. On 10 December, dozens of droning engines announced the arrival of a bombing raid. The Japanese were flying far above the effective range of the guns, but the batteries opened fire anyway on a futile show of defiance. After expending some 280 rounds, Schade’s men watched in horror as the bombers obliterated Cavite. “We were left with a sense of fatality which was renewed every time our eyes fell on the Yard across the bay,” said another battery commander, Lieutenant Carter B. Simpson. “A toy pistol would have damaged their planes as much as we did.”(3) Repeated bombings over the next few days decimated the defenses, and Cavite was effectively abandoned.
On 22 December, Lieutenant Schade’s outfit packed what supplies and equipment they could and began the painful retreat south from Cavite. They spent a doleful Christmas at Mariveles, then boarded a little fleet of barges and sailed for Fort Mills on the island of Corregidor. There, the survivors of the First Separate Battalion were informed that they would henceforth be part of the 4th Marines. Schade’s former Company C became Company L, Third Battalion, 4th Marines effective 1 January 1942. That same day, Schade was transferred to the brand new Company I, 3/4, and a week later accepted a promotion to First Lieutenant. However, new orders arrived on 16 January, and Schade crossed the bay back to Bataan. He was being sent to restore a modicum of military order to the developing chaos on the peninsula.
A Marine Air Warning Service detachment commanded by Marine Gunner John T. Brainard was in charge of the last serviceable long-range radar set in the Philippines. This little unit held out near Cavite until just before Christmas, and once they managed to move their bulky equipment to new positions near Limay, most of their fellow Marines had been moved over to Corregidor. Thus detached – or, more accurately, orphaned – Brainard’s men were left to their own devices, and their propensity for foraging supplies earned them quite a reputation. Some were caught “requisitioning” liquor from a disabled Allied freighter, and the more aggressive among them kept trying to get into action. A skirmish near Abucay resulted in the death of PFC Robert J. Brown and the wounding of several other Marines.
Not long after this skirmish, Brainard was summoned to the regimental headquarters and returned to the radar detachment with a new officer, “on the smallish side, fair of complexion and light of hair,” recalled Corporal Ted Williams. “He wore pressed khaki pants and his brand new first lieutenant bars gleamed in the sun.” Lieutenant Lester Schade had arrived to bring the detachment to heel.
He did not make a good first impression.
“Lt. Schade grew quite red in the face and military in bearing,” Williams wrote in his memoir. “‘Fall in!’ he shouted in perfect military manner. ‘Attention…. KEEOUNT-OFF!'” After “a very quick and abbreviated refresher course in military protocol… followed by a lecture on how was in command and how we were to respond to same.” Schade announced he would personally inspect the camp.
By the time he had returned to the assembly area, he was almost in a rage. He began by telling us of the privations of the units on Corregidor and the plight of the men on the front lines. He described his incredibly inane opinion of our “ribald and chicanerous” acts. “You men will act like Marines, you will sleep like Marines, and you will adhere to all rules like Marines. You will tear down these billets you have erected and be ready for action at all times. No one will leave this camp without my permission.” On and on he talked, until he ended in an almost sobbing voice, “And every man will eat only the standard rations. Any man having anything other than standard issue will turn it into the supply sergeant immediately!”
Gunner Brainard intervened at this point, and with a few well-chosen words convinced the irate lieutenant into a private conversation. Several more such discussions over the days that followed seemed to change the young officer’s mind. “Schade may have been a ‘red-necked officer,'” commented Williams, “but he was no fool! He took to walking around the area and speaking with the men. He even waited his turn in the shower line. He was still a loner but it was evident he wanted to be respected and perhaps even liked.”
Williams recorded another conversation between Schade and an Air Corps officer, after which “Mr. Schade went through a traumatic, if not spectacular change…. He spoke to each man on performance and military preparedness and then announced that our unit would survive in any way possible….” This included a return to trading, wheedling, or “requisitioning” for rations and equipment. On one memorable occasion, Schade announced “I was sent here because you were known as Brainard’s Bandits. I think I prefer ‘Rogues of Bataan!'”
“We ‘Rogues’ grew quite fond of our lieutenant,” Williams admitted. “He was always very proper, but was looking in the other direction most of the time to preserve his dignity…. He developed a weather eye for contraband and defended more than one man against higher authority. By early March he was one of us completely.” (4)
In early April, shells started falling on the radar detachment, and they pulled out of their camp and joined the southward retreat hoping to get their priceless equipment safely to Corregidor. After several days of confusion and chaos, the detachment arrived at a burning ammunition depot. At this juncture, Lieutenant Schade and Gunner Brainard decided to proceed on foot to find some higher authority, or some instructions for moving their equipment across the bay to the comparative safety of Corregidor. “It was the last time I would ever see Lieutenant Schade,” said Ted Williams.
On 28 April 1942, the Marshfield News-Herald announced that Lester Schade was missing in action. For more than three years, his family waited anxiously for updates. The government sent news of his promotion to Captain and – after almost a year – confirmation that he was indeed a prisoner of war. They wrote letters addressed to the Japanese Red Cross and, although they never heard back, hoped that Lester was hanging on. In January 1945, they got a sudden bonanza – three postcards with brief messages from Lester. He was in excellent health, he said, had received their mail, and hoped the war would be over soon. The most recent card was six months old.
By the time they arrived, Lester Schade was already dead.
He had survived the fall of Bataan and the first dangerous, confusing moments after the surrender. He endured the Bataan Death March, walking sixty five miles from Mariveles to San Fernando, evading the notice of murderous guards and surviving in the intense heat without food or water. He was held at the Old Bilibid Prison for an unknown period of time, then shipped off to Cabanatuan Camp #1.
Schade would spend almost two years at the infamous camp. Dysentery, malaria, and beriberi ran rampant; at times the death rate exceeded one hundred men in a single day. Prisoners were forced into slave labor and subsisted on thin lugao gruel – or, when they were extremely fortunate, a vegetable or an egg. No eyewitness accounts of Schade’s time at Cabanatuan have yet been found, but one can only imagine that the “weather eye for contraband” he developed with the Rogues served him well during his captivity.
Late in 1944, the Japanese began relocating their prisoners from the shrinking edges of their conquered territory to camps closer to the heart of their empire. Captain Schade was selected for one such draft in December. He was marched back to Old Bilibid, where more than 1,600 POWs were gathered, counted, and counted again. They were paraded through Manila and down to the bay, where they beheld a waiting vessel – the Oryoku Maru. As hundreds of Japanese civilians boarded into the passenger compartments, prisoners were herded belowdecks. Schade probably wound up with the officers in Hold #5.
“The officers crept down a long, slanting wooden staircase” recalled one of the surviving POWs.
It was almost pitch-dark in the farthest recesses of the hold, as a platform about 5 feet above the hatch cut off almost all the light and air that might have reached this dungeon…. A man could not stand, nor extend his legs while sitting down. Each officer sat with his back against his neighbor’s knees… jammed in the foul, stinking darkness. Some of the older officers began to faint right away. Fistfights broke out…. In this hold, on top of 500 officers, were piled 350 more men, making a total of 850….(5)
Some men went insane in the cramped confines of the hold, and others began to die. Perhaps fifty succumbed to suffocation or disease in the first twenty four hours. Then, as the ship tried to slip out of the islands, it was spotted by American planes. The Oryoku Maru was not marked to as a prisoner transport – it looked like any other transport ship – and the pilots worked it over with bombs and strafing. Badly damaged, the ship ran aground and the surviving civilians were taken ashore. The prisoners were not so fortunate.
Men paired off to go marauding, and there was many a murder in cold blood – blood to drink in place of water. Men drank their own and each other’s urine, and they died. Men simply gave up all hope of living through the night, and they died. Others were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they died violently. A few tried to rush the ladders and get on deck in the face of Jap guns, and they died on the spot. (6)
Lester Schade escaped the Oryoku Maru on the following day, 15 December 1944, as more American planes returned to finish off the crippled ship. He swam and splashed ashore near the Olongapo Naval Station, where he had done duty four years ago. The survivors were crammed into an abandoned tennis court for days, then transported to Lingayen Gulf to board another transport – a smaller vessel with a big #2 painted on the funnel. Her proper name was the Enoura Maru. A few hundred were diverted to a ship marked #1 – the Brazil Maru. (7) Schade was shoved aboard one of these two vessels, which then sailed in convoy for Takao Harbor in Formosa (modern day Taiwan). Conditions were brutal. “Wracked with dysentery, unhinged from all common sense, starving, the men lay in their own filth and gave up,” related a survivor. “The slimy, feces-covered, bloody remains of what had once been an American soldier or sailor would be hoisted [from the hold] to the deck, feet first, with a rope tied around his ankles. It nauseated even the hardest bitten prisoners to see their best buddies go this way.”(8)
The two hellships avoided American airstrikes and submarines and arrived in Takao on New Year’s Day, 1945. They tied up, powered down, and stayed motionless for several days. Dead POWs were removed from the holds, which eased the smell, but when the Japanese decided to move all the Brazil Maru prisoners to the Enoura Maru, conditions were more crowded than ever. Men risked their lives to steal a little sugar from the ships stores; the night of 8 January was notable because the prisoners were issued soup – their first in nearly a month.
The attack came during morning chow call on 9 January.
The AA guns opened up, firing madly into the sky. Dive bombers. Three bombs of substantial size did the work. The first fell close to the midships (No. 2) hold, wrenching the plates and knocking hatch planking down on the wretched men beneath. About 40 men were killed outright, and another 80 pinned beneath the heavy boards. Strafing shells exploded within the hold, making it still worse. The second and third bombs fell squarely in the forward (No. 1) hold, killing or wounding virtually everyone – at least 250 died immediately. A hole was blasted through the partition between the holds and those in the after area could look through at the tangle of bodies. They saw little motion.(9)
Another survivor described the bomb hit from close up.
Suddenly there was a crunch of metal against metal and a deafening explosion as the bomb hit the deck near the port side rail. A blinding orange flash illuminated the semidarkness. Hatch covers and timbers plunged into the hold along that side. Hunks of metal, large and small, ripped through the air and ricocheted off the steel walls. Agonized screams of the crushed and wounded rent the air. Like a furious tornado, the bomb had struck, destroyed, and left misery and desolation in its wake…. With nearly a third of the overhead decking having been ripped away by the explosion, it was no longer half dark in the hold. The sky was clear now and the sun sent bright shafts of light penetrating into our devastated pit of horrors. What met the eye would have been better left unseen…. Dead bodies were strewn across the length and breadth of the rubble-filled floor; some by themselves and others clustered in small groups.(10)
Sketches by former POW Eugene Jacobs depict the Enoura Maru after the bombing attacks on 9 January 1945. Source: American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.
One of the dead was Captain Lester Schade. He was twenty-seven years old.
For two days, the dead – more than three hundred of them – lay among the living in the wrecked Enoura Maru, “stacked naked like wheat sacks in criss-cross piles.” Their clothing and belongings were distributed among the survivors, who assumed “the bitter task of hauling their buddies’s bodies out of the holds.”
The dead were loaded on a barge. Volunteers for the job of taking them ashore were easy to find. Almost every man who could walk tried to get on the detail, in the hope that they could get a drink of water while they were ashore…. They found themselves so weak that they couldn’t carry the bodies from the barge to the shore. These were hauled in by ropes around their ankles and laid out in rows in a coal yard. A simple hand salute was their military farewell.(11)
A crane and cargo net had to be used to remove the corpses from the forward hold. “The net was loaded with broken bodies,” commented a survivor. “Arms, legs, heads, were protruding through the netting…. The crane then lowered the net down to another barge, where Chinese coolies were unloading the grizzly [sic] cargo onto sampans. I had witnessed so much death and carnage [in the war] that I thought nothing could ever bother me again, but this got to me. Even the guards were shaken by the sight.”(12)
While one group of prisoners loaded bodies onto barges or sampans, another group was marched about a mile to a large cemetery. When the sampans arrived, these prisoners unloaded the pitiful cargo and placed individual bodies onto stretchers. “The litters were carried away by Formosan soldiers,” commented a survivor. “We surmised that the bodies were all taken away to the crematorium; however, none of us ever saw the bodies after they were taken away on the litters.” The POWs presumed that their comrades were cremated, and this was evidently the story they told and believed when the war was over – leading to a decades-long supposition that all of the Enoura Maru dead had been burned. Cremation may have been the Japanese plan, but for some reason this did not take place. Instead, the remains were buried in a single mass grave on Nakasu Beach, across from Takao City.
This site was found by an AGRS expedition in 1946. Over the course of several days, some 311 remains were unearthed from a site located at 22°37′ N; 120°16’E (near modern Kaohsiung City.) The remains were in a hopeless jumble, obviously piled on top of each other, and needed to be carefully separated. Contrary to popular belief, the report read “No evidence of cremation was found.”(14) Like many other bereaved families, the Schades were not told about this development – in fact, they believed that Lester had died on 31 December 1944, and included that date on a memorial to “our dear son lost at sea.”
In 1947, about forty caskets containing the commingled remains of the Enoura Maru victims arrived at Honolulu for processing by the Central Identification Laboratory. Only a handful could be positively identified. For a time, it seemed that Captain Lester Schade might be one of those fortunate few – he bore some resemblance to an unknown designated X-542B – but there was not enough evidence, and the recommended identification was rejected. Schade’s case was deemed closed.
In 2015, Ted Darcy’s WFI Research Group submitted a case recommending an investigation into Plot P, Grave 423 of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where he believed Captain Schade’s remains were buried as an unknown. Based on this research, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency eventually ordered the exhumation of the grave. On 26 July 2018, the agency announced that Lester Schade was officially accounted for.
(1) Anonymous, “Dorchester Youth Returns As Winner,” The Marshfield News-Herald (Marshfield, WI) 18 July 1931.
(2) Bob Wilbanks, Last Man Out: Glenn McDole, USMC, Survivor of the Palawan Massacre in World War II, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2004), 5.
(3) J. Michael Miller, From Shanghai to Corregidor: Marines In The Defense Of The Philippines (Washington, DC: Marine Corps Historical Center, 1997), 7-8.
(4) Ted R. Williams, Rogues of Bataan (New York: Carlton Press, 1979) 80-84.
(5) Kenneth W. Day, 49 Days In Hell (Santa Fe: Bataan Veterans’ Organization) 2-3.
(6) Ibid., 6.
(7) Ibid., 12-13.
(9) Ibid, 15.
(10) Manny Lawton, Some Survived: An Eyewitness Account of the Bataan Death March and the Men Who Lived Through It (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 1984).
(11) Day, 16.
(12) Joseph Quitman Johnson, Baby of Bataan: Memoir of a 14 Year Old Soldier in World War II (Memphis: Omonomany, 2004), 259.
(13) Duane Heisinger, Father Found: Life And Death as a Prisoner of the Japanese in World War II (Xulon Press, 2003), 530-533.
(14) Ibid., 535.