May 16, 1918 (New Britain, CT) – November 22, 1990 (Norwalk, CT); 72 years old
Married to Lorraine A. Dwyer Schreiner (1916-2016)
Two daughters, Suzanne L. (1942-) and Heidi J. Schreiner Godleski (1944-).
One son, Christopher I. (1949-).
Local address: 39 Barbara Drive and 11 Old Lantern Road, Norwalk
Enlisted on September 26, 1940.
Serial number: 11010824
Unit: 17th and 20th Fighter Squadron; also several reserve units across 30 years
Born to Alois (1881-1973) and Josephine Rogan Schreiner (1894-1993) [both parents were born in Austria]. Two sisters, Virginia Schreiner Loughery (1920-2014) and Marion L. Schreiner Kern (1931-).
Teachers College of Connecticut 1950 yearbook
At the outbreak of hostilities in the Philippines, he saw action with his squadron until all of the planes were destroyed. Then he was assigned to duty with the 57th Filipino Scouts as an infantry officer. He was taken prisoner and made the Bataan Death March. Later that year he was sent to Hoten POW Camp in Mukden, Manchuria. In August 1945, he was released by the Russians and returned to the United States. He spent a total of 40 months in prison.
After his discharge in 1946, he was elected the National Service Director for the Gold Star Mothers of Bataan and Corregidor, and State Commander of Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor in 1948. He was also a member of the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Philippine Defense Ribbon with one bronze star, American Defense Ribbon with one bronze star, Asiatic – Pacific Campaign Medal, Purple Heart Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
He went back to school and became a certified teacher. He went on to be the head of the Industrial Arts Program at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut.
From The Norwalk Hour May 27, 1970
Death March Recalled
No Hatred Remains for S. A. Schreiner, POW 40 Months
“It was so long ago it now seems like a dream, like a bad nightmare, as if it never really happened! We were on a forced march for three days, without food and very little water, a long tiring 120 miles on foot, with little time for resting. And the stragglers despite whatever reason they might have had for falling behind, suffered cruelties inflicted by our captors. The wounded and dying were left unattended, many being trampled or kicked ferociously, others being ruthlessly bayoneted… many abandoned all hope.”
Sigfried A. Schreiner, captured in the Japanese invasion of Bataan in April of 1942, spent some 40 months as a prisoner of war. He has many memories of the infamous Bataan “Death March” and the long months spent in captivity in Japanese prison camps in the Philippines, Formosa, Korea, and Manchuria. The local resident gives an unequivocal reply to the question, “Do you still retain any feeling of ill will or enmity toward the Japanese after what you experienced as a prisoner of war during World War II?”
“No. “Feeling of hostility, hatred, animosity, fortunately, diminish with time. And, years later, when you think about it – what happened so long ago in the past you tend to forgive and forget.”
Mr. Schreiner, who enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the age of 20 on September 26, 1939, and was discharged in June of 1946, served for five years in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre during World War II. Hospitalized for a year at Fort Devens, Massachusetts at the end of the war, having dropped from 150 to 92 pounds during his months as a prisoner, Mr. Schreiner then a 1st Lieutenant, regained his health.
He was stationed at Nichols Field in Manila with the 17th Fighter Squadron at the outbreak of WWII, he remembers the early morning of December 8, 1941, the day the Japanese assaulted the Philippine Islands, a day after the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. He recalled that by the morning of December 10, the same morning when the first Japanese landing on Luzon also took place, the U.S. Army Air Corps had lost most of its bombers and fighter planes based there. With the American forces then all but totally devoid of air strength, he explained, the enemy took total control of the air over the Philippines, and massed troops for the capture of the island.
On December 25th, U.S. Army Corps headquarters in the Far East was established in Corregidor. Manila was declared an open city by General MacArthur on the following day. The Japanese were advancing in their drive toward Manila and the Bataan Peninsula. The American supply base in Manila was destroyed to prevent its supplies from falling into enemy hands. Mr. Schreiner recalled that with Manila an open city, his fighter unit was ordered to Bataan. There he served with the 17th and 20th Fighter Squadrons until the planes were destroyed by enemy air attacks. He was detached to serve with the 45th Infantry Regiment of the famed 5r7th Philippine Scouts fighting on Bataan where he saw considerable action as the commander of an infantry company., he received a grazing shrapnel wound.
Mr. Schreiner explained how the defending U.S. forces heavily supported by the Philippine Scouts and Philippine Army troops – did much to present a harassing delaying action. But the harsh, rugged terrain and difficult battle areas – were covered with thick jungle growth and dense woods. 32 miles long and 20 miles across at the widest portion, and rimmed with a sprawling range of mountains, made the fighting extremely difficult, severely added to the problem of efficiently hindering the advancing foe. Thus, the situation became futile for the Allied forces, and on April 9, 1942, the troops surrendered to the Japanese.
Mr. Schreiner said that the Japanese commander while insisting upon the unconditional surrender of all Allied troops occupying the Philippine Islands, was (as rumor had it) at first not aware that only the U.S. forces on Bataan Peninsula had surrendered. Forces on Corregidor had held their fire until the captured Bataan troops were evacuated from the area. Meanwhile, some 50,000 prisoners, mainly American and Filipino troops, were started on the infamous Death March to Camp O’Donnell in central Luzon. Enemy forces were landing in great numbers on Corregidor. The situation for all the U.S. forces in the Philippines was gravely hopeless by the end of April and they were in serious danger of being wiped out. Food, water, ammunition, and other essentials were exhausted, plus a severe lack of adequate facilities for caring for the sick and wounded. Thus, on May 6, 1942, all American forces surrendered. Some American troops escaped capture and carried on as guerillas. By May 17, all organized resistance on the Philippine Peninsula had ceased.
After the surrender on Corregidor, some 12,000 additional American and Filipino troops became prisoners of war, and on May 28, were moved to a prison compound in Manila.
The Norwalk veteran recalled that “Life in the prison camps was terrible, at times, horrible. We lost over 50 men a day for the first month, mainly through starvation. The men had no medical treatment at all and very little food and very little water.”
He said that the enemy’s indifference to human suffering could best be described as “barbarous behavior that befitted only primitive or uncivilized men.” Recalling that during the horrible three-day Death March the wounded and dying were left unattended. The Japanese guards prodded the stragglers to keep pace with the line of march. It was a matter of just staying alive day by day. Daily, he said, relations between the GI captives and their Japanese captors worsened, undoubtedly due to the strong resistance put up by the Americans before their surrender on April 9.
Mr. Schreiner recalled that every day, until the collapse of Japan and the end of the ward in the Pacific (when the enemy capitulated on August 15, 1945) many of the men did all they could to bolster the morale of those who were losing hop of survival.
Mr. Schreiner during his 40 months as a POW acted as officer in charge of various work details in the Japanese prison camps in Formosa, Korea, and Manchuria. The work crews did carpentry and other general maintenance labor about the compounds, including burial detail. He explained that under the near-starvation daily diet basically consisting of rice and water, and often both in extremely limited quantity, it was difficult for the men to perform the work demanded of them.
Did any of the prisoners ever attempt to escape?
“Yes, several. And they were quickly recaptured and shot! Very few ever tried to escape from the camp in Manchuria which was some 1,500 miles from the nearest friendly forces. The Americans were placed in squads of 10 men, and if one man escaped or even tried to escape a Japanese firing squad promptly carried out a sentence of death by shooting the other nine men in the squad.”
Recalling that his prison camp in Manchuria was liberated by a unit of American paratroopers two days before the day the Japanese officially surrendered, August 15, 1945, he remembers that the Russian forces were supposed to arrive three days later, by August 18th, but did not show up. Released by their Japanese captors, the American POWs in Manchuria were pretty much on their own.
Mr. Schreiner says he occasionally hears from a few of his former WWII Air Force buddies who were in the prison camps with him.
The 51-year-old Norwalker is a native of New Britain. He went through New Britain High School and then graduated from Central Connecticut College, received his MA at Fairfield University, and did graduate work at Yale University. A teacher for 25 years, he is completing his 23rd year as a teacher at Staples High School in Westport. After serving for six years in the Air Force during WWII, he re-entered the armed service, serving as a staff officer of the 9263rd Air Reserve Squadron’s administrative specialized training program, as well as completing a tour of active duty with the Continental Air Command in 1955. A graduate of the Squadron Officers’ Course of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery Alabama, he as a senior staff officer to the 261st Air Reserve Center in New Haven, served as Officer In Charge of a general ground training program for all the active-duty personnel of the center. Besides serving as a national service officer as well as state commander for the Gold Star Mothers for the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, he also served as Chairman of the Veterans’ Commission of New Britain.
In September 1955, he was awarded the Philippine Republic unit citation by the Republic of the Philippines. An announcement of the commendation was made by Colonel Roger L. Arndall, Commander of the 9263rd Air Reserve Squadron, State Armory, Stamford. For a number of years, Mr. Schreiner also served as a reserve information officer for the Stamford air reserve squadron.
Mr. Schreiner, who recently retired after 30- years of continuous service with the U.S. Air Force Reserve, as a Lieutenant Colonel, and his wife of 25 years, the former Lorraine Dwyer of Hartford, live on Old Lantern Road. The couple are the parents of two daughters and a son – Mrs. William (Suzanne) Murphy of Great River, Long Island; Heidi, a teacher at Norwalk High School, and Christopher, a graduate of Leicester Junior College, who is working in his father’s travel-consultant business to attain credits towards his BS degree.
As President of Schreiner In-Group, Inc., 43 Wall Street, Mr. Schreiner says “We are attempting to set up an educational travel style program for students, which will be part of the school’s course of studies. Such a program can be of inestimable value for all students as a regular course of study in various schools.”
Mrs. Schreiner, who shares offices with her husband at 43 Wall Street, is President of Educator’s Activities Associates, Inc.
Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, 1 Memorial Avenue, Arlington, Virginia; Section 60, Grave 4750. Photo from ancexplorer.army.mil.