Branch: U. S. Army Air Force

   Rank:  Private

   Status: POW – Died of                     disease

   Date of Service: WWII

   Home Town: Leon Township

1. Ernest Rydeen 2. Edward and Louella Rydeen family 3. Rydeen home in Leon Township

Ernest A. Rydeen was born June 15, 1921 in Clearbrook, Minnesota to parents Edward D. and Louella Schneider Rydeen. Edward was one of three pioneer Rydeen brothers who had ventured north from Sibley County when the Red Lake Reservation was partially opened for homesteading in 1896. The brothers each homesteaded 160 acres in neighboring sections of Leon Township.

Edward was a Spanish-American war veteran who had attained a business education at Hamilton Business School in San Francisco. He was very civic-minded and helped to organize the local school (he also taught school for five years) and the Clearbrook Cooperative Creamery. He served on the Federal Land Bank and the National Farm Loan Association besides working hard to obtain rural electricity in northern Minnesota. Louella had traveled by covered buggy with her family to a homestead in Winsor Township, Clearwater County as a child and had grown up in the area. Edward and Louella married in 1911 and had eight children:  Dorothy, Edna, Martha, Edmund, Ernest, Florence, Reuben and Lucille. Louella always found room in her heart and home for other children in need and took an active part in church activities.

Ernest attended Northwest School of Agriculture in Crookston. His obituary stated, “He was energetic and diligent in many activities and won several trips to the State Fair as a 4-H club member. In 1932-34-36-37 he was an honor roll graduate of Junior Livestock show. While attending the Northwest School of Agriculture, he was a member of the livestock judging team, and graduated from that school with the class of 1940.” Shortly after graduating he enlisted in the Army Air Force on September 5, 1940 and became a pursuit pilot.

Ernest was sent to the Philippines to be part of the 28th Squadron. For many years the 28th Squadron was the only Air Corps Unit located in the Philippines and was not part of any bombardment group. The Squadron had moved from Nichols Field, Manila to Clark Field in 1939. Many heavy bombers stationed in the Philippines were sent to Clark Air Base in anticipation of a war with Imperial Japan, but most of them were destroyed on the ground during an air raid nine hours after the Pearl Harbor attack. The based was captured by Japanese forces in early January of 1942, and Private Ernest Rydeen was among those captured. Japan’s forcible transfer of these prisoners and others to Camp O’Donnell, which began on April 9, 1942, was known as the Bataan Death March. The American and Filipino POWs were beaten incessantly, bayoneted, shot, beheaded, buried alive and beaten to death with shovels on the nearly 70-mile march.

Ernest ended up in Hoten Prisoner of War Camp at Mukden, Manchukuo. Conditions at the camp were unbearable. The men were forced to work 10 hours per day in a tool factory with very little food or clothing in sub-zero temperatures.  Some of the POWs held in the Mukden POW camp were experimented on by Unit 731, the biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army. Ernest was already in poor physical condition from the Death March and his body could not withstand the appalling physical conditions. He died of enteritis on March 22, 1943 at Mukdem Military hospital.

Edward and Louella received a telegram from the U.S.  Adjutant General informing them of the death of their son in Japan on June 29th, 1943. He had in fact died in Manchuria, China three months earlier but the Red Cross was finding communication with Japanese prison camps difficult.

A large crowd attended memorial services in the Clearbrook High School auditorium for Ernest, including many veterans in uniform. The Superintendent of the Northwest School of Agriculture in Crookston spoke amid many floral tributes.

Following the surrender of Japan, the bodies of POWs were disinterred and returned to their families in the United States. Ernest was buried in Augustana Cemetery near Clearbrook near other members of his family. He was 22 years old.