Photo found of Harrodsburg Tanker

JAK

Story courtesy of Department of Military Affairs

Private Hugh J. Leonard, Company D, 192nd Light Tank Battalion died on 7 September 1944 when the "Hell Ship" Shinyo Maru was sunk. In this photo, Private Leonard is in attendance at the 1937-38 Kentucky Derby with the rest of the Harrodsburg Tankers.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 14, 2010)— The 38th Tank Company from Harrodsburg, which was redesignated as Company D, 192nd Light Tank Battalion, was the first Kentucky unit ordered to active duty. These Mercer County Guardsmen reported to their armory on 25 November 1940. They arrived at Fort Knox, Kentucky on 28 November 1940.

On 31 August 1941 the 192nd Tank Battalion was transferred to Camp Polk, Louisiana to participate in maneuvers conducted from 2 September to 19 October 1941. Their superior performance prompted Major General George S. Patton, Jr. to recommend the battalion for overseas duty. The soldiers were told only that they were going on “extended maneuvers”.

On Thanksgiving Day, 20 November 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion disembarked at Fort Avery in Manila.  The unit was initially stationed at Fort Stotsenburg on the Island of Luzon. On 1 December 1941 the Provisional Tank Group was placed on full alert and transferred to nearby Clark Air Field. On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Only eight hours later, on 8 December 1941, across the International Date Line, Japan launched an aerial attack on the Philippines at 12:30 p.m.

The Harrodsburg Tankers, along with the allied forces, fought the Japanese valiantly without reinforcements and without being re-supplied. Disease, malnutrition, fatigue, and a lack of basic supplies took their toll. On 9 April 1942 they were ordered to surrender Bataan.  They had delayed the Japanese Army’s timetable from 50 days to four months, giving the Allies vital time to protect Australia. Members of the unit either escaped to Corregidor or were in the infamous “Bataan Death March”. When Corregidor fell the remaining Harrodsburg Tankers and many allies were taken prisoner of war. Only 37 of the original 66 Kentucky Guard Members from Harrodsburg who served in the Philippines survived Japanese captivity.

Things did not improve for those who survived the Death March. They were held at Prisoner of War camps in the Philippine Islands in horrible and overcrowded conditions. Many were later transferred aboard packed “Hell Ships” to work in camps in Japan, Korea and China.

Many died along the way and many were killed when the unmarked prisoner transport ships known as “Hell ships” for the deplorable and crowded conditions were sunk during transport.

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