Pausing to remember the anniversary of the fall of Bataan & start of death march for 66 Kentucky Guardsmen in WWII

dwa

At a Roadblock on the Road to Bataan - by Don Millsap - Luzon, Philippine Islands - December 26, 1941

Courtesy Kentucky National Guard eMuseum

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 9, 2011) – Today marks the anniversary of the fall of Bataan, the Philippine Islands, at the beginning of World War II. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Bataan Death March for 66 Kentucky National Guardsmen from Harrodsburg from the 192nd Tank Battalion.

Those who could not escape to Corregidor were in the infamous “Bataan Death March.” They were all eventually taken prisoner of war. Only 37 of the original 66 Kentucky Guard Members from Harrodsburg survived Japanese captivity.

Today there is only one known remaining survivor from the unit, 91 year old Morgan French of Texas. (Read Morgan French’s fascinating story.)

—————–

About the Harrodsburg Tankers

The first unit of the Kentucky National Guard inducted into active federal service for World War II was Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion – formerly Harrodsburg’s 38th Tank Company—commanded by Second Lieutenant Edwin E. Rue. These Mercer County Guardsmen reported to their home armory on November 25, 1940. Five officers and 71 enlisted men entrained for Fort Knox, Kentucky, arriving on November 28.

The other three National Guard organizations constituting the 192nd Tank Battalion were Company A from Janesville, Wisconsin, Company B from Maywood, Illinois, and Company C from Fort Clinton, Ohio. These companies arrived at Fort Knox by December 1, 1940. Individuals from the four letter companies were transferred to a battalion Headquarters Company and selectees arriving in December trained alongside veteran guardsmen.

Battle of Toul Pocket, Philippines - US Army Poster

The battalion, with its full complement of light tanks, entrained for Fort Mason in San Francisco, California, on October 19. All four units arrived in San Francisco on October 24. The battalion was ferried across the harbor to Fort McDowell on Angel Island for final processing. Troops were given shots for yellow fever and malaria and were issued personal and organizational equipment. They returned to San Francisco, where on October 27, 1941 sixty-six members of Company D boarded the transport U.S.S. PRESIDENT PIERCE and sailed for an undisclosed destination.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 20, 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion disembarked at Fort Avery in Manila. Upon arrival, the battalion was attached to the 194th Tank Battalion and stationed at Fort Stotsenburg located at the foot of the Zambales Mountains on the Island of Luzon.

Kentucky Army National Guard "Harrodsburg Tankers" memorial, Harrodsburg, Ky.

The troops moved by rail to Fort Stotsenburg, leaving equipment and supplies aboard ship. After settling into cantonment areas, a detail returned to port to off-load tanks and half-tracks. They proceeded through the streets of Manila toward Clark Air Field, unaware until informed by a young Filipino soldier that vehicles operate on the left side of the highway instead of the right in the Philippines.

Technical Sgt. Johnnie Bottoms, Headquarters Company, 192nd Light Tank Battalion died June 1, 1942 at Calauan Camp #3 - Old Bilibid Prison Rizal Manila Philippines.

On December1 the Provisional Tank Group was placed on full alert and transferred to Clark Air Field located across the road from Fort Stotsenburg. Senior commanders hoped troop presence would discourage a Japanese attack on the air strip, but that hope was dashed on December 8. At approximately 12:30 p.m. that day, members of Company D commented on the fine airplanes of the American Navy as fifty-four bombers, flying in two groups of twenty-seven, soared into view. Seconds later, the planes—which were actually Japanese bombers—dropped their loads as they passed overhead. Immediately following the bomber assault, Japanese fighter planes flew in at low level and strafed the field.

FOR MORE ON THE HARRODSBURG TANKERS VISIT:

The Kentucky National Guard in WW II

The Harrodsburg Tankers

The Kentucky Guardsmen of the 192nd Tank Battalion who survived captivity

The Kentucky Guardsmen of the 192nd Tank Battalion who perished in captivity

The Harrodsburg Armory and its history

The 66th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet about the Harrodsburg Tankers – Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion (PDF File 934 KB)

Article on the 192nd’s experiences from call-up to liberation in Chapter 2, KYNG History, 1937 – 1962, a draft manuscript edited by Col (Ret) Joe Craft

View a short clip on the Bataan Death March

History of Company D, 192nd Tank BN (Chapter 2, KYNG History, 1937 – 1962. Draft manuscript edited by Col (Ret) Joe Craft.

Listen to oral history interviews with KYNG survivors of the Bataan Death March courtesy the Kentucky Historical Society Digital Collections – Oral History Project

###

About kentuckyguard