Kentucky Guard mourns loss of heroic World War II POW

By Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Morgan French was an original member of the Harrodsburg Tankers who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. After suffering as a prisoner of war he remained in the military and even served two tours in the Korean War. (Photo from 192nd historical files)

RADCLIFF, Ky. – The Kentucky National Guard mourns the loss of a true American Patriot, Morgan French, who passed away February 24, at the age of 92.

French, originally from Perryville, Ky., served his country for 23 years in the U.S. Army and Kentucky National Guard.  He was an original member of the Harrodsburg Tankers who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II.  Taken as a prisoner of war in 1942, French endured the Bataan Death March and 40 months of imprisonment prior to the end of the war in 1945.  He was the last survivor of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

French enlisted in 1937 as a teenager from Boyle County who joined the Kentucky National Guard, ‘to get a break from farming.”  At the time, he didn’t realize he, and his brother Edward, had traded the farms of the Bluegrass for the islands of the South Pacific.  In 1940, the 38th Tank Company out of Harrodsburg was ordered to federal service. And following training in Ft. Knox and Louisiana, they were headed overseas.

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Harrodsburg Tankers were under attack in the Philippines.  In May of 1942, Allied Forces surrendered and were forced to march to POW camps and to ships that carried them to Japan.  This became known as the Bataan Death March.  Thousands of American and Filipino troops died along the way, but Morgan French survived.

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Members of the 192nd Tank battalion pose with their vehicles during the unit's deployment in WWII.(Photo from 192nd historical files)

French was sent to Japan as forced labor in factories and mines.  Only 37 of the original 66 Kentucky Guard Members from Harrodsburg survived Japanese captivity.  His brother Edward was killed in the fighting preceding the surrender.

Four years after sailing for the Philippines, French returned to U.S. soil.  He remained in the Army and even served two tours in the Korean War, completing 23 years of service in uniform.  As a civilian, French worked as a tank instructor at Ft. Knox until he retired in 1984.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Maxine Milby, and is survived by two sons and two grandchildren.  Morgan French was buried with full military honors at North Hardin Memorial Gardens in Radcliff, Ky., March 2.

FOR MORE ON THE HARRODSBURG TANKERS VISIT:

The Harrodsburg Tankers

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

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