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Company C, 194th Tank Battalion in the Philippines, 1941-42
 
 
 
At a Roadblock on the Road to Bataan
 
 
Employing an Armor Quick Reaction Force in the Area Defense: The 194th Tank Battalion in Action During the Luzon Defensive Campaign 1941-42
Company C, 194th Tank Battalion in the Philippines, 1941-42
The Bataan Memorial, Camp San Luis Obispo
 
 

Employing an Armor Quick Reaction Force in the Area Defense: The 194th Tank Battalion in Action During the Luzon Defensive Campaign 1941-42
by Major William J. Van den Bergh

This article was originally published in the March-April 2004 issue of Armor Magazine, US Army Armor Center and School.


"Area defense is a type of defensive operation that concentrates on denying enemy forces access to designated terrain for a specific time rather than destroying the enemy outright. The bulk of defending forces combine static defensive positions, engagement areas, and a small mobile reserve to block enemy forces. The reserve has a priority to the counterattack ... but may also perform limited security force missions." (1)

U.S. Army Field Manual 3-0

As the United States' participation in the Second World War loomed in 1941, much of America's early fighting strength came from the Army National Guard. The 194th Tank Battalion had been organized from three National Guard tank companies, Company A from Brainerd, Minnesota; Company B from Saint Joseph, Missouri; and Company C from Salinas, California. The 194th Tank Battalion had deployed to the Philippines during the fall of 1941 in support of its defense from a possible Japanese attack.

The American defensive plan had been set for several years. The task of the Philippine and U.S. Army ultimately would be to defend Manila Bay with the purpose of denying the Japanese its use, and to allow for reinforcement from the Territory of Hawaii. (2) Manila Bay could only be denied to the Japanese by occupying the Bataan Peninsula and the Island of Corregidor, which guarded the harbor. (3) Retention of the Bataan Peninsula was the center of gravity for the entire Luzon Defensive Campaign. The plan was to defend for up to 6 months, until relieved by the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Initial Japanese landings on Luzon occurred between 9 and 10 December 1941. (4) Unable to introduce combat power against these remote sites and unwilling to divide forces, U.S. forces could do nothing but wait for Japanese troops to arrive.

The 194th Tank Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Ernest B. Miller and was comprised of M3 tanks, half-tracks, jeeps, and motorcycles. For nearly a month, the 194th Tank Battalion had fought along a series of phase, obstacle, and holding lines, executing a retrograde delay from both North and South Luzon. It had fought a number of sharp actions and contributed significantly to the success of the orderly delay of American and Filipino forces back to the Bataan Peninsula. (Map 1)

The peninsula of Bataan is 20 miles wide and 25 miles long. Its existence is owed to two large extinct volcanoes, Mount Natib in the north and Mount Bataan in the south. They tower 4,222 and 4,722 feet respectively. (5) From the volcanoes, scores of streams race through the jungle down deep ravines. The jungle cover is so thick that Japanese reconnaissance from the air was nearly impossible. Bataan had numerous trails that, with lack of use, quickly grew over and road systems were few and undeveloped. (6) In the north, traveling from west to east was Highway 7. In the east, Highway 110 began far to the north and followed the coast south, then west and north to Moron. The west side of Highway 110 was designated as West Road, the east side as East Road. In the center of the Bataan Peninsula was the Pilar-Bagac Road. It cut directly across the center, providing the only lateral route. (7) The final defensive battles occurred on the Bataan Peninsula. The first line was known as the Abucay-Hacienda Line. (8) (Map 2) Along this defensive line were two higher headquarters, I and II Corps. I Corps had been the North Luzon Force and II Corps was the former South Luzon Force. The 194th Tank Battalion was allocated to II Corps in the east. The II Corps front was 15,000 meters long from Manila Bay to Mount Natib. (9)

By 10 January, the 194th Tank Battalion was well rested and ready for action. The morning began with the main Japanese attack within II Corps' area of operation (AO) near Abucay. Here, the 194th Tank Battalion moved forward to support the 57th Infantry (PS). The 57th Infantry was opposed by the Japanese 1st and 2d Battalion, 142d Infantry, 65th Brigade. (10)

As the battalion fulfilled its mission, Miller received a desperate early morning call. The Japanese had attacked in the I Corps and made a deep incursion. Captain Fred C. Moffitt and his Company C was sent into action. Lieutenant General (LTG) Jonathan M. Wainwright met Moffitt personally. Wainwright directed the company to attack north along a small trail. The Japanese 3d Battalion, 20th Infantry had successfully infiltrated south from Mount Silanganan using the deep gullies and streams to mask their movement. Now they established defensive positions just to the north. (11)

Wainwright's plan had the scouts (dismounted for the attack) from the 26th Cavalry clear the route ahead of time but no infantry was available to support the tank movement. Moffitt quickly identified the need for a leader's reconnaissance and additional infantry support to walk next to the tanks to deny the Japanese the ability to ambush them or employ the deadly model 93 antitank mines. Wainwright grew impatient and Moffitt was ordered to proceed. In short order, the lead platoon left its attack position and moved in column forward. The platoon had progressed only a short way when Moffitt heard an explosion. The two lead tanks had hit a minefield. As the company evacuated the two tanks, Japanese infantrymen crawled away and made good their exfiltration. From concealed positions, the Japanese fired their lightweight model 11, 37mm guns. Because of the thick vegetation, both sides had difficulty targeting. With some difficulty, the remaining tanks provided cover fire, as the two lead tanks were evacuated. (12)

Moffitt's executive officer sent back a contact report to Miller who reciprocated by draining the battalion's maintenance section of its last track links and idlers. Wainwright finally accepted the need for more infantry and moved forward the 3rd Battalion, 72nd Infantry, along with a motorized squadron from the 26th Cavalry. (13) From there, the American infantry reformed the line correctly and advanced north, checking the Japanese incursion and restoring their previous positions.

Later that evening, Brigadier General (BG) James R. N. Weaver, commander, 1st Provisional Tank Group, called a commander's huddle with both the 192d and 194th Tank Battalion commanders. The main body of front line troops would exfiltrate rearward that night leaving behind a small covering force. By 0300 hours the next morning, the covering force would also withdraw to positions north of the Orion-Bagac line near the town of Pilar. Here, the covering force would continue its mission, allowing the main body time to re-establish a coherent defense. Miller was pleased with the plan and was impressed with the learning that had occurred at the higher level. (14)

By 1800 hours, the withdrawal was underway. The undertrained Filipino troops attempted an orderly movement, but it quickly degenerated into a mob movement. Miller and a number of trained Filipino soldiers attempted to instill discipline, but the task was difficult. By 1900 hours, the Japanese sensed these movements and their attack began.

The II Corps' line in this sector was comprised of the 31st and 45th Infantry Regiments. (15) The 31st and 45th Infantry coveting forces fought savagely through the night, but by 0100 hours, it became apparent that their combat power was rapidly dwindling. Their successful withdrawal to new positions within a few hours and stabilizing the line over the next two-and-a-half days of fighting would determine whether the new defensive line would hold. (16)

As the 194th Tank Battalion provided the covering force for the 31st and 45th Infantry, Miller took some desperate radio traffic from Weaver. The left flank of II Corps was threatened with collapse and additional combat power was needed. Moving slowly west along a small trail, the tanks and halftracks approached their positions. It was during this movement that one of Company A's tanks, commanded by Sergeant Bernie FitzPatrick, ran partly off the side of a bridge and became stuck. (17) With little time to effect a recovery, Miller ordered it destroyed. A single 37mm round from another M3 set the tank on fire. It was quickly pushed into the stream. The move had to be made before the moon rose, but this aided in their concealment. The tanks and half-tracks were set into position and opened fire. A deadly massing of 37mm fire from the M3s and 75mm fire from the half-tracks stopped the Japanese attack cold. The infantry covering force withdrew and mounted buses that took them to safety. By 0300 hours, the operation was complete. (18)

By 26 January, the 194th Tank Battalion was positioned just south of the Orion-Bagac defensive line. (19) (Map 3) It was arrayed from north to south, along Back Road. As 1030 hours approached, several half-tracks, performing their security mission, sighted a Japanese officer and soldier as they crawled out of the jungle and walked to the south toward the intersection of the Back and Banibani Roads. Private Nordstrom manned the half-track's .30-caliber machine gun. A well-placed burst of his .30-caliber machine gun tore the two apart. Within a matter of minutes, the entire defensive line opened fire and a new battle began. The half-tracks replied by opening fire with their 75mm guns.

Prior to the battle, the gunners had identified several gullies and pieces of low ground that provided concealed and covered infiltration routes. As the battle began, the 75mm guns poured their fire into the gullies with devastating effect. (20) As the Japanese made it out of the smoke, dazed and suffering from the concussions, they were greeted with machine gun fire that succeeded in killing many of the survivors. Action was hot all along the road. From the north to the south, the battalion replied to the attack with deadly fire. Several times their positions were almost overrun, defended only by the 194th Tank Battalion support troops manning Thompson submachine guns and .45-caliber pistols. (21)

By 1130 hours, the Japanese artillery and mortar fire was zeroing in on the battalion's position. (22) At 1200 hours, Miller was forced to order a retreat behind the main line of resistance. The battalion's withdrawal was met by a determined Japanese air attack on the convoy. (23) The .50- and .30-caliber machine guns that were mounted on tanks and half-tracks met the attack the best they could. Accuracy for both the Japanese and the Americans was difficult, as the tanks and half-tracks were moving down the dirt road so quickly that the gunners and enemy pilots had great difficulty seeing through the dust. (24)

Weaver was quick to issue the 192d and 194th Tank Battalions a fragmentary order. The 194th Tank Battalion was to continue to provide an armor reserve for II Corps, while it gained an on-order mission to defend the beaches from the front line in the north to the town of Cabcaben in the south. Miller was frustrated with the command arrangement, as Weaver directed him to take orders only from Tank Group Headquarters rather than a more simplified chain of command directly from II Corps Headquarters. To facilitate better liaison, Miller complied with the orders but sent his reconnaissance platoon leader, Lieutenant Ted Spaulding, to Corps Headquarters as the battalion's liaison officer. (25)

General Masaharu Homma, commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines, met with his 14th Army staff on 8 February. All attempts at reducing the American position had failed miserably. Now, with his attack force spent, he looked at new options for victory. (26) The original Japanese plan had contemplated an order of battle that included the elite 48th Division attacking at Linagayen Gulf, the 16th Division at Lamon Bay, and reinforcement at Linagayen by the 65th Brigade. (27) The campaign would last 50 days at most.

As early as January, Homma had received word from the Southern Army that the 48th Division was to be withdrawn to support operations in Java. The fight for Bataan began with only the 16th Division, the 7th Tank Regiment, and the 65th Brigade. Neither unit had a very good reputation after the first battles for Bataan. (28) Homma was overwhelmed by a sense of private and international humiliation. Here, for the first time during World War II, the Japanese had been stopped cold in their tracks with no hope for victory without reinforcement.

Meanwhile, significant work was completed in the preparation of the Pilar-Bagac line. (29) Fighting positions with overhead cover were built. Mines were laid to cover dead space that rifle fire could not cover. Time was found to further train the remaining Filipino troops and Miller ordered classes for the tankers on how to support the infantry. (30)

The morale of the troops was very high. The Japanese had been fought to an utter standstill. Desertions and discharges on the part of the Philippine Army had helped to reduce the unmanageable size of the force on Bataan. Combat effectiveness had increased markedly as combat experience weeded out the weak and brought forward the soldiers with leadership potential.

It was during this time that the II Corps G2 section detected a massive build up of Japanese forces. The Japanese 4th Division had arrived from Shanghai. The 21st Regiment (part of the 21st Division) had been diverted in route to Indo-China. Finally, several thousand replacements arrived to revitalize the 16th Division and the 65th Brigade. (31) Japanese air attacks became progressively larger reaching a total of 77 bomber sorties in just one day. The Japanese set up artillery across Manila Bay and fired accurately with the help of highflying aerial observers. (32)

As the tankers dug in, dengue fever, malaria, diarrhea, and dysentery afflicted many of the soldiers. Men became prone to dizziness as black spots raced across their view. Captain Leo Schneider, senior medical officer of the 194th, and Lieutenant Hickman, junior medic, set up an infirmary in the rear echelon as they now had a number who were sick. The inadequate amounts of medicine available only amplified the severity of what would have been very treatable afflictions. (33) During the first week of March 1942, soldiers began to be issued quarter rations. (34) Not long after this, General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines and Major General Edward P. King Jr., was given command of Luzon. (35)

The build up of Japanese troops was completed 2 weeks later. (Map 4) The stalemate continued until the final Japanese assault on 3 April 1942. Arrayed against I Corps from west to east, were the Japanese 65th Brigade, the 4th Division, and a regimental team from the 21st Division (Nagano Det). (36) The fighting began at 1500 hours with a massive barrage of indirect fire from over 150 artillery pieces and mortars, quickly backed up by tank and antitank gun direct fire. The artillery fire was so intense that much of the north face of Mount Samat became engulfed in an uncontrollable forest fire. Entire units were destroyed. American and Filipino soldiers, already weakened from malnourishment, simply had no energy to retreat. (37) The focus of the attack was the west flank of the II Corps sector. (38) As American artillery exposed itself by returning counter battery fire, highflying Japanese dive-bombers dropped their bombs, one by one, taking them out. Action occurred in the south as well. Company A, 194th Tank Battalion had received the on-order mission to defend the coastline and was in position that evening when several Japanese barges, armed with 75mm field guns, fired at the shoreline. Company A returned fire and the Japanese decided to retreat. (39)

On 4 April, Miller was summoned to Tank Group Headquarters. Weaver detailed the plan that II Corps was preparing to counterattack and needed one tank company for support. Additionally, one company from the 192d Tank Battalion would replace Company A in their defend mission. Miller returned to battalion headquarters to conduct an abbreviated military decisionmaking process. Company C, followed by the battalion tactical command post (TAC), would head north. The TAC would be comprised of Miller and Captain Spoor, the S2, operating out of a jeep. Major L.E. Johnson, the S3, would take charge of the remaining combat units while Major Charles Canby, the XO, commanded the field trains. (40)

After a wild ride up the narrow trail, Miller and the TAC located the Philippine division headquarters. The plan was for the 45th Infantry Regiment (on loan from I Corps) to attack north along Trail 29. They would flank the Japanese to the right, forcing a withdrawal. Company C would move its tanks on mountain trails to join the 45th Infantry in the attack. The plan was simple, but the men were worn out.

By 1600 hours on 6 April 1942, the TAC arrived at the south end of Trail 29. On arrival, they met Colonel Thomas W. Doyle, the commanding officer of the 45th Infantry. After much discussion and a reconnaissance, the TAC departed at 1900 hours to bring up Company C who was still occupying its tactical assembly area to the south. (41)

The trail to the south was jammed with confused traffic. Wounded soldiers were being evacuated, and broken down vehicles littered the battlefield creating massive traffic jams. The ride north would be even more harrowing. The battalion TAC led the way up the trail. At every turn it would find a wreck or obstacle that required evacuation from the route. Precious time was spent dismounting tanks and assessing the best way to deal with the wrecks. Company C tanks would push and pull the wrecks off the trail and then push and pull each other up and down the route. (42)

Company C arrived at Trail 29 at 0610 hours that morning. They were 10 minutes late in supporting the attack. The 45th Infantry had just begun its movement to contact, allowing the tankers time to quickly catch up. Progress was slow as thick jungle met the trail on either side. The only place to maneuver the tanks was on the trail. This made Miller very uneasy. The infantry and armor advanced cautiously and did not make contact with the Japanese until 0900 hours. After a series of minor engagements, Doyle became worried. It was now 1530 hours and his troops had lost contact with I Corps to his left and the troops to his right. (43) This suggested to Miller and Doyle that the enemy had infiltrated to the southeast of their area. What they did not know for certain is how far south. (44)

As the two met, a report from Philippine scouts was received and described Japanese troops preparing defensive positions just a short distance to the north. Doyle mulled over several attack options. All his regiment had left for indirect fire was a single 81mm mortar with 10 rounds. Five of the 10 shells were fired expertly, bringing significant damage to the partially prepared Japanese positions. The 45th Infantry and Company C followed up with a short, hasty attack. The Japanese were so surprised that they abandoned their artillery, mortars, and rifles, running and screaming wildly into the jungle. As night approached, Miller and Spoor inspected the Japanese positions and discovered a well-prepared minefield located on Trail 29 next to the positions. The area had been seeded with the deadly model 93 mine that had brought Company C many casualties earlier in the campaign. Once again, luck and circumstance had intervened in their favor. (45)

Later that evening, Miller and Lieutenant Colonel Wright, the 45th Infantry's XO, headed back 2 miles south to re-establish contact with the regimental field trains. The situation was desperate. After arriving at the field trains, Miller and Wright were quickly apprised of the enemy situation. The Japanese main effort had indeed advanced to the east and south of their advance north. Thus, the Japanese had made a considerable penetration south all the way to the Philippine division headquarters. The division sent the 45th Infantry and Company C new orders. The two units would advance over the mountains to the east, arriving at the intersection of Trails 6 and 8. Here, they would set up defensive positions along a ridgeline north of Trail 8. (46)

The officers returned to their units and began their movement south along Trail 29. As they reached the intersection of Trails 29 and 8, Company C met the Philippine division commander, Brigadier General Maxon S. Lough. He informed Miller that he was aware of the original orders, but that his G2 had informed him that the area along Trail 8 was no longer under American or Philippine control.

The column of infantry and tanks cautiously began their movement along Trail 8. Miller and Lough organized an advanced guard for the 45th Infantry and Company C. In the lend was a squad of Philippine scouts, followed by two of Company C's M3 tanks. Miller, Wright, and Spoor trailed in a jeep. Movement occurred without incident for some 50 minutes until the advanced guard stopped for a 10-minute rest. Just as the tanks stopped, Miller's jeep accelerated and swung quickly to the right. As they halted, the scouts could be seen passing the first tank calling out, "Japs!" (47)

The Japanese 65th Brigade had beaten them to the area. At that moment, a Japanese 75mm model 95 antitank gun opened fire. Leaves and branches fell to the ground as heavy machine gun fire cut a swath of destruction on the two lead tanks. Lieutenant Frank Riley, the tank commander, attempted to return fire only to receive a direct hit in the turret from an armor-piercing round from the model 95. Luck was on his side that day as the round sliced through the side of the turret, missing his head by inches. Blood ran through his shaking fingers from the small pieces of shrapnel that had been imbedded in his eyes and face. To Riley's rear, the scouts had re-established a hasty defense and, with Tommy guns blazing, returned a murderous coveting fire. Miller and Spoor low crawled along the trail back to the scouts. Japanese bullets were striking the ground to their left and right, blowing rocks and sand into their skin. (48)

The second tank escaped destruction by being in a hull-defilade position in a depression. Several accurate shots from the Japanese 75ram antitank gun succeeded in hitting the turret, though. Fortunately, the rounds bounced off harmlessly and the tank, along with Riley's crew, made good their retreat. The advanced guard consolidated and treated their casualties. Miller could see that smoke was pouring from his jeep. It had received a direct hit from the Japanese 75mm gun. Wright, who had occupied the rear seat, was never heard from again. The surviving M3 tank, along with the scouts, began movement back to the main body of the 45th Infantry. (49)

Vehicle movement was slow as their column neared physical and mental exhaustion. By 0800 hours on 7 April, they had made it back to their original start point, the intersection of Trails 8 and 29. Moffitt explained that life had not been boring for Company C. Earlier that morning, a column of Japanese model 89A tanks from the Japanese 7th Tank Regiment had attempted an attack from the north along Trail 29. Two were destroyed and the Japanese column beat a hasty retreat. (50)

Lough sent orders for Company C tankers to secure the intersection at Trail 8 and 29. The 45th Infantry evacuated the immediate area and moved a short distance south. Miller then received orders from Tank Group Headquarters to return to his battalion. Miller let Doyle know his orders, asked him to take care of Company C, and departed. After a quick stop at Tank Group Headquarters, Miller and Spoor mounted a new jeep and headed south. The battalion field trains had been obliged to move south into a new position due to heavy Japanese artillery fire. Miller rolled into the new location at 0400 hours on 8 April. The trains had set up directly west of the town of Cabcaben. (51)

By this time, the defensive line was disintegrating. The Japanese 8th Infantry (4th Division) and the Nagano Det were bearing down hard on II Corps. The Japanese progressed from Limay to Lamao on 8 April alone. (52) II Corps tasked the 194th Tank Battalion with supporting a new deliberate attack on the Japanese. Company D, commanded by Captain Jack Altman, was being readied when events began to surpass the II Corps staff's ability to assess and react.

Altman attempted to introduce his tanks against the Japanese by providing general support along the defensive line where they could. Company D's attack degenerated quickly. Artillery rained down on the company destroying several M3s. Tanks attempted to negotiate through the retreating traffic, but to little avail. As tanks tried to bypass wrecks, they became stuck in the swampy bogs. (53)

To the south, Company A, 192d Tank Battalion and the entire 194th Tank Battalion were in defensive positions facing northeast along the coast, directly blocking the Japanese advance. Additional half-tracks were positioned along Trail 10, providing significant information to both the battalion and II Corps headquarters until the fighting ended. That morning, 8 April 1942, the Japanese assembled a motley collection of canoes, fishing boats, and small barges and attempted a half-hearted amphibious landing directly in front of their positions. The Japanese artillery also attempted to fire smoke into the two tank companies to provide obscuration against the tankers. Instead, the rounds fell just short, landed on the beaches, and added insurmountable confusion to the Japanese landing. The Japanese withdrew. (54)

That afternoon, a battalion ammunition truck pulled up next to Company A, 194th Tank Battalion. Before the company could receive their ammunition, the roar of an approaching Japanese zero could be heard. Soldiers took cover as the fighter's machine guns tore apart the truck loaded with ammo. Shells exploded in all directions, causing the ground to shake and dirt to fly. No sooner than it had started, it was over. The driver of the truck stood up from the trench where he had taken cover and dusted himself off. He grinned out of his sun burnt, dirty face and said, "When they ask me where I was at the time of surrender, I can always say I was where the shells were the thickest." (55)

As the afternoon approached, orders were received from Tank Group Headquarters to have the battalion move further south. Companies A and D, 194th Tank Battalion, and Company A, 192d Tank Battalion, began movement. The trip was slow and arduous. Military police had to stop them several times as ammunition dumps were blown to prevent capture. That evening, the remaining tanks formed a defensive tactical assembly area and waited. The battalion commander's radio operator waited for the code word "blast" on the radio. This would be the signal to destroy all remaining equipment. (56)

Around 0630 hours on 9 April 42, Company C returned to the battalion. At 0700 hours, "blast" was finally received. The tankers worked feverishly to destroy their equipment. One tank fired its remaining rounds into the other tanks and several trucks from the field trains. Gasoline was poured on every major item and lit. Food was evenly redistributed and the men prepared for the unknown. (57) That night, the men ate corn beef hash and peaches and thought of home. Few could imagine the horrors that awaited them on the death march and internment, but most just wrapped up in a blanket and went to sleep. (58)

The Philippines now began a brutal occupation that came to an end with the return of U.S. forces in October 1944. The lineage of the 194th Tank Battalion is perpetuated by the 1st and 2d Battalion, 194th Armor (Minnesota Army National Guard) and Company C, 1st Battalion, 149th Armor (California Army National Guard).

Footnotes

(1) U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2001), p, 85.

(2) Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines--United States Army in World War II, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1953, p. 61.

(3) David Smurthwaite, The Pacific War Atlas, Mirabel Books Ltd., London, 1995, p. 34.

(4) LTC Mariano Villarin, We Remember Bataan and Corregidor, Gateway Press, Baltimore, MD, 1990, p. 37,

(5) John Keegan, Atlas of the Second World War, Harper Collins, London, 1997, p. 73.

(6) Paul Ashton, Bataan Diary, Military Historical Society of Minnesota, Little Falls. MN, 1984, p. 101.

(7) Ibid., p. 100.

(8) Ibid., p. 93.

(9) Ibid., p. l01.

(10) Morton, 267.

(11) Ernest B, Miller, Bataan Uncensored, Hart Publications, Long Prairie, MN. 1949, p. 148.

(12) Ibid.

(13) Morton, p. 283.

(14) Miller, p 154.

(15) Ashton, pp. 106, 107.

(16) Villarin, pp. 65-70.

(17) Bernard T. Fitzpatrick, The Hike into the Sun, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, 19931, p. 39.

(18) Ibid. p. 40.

(19 Miller, p 160.

(20) Morton, p. 294.

(21) Miller, pp. 165, 167.

(22) Morton, p. 294.

(23) Ted Spaulding, Itchy Feet, unpublished, South Dakota, 1999, p. 109.

(24) Miller, p. 168.

(25) Spaulding, p. 109.

(26) FitzPatrick, p. 42.

(27) Villarin, p. 26.

(28) Ibid., p. 59.

(29) Ashton. p. 112.

(30) Miller, p. 184.

(31) Morton, p, 413.

(32) Ibid., p 493.

(33) Miller, p 179.

(34) Ibid., p. 186.

(35) Morton, 405, 406.

(36) Ashton, p. 112.

(37) Villarin, p. 87.

(38) Morton, p. 415.

(39) FitzPatrick, p. 51.

(40) Miller, pp 196. 197.

(41) Ibid., p. 198.

(42) Ibid., p 199.

(43) Ibid., p. 199

(44) Morton, p. 415.

(45) Miller, pp, 200, 201.

(46) Ibid., p, 202.

(47) Ibid, p. 204.

(48) Ibid., pp. 204, 205.

(49) Ibid., p. 205.

(50) Ibid.

(51) Ibid., p 206.

(52) Morton, pp 442, 443.

(53) Miller, p. 206.

(54) Ibid. p. 208.

(55) FitzPatrick, p. 52.

(56) Miller. p. 208.

(57) Ibid., p 209.

(58) FitzPatrick, p. 53.

About the Author

Major William J. Van den Bergh is currently assigned to J3 Operations, Joint Task Force Headquarters-Minnesota, Minnesota Army National Guard. He received a B.A. from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. from Saint Cloud University He has served in various command and staff positions, to include platoon leader, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, KY; commander, A Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division; commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 194th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division; S3, 1st Battalion, 194th Infantry Regiment; and operations officer, Mobilization Readiness Branch, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Minnesota Army National Guard.

 

The Bataan Memorial, Camp San Luis Obispo

 
 
 

 
Company C, 194th Tank Battalion in the Philippines, 1941-42
by Burton Anderson

This article was originally published in the May-June 1996 issue of Armor Magazine, US Army Armor Center and School. The author wishes to thank the following Company C
Bataan survivors for their input into this article: CWO Ero Saccone, USA, Ret.; Frank L Muther; Leon A. Elliott, Roy L. Diaz, Thomas J. Hicks, and Glenn D. Brokaw.


It has been over 50 years (as of this writing) since the surviving members of Company C, 194th Tank Battalion, were liberated from Japanese prison camps. In honor of those indomitable men, I am writing a three-part history of the company in peace and war. It is also a tribute to those fallen Company C tankers who died during World War II in the service of their country; in combat and their brutal prisoner of war ordeal.

The Salinas company was organized as Troop C, Cavalry, National Guard of California on August 5, 1895. It was the first guard unit formed in the Central Coast region and was headquartered in the new brick armory at the corner of Salinas and Alisal Streets in Salinas, California. The commanding officer was Captain Michael J. Burke, assisted by 1st Lieutenant J.L. Matthews and 2nd Lieutenant E.W. Winham. the armory was dedicated on August 15, 1896 and housed the company's equipment including supplies, ammunition and its single shot Springfield 45-70 carbines left over from the Indian Wars.

Other than routine training with its horses, the troop wasn't called into active duty until April 1906, after the San Francisco earthquake, when it was deployed to the city and bivouacked in Golden Gate Park. the troop facilitated law and order in the devastated area for a month and one day. After the crisis was over the troop returned to Salinas and resumed its normal operations.

On May 1, 1911 the National Guard of California integrated Troop C into the 1st Squadron of California Cavalry; the other troops in the squadron were A Bakersfield, B Sacramento and D Los Angeles.

The next duty involving Troop C occurred as a result of Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico, March 9, 1916. President Wilson immediately sent U.S. Regular troops into Mexico in pursuit of Villa. He later called 75,000 National Guard troops into federal service, including the entire 1st Squadron of Cavalry to patrol and secure the U.S. Mexican border. On June 24, 1916 Troop C marched up Main Street to the Southern Pacific depot to entrain for mobilization at Sacramento. The troop's horses, wagons, and equipment were loaded on a freight train leaving simultaneously. After assembly at Sacramento, Troop C was shipped to Nogales, Arizona where it performed patrol and guard duty. The troop didn't encounter any hostile action but in performing its duties it endured many hardships, notably from heat and fatigue while carrying out countless hours of surveillance. After the punitive expedition terminated, Troop C was released from federal service and returned to Salinas on November 18, 1916, with just a few of its horses.

The Troopers barely had time to resume their civilian occupations when the United States declared war on Germany, April 6, 1917. On August 12, Troop C was again inducted into the army and entrained with its horses, wagons and equipment for assembly at Arcadia, California and then onto Camp Kearney, San Diego County. At Kearney the cavalry was dismounted and converted to Company B, 145th Machine Gun battalion in the 40th Infantry (Sunrise) Division. The reason for the change was that the introduction and use of machine guns on the Western Front had inflicted unbearable slaughter on infantry and cavalry, thereby rendering horse cavalry obsolete and drastically changing infantry tactics. The company trained until August 1918 when they were shipped to France with the 40th Division. The war was over before the 40th saw any action and it was returned to the U.S. in March 1919. Company B was released from federal service May 20, 1919 and returned to Salinas and deactivated.

In 1920 the U.S. Army underwent a reorganization and the National Guard became a permanent part of the Army Reserve. Due to the success of tanks in World War I, the Army organized one tank company in each of the 18 National Guard Infantry divisions scattered across the United States. Salinas was selected as the site of one of these tank companies and on June 18, 1924 the 40th Tank Company was authorized and equipped with eight light tanks of French Renault-design left over from World War I. The 40th became the first tank company formulated in California and recruited men from the surrounding cities and counties as far away as Watsonville, Hollister and King City.

The old armory was inadequate for a mechanized outfit and was vacated by the guard and converted to other uses. In 1924 the new 40th Tank company occupied the Lacey Building at the corner of Market and Monterey Streets in Salinas. Later in the decade the 40th moved to another building in the 100 block of Monterey Street that eventually became the home of the Salinas Index Journal.

The need for a permanent armory became compelling and the city council and various community organizations launched a campaign to construct a new armory between Salinas Street and Lincoln Avenue. Seeded by the city's purchase of the land for $40,000 and $10,000 in cash from the community, the federal government and the state provided the balance of funds to construct the building at a total cost of $250,000. The tank company moved in November 1, 1932 and at that time consisted of 65 officers and men commanded by Captain Frank E. Heple; assisted by 1st Lieutenant Harry J. King, 1st Lieutenant L.E. Johnson, 2nd Lieutenant Fred E. Moffit. The 40th continued to be equipped with the six-ton Renault tanks, three of which were in Salinas and five at Camp San Luis Obispo where their annual two week training was carried out.

The next call to duty for the guard came in July, 1934 when the 40th Tank Company was mobilized for duty during the Longshoreman's strike on the San Francisco waterfront. The strike had turned violent and Governor Rolph sent in the National Guard. The 40th spent eight days in San Francisco and was then immediately sent to Camp San Luis Obispo for their annual two week field duty.

In 1937 the tank company received the new M2A2 light tank which was to serve during the remainder of peace time and during training at Fort Lewis, after its induction into federal service.

The spectacular success of the German Panzer Divisions in the fall of France and Belgium caused the Army to form four tank battalions, from the 18 scattered National Guard tank companies, numbered 191, 192, 193, and 194. On September 8, 1940, the old 40th Tank Company became Company C, 194th Tank Battalion and was alerted for possible call-up. It didn't take the Army long to decide to induct various National Guard units into federal service, and on February 10, 1941, Company C was federalized and ordered to Fort Lewis, Washington, for training. At Fort Lewis, the Salinas company joined with Company A from Brainerd, Minnesota, and Company B, from St. Joseph, Missouri, to form the 194th Tank Battalion with Major E.B. Miller as commanding officer.

At Fort Lewis, it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, from lack of uniforms to shortages of tanks and equipment. In addition, the Regular Army general at Fort
Lewis viewed "latter day" soldiers with contempt, which made life even more difficult. In spite of all this, the 194th was rated among the best tank battalions in the Army and was shipped out from San Francisco on September 8, 1941, with 54 new Stuart M3 light tanks, bound for Manila. The unit had the distinction of being the first U.S. armored unit overseas in what was to become World War II.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, the shortage of supplies, especially gasoline and spare parts, hampered the battalion's training exercises, even though there were adequate supplies in the quartermaster warehouses in Manila. It was so bad that a request for spare parts often took 30 days to navigate the Army red tape. More critical was the fact that live ammunition wasn't issued until December 2, and the 37-mm tank guns had never been fired. The 37-mm High Explosive (HE) ammo was never shipped to the Philippines; Ordnance finally improvised some HE ammo during the campaign.

On November 20, the 192nd Tank Battalion arrived in Manila and Company D, which was on board, was assigned to the 194th to replace Company B (from St. Joseph, Missouri) which had been detached at Fort Lewis and sent to Alaska. (Note: Additional historical research has indicated that Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion may not have been attached to the 194th as planned.) Colonel R.N. Weaver, a Regular Army officer, was placed in command of the Provisional Tank Group, consisting of the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions, which was under the direct control of the U.S. Army Forces Far East (MacArthur), bypassing MG Wainwright, the ground forces commander. This split command structure was to cause many problems in the defense of Luzon.

When the Japanese struck Clark Field December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, Company C tankers were in defensive positions around the perimeter of the field. They had just finished lunch and were cleaning their mess kits when they saw an approaching formation of bombers and assumed they were U.S. bombers until the bombs started falling. The attacking force consisted of 53 bombers followed by 34 fighters. C Company soldiers ran to their tanks and half-tracks and commenced firing in spite of the bombs falling all around them. The enemy bombers smashed the neat rows of B-17s and P-40s lined up on the runway and then the fighters strafed everything that was left. At the end of the raid some 40 minutes later, half the U.S. Far Eastern Air Force was destroyed. In all, 55 men were killed and over 100 wounded, but miraculously, Company C suffered no casualties even though its soldiers were firing from exposed positions.

The fighters flew so low that it seemed a shotgun could bring one down. At that point, a "green" Regular Army lieutenant grabbed a private first class's arm and yelled that shooting at the planes would give away their position - as if it mattered at that point. The GIs blazed away with everything they had, and Private Earl G. Smith of Company C was credited with downing one of the nine enemy fighters shot down that day.

After the raid, the company spent the night loading machine gun belts from Springfield rifle clips because they had fired all their belted ammo. The next day, the company was split off from the battalion and bivouacked two miles northeast of Clark Field. It remained there until December 12, when it was detached from the 194th and ordered to join the South Luzon Force under the command of Brigadier General Albert M. Jones. They marched south at night, about 40 miles, and then made a daylight dash to Muntinlupa and on to Tagatay Ridge on the 14th. The company remained in this area from the 14th to the 24th and conducted reconnaissance patrols, hunting presumed fifth columnists who were flashing mirrors by day and setting off flares at night near our ammo dumps. No one was ever captured, but after C Company shot up some suspected native huts, the suspicious activities ceased.

The Japanese landed 7,000 troops at Lamon Bay at 0200 on December 24 and proceeded inland in the direction of Lucban. Meanwhile, Company C moved into position on Christmas Eve to assist the Filipino 1st Infantry Regiment. During Christmas Day, Brigadier General Jones personally conducted a reconnaissance down a narrow road toward the enemy, escorted by a Company C halftrack manned by Sergeant Keith Lewis, Sergeant Leon Elliott, Private First Class Jim Hicks, Private William Hennessey, and Private Fred Yeager. They were reconnoitering north of Piis, Luzon, when they came under fire from an enemy advance guard. The halftrack, in attempting to turn around, fell into a ditch, but the crew was able to remove their guns and provide covering fire as they retreated, enabling General Jones and his driver to escape unharmed. For this action, General Jones recommended the crew for the Distinguished Service Cross, but no action was taken until April 1946, and then the recommendation was denied.Instead, the five crew members were awarded the Silver Star, but by then, only Sergeant Leon Elliott was still alive.

On December 26, the 2nd platoon was ordered by a Filipino major to move down a narrow mountain trail, firing as they went to impress the Filipino troops. The platoon leader, Lieutenant Needham, protested the order and suggested they do a reconnaissance first to see what was out in front, but the major assured him that the enemy only possessed small arms and ordered the platoon to carry out the mission. The tankers set out and promptly ran into an antitank gun and some concealed field pieces. The lead tank was hit, mortally wounding Lieutenant Needham and Private First Class Robert Bales. Staff Sergeant Emil S. Morello, in the second tank, drove around the disabled tank and ran over the antitank gun. (see painting above) Sergeant Morello's tank was also hit, wounding Private Eddie DiBenedetti, who was hit in the neck by a flying rivet. (This incident prompted the War Department to change from riveted to welded construction in new tank production.) Another tank, commanded by Sergeant Glenn Brokaw, was hit and Privates First Class Jim Hicks, McLeod, and Seifort were killed and Brokaw seriously wounded. (Ironically, Hicks had volunteered to drive Brokaw's tank when the regular driver became ill.)

In all, five tanks were hit and immobilized. Sergeant Morello and four wounded stayed buttoned up inside their tanks, not daring to move because the Japanese had camped for the night alongside the tanks, unaware that anyone inside was alive. In the morning, the enemy left, and Sergeant Morello began tending the casualties. He gathered up five wounded, and they escaped through coconut groves and rice paddies.

With the help of Filipino guides they hired, Sergeant Morello and the wounded soldiers all showed up in Manila five days later after fleeing through enemy territory. He left DiBenedetti in a Catholic Hospital in Manila and, with the other wounded, made his way by Banca to Corregidor. Later, during February, Sergeant Morello was able to rejoin the company on Bataan. For this action, Sergeant Morello was awarded the Silver Star.

The action described above resulted in the loss of an entire platoon of tanks and five soldiers, and was a grim lesson about the consequences when reconnaissance is ignored and tanks are sent out on a mission, essentially blind.

Manila was declared an open city on December 24, and, on the 25th, General MacArthur ordered the implementation of Orange Plan-3, which provided for the withdrawal of all Philippine and U.S. forces into Bataan as a last defensive position. In compliance with the order, Company C withdrew from South Luzon on December 29, acting as a rear guard for General Jones's troops. They moved to Tagatay Ridge on the 31st and made a sleepless 100-mile night dash to Bocaue where they rejoined the rest of the 194th Tank Battalion.

On the march North, the troops were to bypass Manila because it had been declared an open city; however, the rear guard, led by First Sergeant Ero "Ben" Saccone, was unsure of the route around the city. They decided to go through central Manila (the only maps they had were Atlantic Richfield service station maps) and it didn't seem to matter that the city was off limits.In the dark, one of Company C's tanks hit the Jose Rizall statue while trying to avoid hordes of fleeing civilians. The tank threw a track on impact and bent an idler. The crew worked all night trying to repair it, but by daylight, they saw it was hopeless. They disabled the tank and tried to hitch a ride with some Filipino troops in Bren Gun carriers. None would stop until the tankers leveled their .45 cal Thompson submachine guns at the convoy. Then they got a lift; they were the last armored troops out of Manila.

From Bocaue, the company headed for the Calumpit Bridge over the Pampanga River on Route 3. This was a vital structure, since all traffic fleeing Manila toward Bataan had to pass over this bridge. It was here that C Company witnessed 100-150 empty Filipino trucks in headlong flight from Manila, where there were ample supplies in the warehouses. Had these supplies been moved while there was still time, the U.S. and Filipino forces on Bataan could have conceivably held out longer and with far less suffering. Also, had these supplies been moved prior to the outbreak of hostilities, as called for in Orange Plan-3, the troops wouldn't have nearly starved to death. Perhaps the inaction was due to General MacArthur's belief that war would not break out until April 1942.

All the South Luzon forces were across the Calumpit Bridge by 0230 January 1, followed by C Company in the rear guard. Then the bridge was blown up. From there, the tanks moved through San Fernando at the critical junction of Route 3 and Route 7 from North Luzon. Again, the tankers formed successive road blocks on Route 7 during the next three days.

At 1600 on January 5, Captain Fred Moffitt, commanding officer, C Company, leading two tanks and two halftracks, assisted by four self-propelled 75-mm guns and the 31st Infantry, ambushed 750-800 enemy troops. Our forces inflicted 50 percent casualties on the Japanese and left the town of Lubao in flames. Had they not stopped the enemy troops there, our retreat into Bataan would have been cut off.

Moving toward Bataan on January 6, another night battle took place near Remulus. Captain Moffitt's halftrack took a direct hit from an enemy shell that took off Private William Hennessey's left foot and wounded Private First Class Walter Martella. Both died of their wounds, Martella within a few days due to gas gangrene, and Hennessey at Camp O'Donnell after the surrender on Bataan. In the same battle, Staff Sergeant Carl F. Abbott scored a direct hit on an enemy tank before his tank was hit and disabled; however, he escaped injury and the tank was retrieved the next day.

The withdrawal toward Bataan continued, and by January 7th, Company C was at the Culo River, guarding the left flank of the Layac Bridge, which was the gateway to Bataan. As soon as all forces were across, the tankers withdrew and the bridge was blown up, temporarily sealing off the Bataan Peninsula. The blowing of bridges had become of critical importance, and the commanding officer of the 194th had to give his personal order before a bridge could be demolished. This order came about because of the loss of six tanks by the 192nd at the Agno River in Northern Luzon, when panicky Filipino troops blew a bridge and stranded the tanks on the enemy side.

The withdrawal into Bataan to a bivouac south of the Abucay Main Battle Line afforded the troops a slight lull from battle. They had been in action for 30 consecutive days and were exhausted. To add to their misery, MG Wainwright ordered the food ration cut in half, to only 30 ounces per man per day. In the first month of combat, Company C had lost seven tanks and six men killed in action. The losses necessitated reorganizing the company into three platoons of three tanks each, plus one command tank (prewar strength was five tanks to a platoon plus the CO and XO tanks, for a total of seventeen). The remaining tanks were long past the 400-hour scheduled maintenance and had been run so hard the rubber track plates had been worn down to the metal. Fortunately, some replacement parts were available from the Service Command Area in southern Bataan.

The next significant action involving a platoon of C Company was after General Wainwright sent three tanks to Bagac, on the west coast of Bataan. The following day, they were ordered to advance north to reopen the coastal highway to Moron. The tanks were moving in advance of the main body and as they rounded a curve, the lead tank (Staff Sergeant Frank Muther) was fired on at point-blank range by an antitank gun. Incredibly, the round went right over the turret, and in returning fire, the tank knocked out the enemy gun. Two tanks following 600 yards back hit land mines placed by the Japanese after the lead tank went by. This use of land mines was a favorite tactic of the Japanese. Muther's tank was able to turn around and withdraw past the disabled tanks, and the platoon got out without any personnel casualties. The disabled tanks were towed out the next day and used for spare parts.

This incident was another case where an order to send tanks out alone, ahead of infantry, nearly became a suicide mission. Throughout the campaign, tanks were not used properly. The generals regarded them as mobile pill boxes. They also tended to send only a platoon when a full company was needed. Conflicting orders from the Provisional Tank Group Commander (Colonel Weaver) and General Wainwright kept the tank battalion commanders in constant turmoil, and often they had to rely on their own judgment. The tanks were often assigned piecemeal to various units by Tank Group or by Wainwright's ground commanders, thereby losing the advantage of combined arms protection. In addition, few senior officers had any experience with tanks, and they did not know how to employ armor to the best advantage.

By the middle of January, lack of food and medicine caused malaria, dengue (dengue fever), and dysentery, which took a heavy toll on the malnourished troops. Especially critical was a shortage of quinine to treat a virulent form of malaria prevalent on the Bataan Peninsula. The constant hordes of flies and mosquitoes made their problems worse. The troops had not received any mail since the war started. Occasionally, they could get some news via short-wave radio from San Francisco, but otherwise listened to Tokyo Rose for entertainment.

On January 26th, C/194 covered the withdrawal from the Abucay Main Battle Line toward the next defensive position at the Pilar-Bagac Road. (The only satisfactory road across Bataan.) As Company C was moving across an area called Hacienda Flats, the U.S. forces inflicted at least 1,500 casualties. The Japanese retaliated with a heavy bombing attack. A dud bomb went though the fender of Muther's tank but didn't explode. Another tank stalled on a bridge and had to be pushed over the side to prevent a roadblock. Captain Moffitt was wounded in the leg by a flying timber while crossing a bridge just as it was blown up.

By February 8, the U.S. and Philippine forces had fought the enemy to a standstill in spite of their supply, disease, and malnutrition problems. There was a lull in infantry action, but theJapanese kept up the relentless shelling and bombing of our lines. Company C was on the east coast of Bataan and used mainly for beach defense, to ward off any attempt by the enemy to invade Bataan from Manila Bay. During an aerial attack near Lamao, a .50 cal machine gunner from C Company hit a Japanese plane that was last seen smoking and diving toward Manila Bay, a fact confirmed by Sergeant Lewis. The company was split up into various beach positions, and some of the locations were near enough to Japanese lines that 14-inch mortar fire from U.S. guns on Corregidor landed uncomfortably close to our tanks.

By the middle of March, the food ration was cut again, down to 15 ounces per man per day. The troops subsisted mainly on rice, supplemented by anything they could scrounge, including worms, snakes, monkeys, and an occasional native caribou. General Wainwright, an old cavalry man, had to order the slaughter of 250 horses and 42 mules from his beloved 26th Cavalry Regiment to ward off starvation. In spite of the extra meat, the Bataan forces were in dire straits, with one fourth of the troops in the hospital with disabilities associated with disease and malnutrition.

Toward the end of March, the Japanese resumed their offensive after being reinforced by Imperial Marines released after the fall of Singapore. On April 3, the enemy began an all-out offensive, accompanied by constant bombing and shelling. Major General Edward E King (in command after Wainwright moved to Corregidor) made one last effort to stop the enemy
across Southern Bataan.

Four tanks from the 2nd platoon were sent from Lamao, on April 6, over mountain trails to the vicinity of Mount Samat in south central Bataan. The tanks were to support the Philippine 45th and 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, who were opposing the enemy coming down Trail 29. On the morning of April 7, the Filipinos were in headlong flight, and the tanks moved down Trail 8 to try and stem the tide. At the junction of Trail 6, the lead tank encountered antitank fire, which blasted it off the trail, knocking out the tank commander. Corporal Ray Peoples took over command, and with the other tanks covered the withdrawal under intense enemy fire. The retreat was made more difficult by the hundreds of troops and vehicles clogging the trail.

The platoon managed to regain its starting point without further casualties. However, Sergeant Morello's tank, which suffered an engine lockup, had to be towed to the shop at Cabcaben.

Meanwhile, the 3rd platoon, under the command of First Sergeant "Ben" Saccone, with two tanks and two halftracks, was ordered to attempt an enveloping maneuver by moving to the west coast of Bataan via the coast road to Mariveles and on to the Pilar-Bagac Road. They were in the vicinity of Mount Samat where they encountered fierce resistance at an enemy road block. (It was virtually impossible for the tanks to get off the trails because of the thick jungle and trees. This was a constant problem during the entire campaign. The platoon was out of radio contact with battalion headquarters and was unable to assess the situation, so it reversed its march and made it back to Mariveles, where it rejoined the remnants of the company. These two actions were the last for Company C, which by April 8 had been in combat for four months, lost ten tanks, and had six men killed in action.

General King, on April 8, acknowledged that the situation was critical and that further resistance would result in the massacre of his troops, including 6,000 sick and wounded and 40,000 refugees. The troops still on the line were less than 25 percent effective and couldn't last for more than a day. Consequently, he ordered the troops to cease fire and to destroy their equipment when the code word "Blast" was given. This occurred at 0700 April 9, 1942, and hostilities on Bataan ceased. As it turned out, the U.S. and Philippine troops were doomed from the start of the war by the lack of air power, supplies, and reinforcements. However, due to the heroic efforts of units like C/194th Tank Battalion, the Japanese advance was critically slowed.

General Homma had expected to take the Philippines in three months, but instead it took five, and the U.S. gained precious time needed to go on the offensive in the Pacific.

Company C, 194th Tank Battalion was officially inactivated April 2, 1946, in the Philippines, and the chapter closed on a courageous outfit. The combat and prisoner of war ordeal had taken a heavy toll on the company and out of 105 men who left Salinas, February 18, 1941, only 47 returned. During the time the company was in combat, it earned three Presidential Unit Citations (Defense of the Philippines, Luzon, and Bataan) and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for service from December 7, 1941 to May 10, 1942. In Company C, there were six Silver Stars awarded to tankers, and the entire company received the Bronze Star. Unfortunately, this didn't happen until well after the war, and by then, many medals were given posthumously. It took tireless effort by men such as Chief Warrant Officer Ero "Ben" Saccone to enable these men to receive their well-merited medals.
In 1947, Salinas again had a tank company when the 149th Tank Battalion was activated. Since that time, the company has been assigned to various units. At present, it is Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Armor Regiment. Its unofficial motto is "Remember the Road to Bataan," a lasting tribute to the men of Company C, 194th Tank Battalion.


Selected Source Material

Ashton, Paul, Bataan Diary, Privately Printed, 1984.
Miller, E.B. Colonel, Bataan Uncensored, Hart Publishing Inc., Long Prairie, Minn., 1949.
Morris, Eric, Corregidor, The End of the Line, Stein and Day, New York, 1981.
U.S. Army, Operations of the Provisional Tank Group, United States Army Forces in the Far East 1941-1942.

The Author

Burton Anderson served as an ensign aboard the heavy cruiser USS Pensacola during World War II and during the Bikini atom bomb tests in 1946. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1949 and joined a firm in the lettuce business. He retired in 1985 after spending 36 years with the company, rising from ranch manager to executive. Currently, he is an independent agricultural consultant and is staff historian for the Coastal Grower magazine. He has written numerous articles on agriculture and Salinas Valley history.

 

 


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