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Sgt. Leroy Clark Anderson


    Sgt. Leroy C. Anderson was the son of Erwin and Emma Anderson.  He was born on April 7, 1918, and raised in a house that his father built at 623 Briody Street in Burlington, Wisconsin.  When he was a child, his mother died and his father remarried.

     LeRoy attended school in Burlington and was a 1937 graduate of Burlington High School and was known as Roy to his family.  His father died in November 1937, leaving Roy to support his stepmother.  After high school, Roy worked in the Burlington Mills as as a machinist.

    On January 29, 1941, Roy was inducted in Milwaukee into the U. S. Army with six other men from Burlington.  He was sent to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, where he was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion.  This was done because the army was attempting to fill vacancies in the battalion with men from the home states of the letter companies. From Ft. Sheridan, Roy was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, to join his new unit.

    Roy spent the next eight months training at Ft. Knox and qualified as a tank driver.  He was assigned to A Company which had been a Wisconsin National Guard Tank Company from Janesville.  During this time, he rose in rank to Private First Class.  

    In the fall of 1941, Roy took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed they were being sent overseas.  Some men were allowed to resign from service and were replaced by men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  Roy like the other men received a leave home to say goodbye to his family and friends.
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th, at 9:00 P.M. 
During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover.  The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. 
    During this part of the voyage, the ship was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.  The night of Sunday, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night they had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.  

    When they arrived at Guam,on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila.  At one point, as the ships, in total blackout, passed an island at night.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they would soon be at war.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M. on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7 later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M. the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort, while those assigned to tank maintenance remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents. 
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    On December 1st, the tank battalions were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th was given the northern part of the airfield to defend and the 192nd received the southern half to protect.  At all times, each tank or half-track had to be manned by two members of its crew.  Those on duty were fed by food trucks.
   The members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field on December 8th, just hours after the attack and ordered to be on alert.  Those assigned to tanks and half-tracks joined their crew members who were already at the airfield.
   
About 12:45 in the afternoon, as the tankers were eating lunch, planes appeared in the sky.  At first, the soldiers thought they were American planes.  It was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling and saw explosions that the soldiers knew that the planes were Japanese.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The tankers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing. 

    The company lived through several more air raids before it was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so that it would be near the highway and railroad to protect them from sabotage and remained there for over a week.  On December 21, 1941, his family received the last cable they were to receive from him.  In it, Roy said, "I'm alright but busy."
    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where it suffered the lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.

    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read on December 30th.
 
  That night, on a road east of Zaragoza, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.

    At the Gumain River, the night of December 31st to the morning of January 1st, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
    At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese.  The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them.  The result was the loss of three tanks. 
   On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion, the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.  The company returned to the command of the 192nd.

    The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan.  The night of January 7th, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.

    The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan.  The night of January 7th, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
    While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops.  The morning of January 27th, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it.  That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn.  While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties. 
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.

    It was during this time that Roy was promoted to sergeant and given command of his own tank.  On February 3, 1942, in an engagement against the Japanese, Roy led his platoon of tanks into action against Japanese in the Battle of the Pockets.  According to newspaper clippings from the time, an American counterattack was being held up by Japanese machine gun nests.  Roy's platoon of tanks were called in to clear out the machine gun nests. 

    While leading the counterattack, and attempting to retake positions lost to the Japanese, Roy's tank was knocked out.  Roy and his crew climbed out of their tank and continued the attack on foot using hand grenades and rifles to wipe-out the machine gun nests.  Roy was wounded during the attack and did not return to duty until March 12th.

    Roy was awarded the Distinguish Service Cross for his actions.  It should be noted that he was first American inducted into the U.S. Army through the Selective Service Act to receive the medal during World War II.  During the presentation General MacArthur stated that Roy had demonstrated "extraordinary heroism" in action against the Japanese. 

    The events that led to Roy receiving the medal was that the Japanese had stopped the advance of Filipino and American forces along the Pilar-Bagac Line.   Roy volunteered to see if he could dislodge the Japanese.  He did a personal reconnaissance then took his tank, which had been held in reserve, into the Japanese positions.  His tank wiped out three enemy machine guns.  It proceeded further and wiped out a fourth machine gun. 

    On April 9, 1942, Roy became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  He and the other members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula where they began the death march.

    It is not known how long Roy took to complete the march, but what is known is that he was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  Lieutenant Colonel Ted Wickord, of the 192nd, was put in command of a work detail being sent to Bataan and attempted to fill the detail with men from the tank battalions.  One of these men was Roy.  The detail returned to Bataan to rebuild the bridges that had been destroyed by the retreating Filipino and American forces as they entered Bataan. 
    The POWs were broken into four detachments of 250 men each.  Roy's detachment was sent to Calauan.  There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor. 
    The detachment was next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge.  Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed.  Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.    Roy remained on this detail for several months until he returned to Cabanatuan.

    The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs to attend the meal. 

    On September 8th, the bridge building detail ended, and Roy was sent to "Camp One" at Cabanatuan.  At Camp One, the prisoners ate rice and lived in crude huts.  If a prisoner was late or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole placed behind the knees to cut circulation.  The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over.   

    In October 28, 1942, Roy and other prisoners were loaded onto the Erie Maru and sent to Davao, Mindanao.  During the trip, the ship stopped at Iloilo, Cebu, and Lasang, Mindanao.  At Lasang, the POWs were unloaded and used as labor.  Some of the POWs were used as labor at construction sites while others farmed in the camp farm.  Many of the POWs were ill and needed vitamins.  The fruit that was being grown on the farm could have helped the prisoners, but it was allowed to rot on the ground by the Japanese instead of being given to the prisoners.

     At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide.  A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks.  In each barracks, were eighteen bays.  Twelve POWs shared a bay.  216 POWs lived in each barracks.  Four cages were later put in a bay.  Each cage held two POWs.

    The camp discipline was poor.  The American commanding officer changed frequently.  The junior officers refused to take orders from the senior officers.  Soon, the enlisted men spoke anyway they wanted to, to the officers.  The situation improved because all majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive. 

    At first, the work details were not guarded.  The POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.  The sick POWs made baskets.  In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied.  Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment.  They were beaten for not meeting quotas, misunderstandings between the POWs and guards, and a translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

    Roy spent almost two years at Davao.  During that time, American forces were making their way toward the Philippines.  Bombings of Japanese installations became a daily occurrence.  It was at this time that the Japanese decided to move the 750 POWs at Davao back to Manila.

    The POWs were taken to Lasang and boarded onto the Yashu Maru.  The ship sailed on June 12, 1944 for Cebu City.  There, the ship waited for the arrival of the Teiryu Maru.  After the second ship's arrival, the POWs were transferred to the ship.  The ship sailed for Manila on June 21, 1944 and arrived on June 24th.

    From Manila, the POWs were taken to Cabanatuan when the Japanese began to transfer large numbers of POWs to Japan.  The POWs were later transferred to Bilibid Prison and examined to determine which prisoners were too ill to be sent to Japan.  Those who were in poor health remained at Bilibid.  The POWs were also issued Japanese clothing which was too small for most of them.

    In early October, the POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila.  The ship they were scheduled to sail on was the Hokusen Maru.  The ship was ready to sail, but not all the POWs assigned to the detachment had arrived at the pier.  Another POW detachment was also at the pier and was ready to board their ship, but the ship was not ready to sail.  The Japanese decided to switch the POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.           On October 11th, his detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru where the nearly 1800 POWs were packed into Hold #1 of the ship which was large enough to hold four hundred men.  The ship sailed later the same day, but instead of heading to Formosa it headed south.  Off the Island of Palawan, the ship dropped anchor in a cove.  Within the first 48 hours, five men had died.  The Japanese had removed the lights in the hold but had not turned off the system's power.  Some of the POWs managed to wire the hold's ventilation system into the lighting system.  This provided fresh air to the POWs for two days.  When the Japanese discovered what had been done, they turned off the power.
    After this, the prisoners began to develop heat blisters.  The Japanese soon realized that if they did not do something, the ship would be a death ship.  To relieve the situation in the hold, they transferred 600 of the POWs to the ship's first hold which was partially filled with coal.  During the move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape.  During this time, the POWs, each day, were allowed three ounces of water and every 24 hours, the POWs received two half a mess kits of rice.

    While the Arisan Maru was anchored off Palawan it was attacked once by American planes.  The ship returned to the Manila on October 20th, where, it joined a convoy.  On October 21st, after loading bananas and other foods, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese also issued life jackets to the POWs which could float for about two hours.  According to survivors, all this did was reinforced in the Americans the fear of being killed by their own countrymen.    
    The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  In addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading the Japanese military messages as fast as the Japanese.  To protect this secret, they did not tell the crews, of the submarines, that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines.

    The evening of October 24th, at about 5:00 P.M., the convoy was in the Bashi Channel, of the South China Sea, off the coast of China, when it came under attack by American submarines.  The waves were high since a storm had just passed. 
At about 5:50 P.M., a number of POWs were on deck preparing dinner, and about half the POWs on the ship had been fed.  Sirens and alarms went off and the guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo as it barely missed the ship.  The guards next ran to the stern of the ship, and a second torpedo passed behind the ship.

    Suddenly the Arisan Maru shook, it had been hit by two torpedoes from the U.S.S. Shark, amidship, killing POWs while those still alive began cheering wildly.  A little while later the cheering ended and the men realized they were facing death.  
  
  The guards went after the POWs who cooking dinner and began beating them with their guns and forcing them into the #2 hold.  Once they were in the hold the Japanese cut the rope ladders and slammed down the hatch cover before abandoning the ship.  They did not tie down the hatch covers.
    POWs in the first hold managed to make their way onto the deck and reattached the rope ladders and dropped them into the holds.  The surviving POWs made their way onto the deck.  On the ship's deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, "Boys, we're in a hellva a jam - but we've been in jams before.  Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers.  Let's play it that way to the very end of the script."  Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, "Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men."
    According to surviving POWs, the ship stayed afloat for hours but got lower in the water.  At one point, the stern of the ship began going under which caused the ship to split in half but the halves remained afloat.  It was about this time that about 35 POWs swam to the nearest Japanese ship.  When the Japanese realized that they were POWs, they pushed them underwater with poles and drowned them or hit them with clubs.  Those POWs who could not swim raided the food lockers for a last meal.  These men wanted to die with full stomachs.  Other POWs took to the water with anything that would float.
    Three men managed to get into a lifeboat that had been abandoned by the Japanese.  But since the sea was rough and they had no paddles, they could not maneuver the boat.  According to the men as the night went on, the cries for help became fewer until there was silence.  The next morning, they rescued two more POWs.

    Of the approximately 1800 men who had boarded the Arisan Maru in Manila, only nine survived the sinking.  Eight of these men survived to see the end of the war.  Sgt. Leroy C. Anderson was not one of them.

    Since Sgt. Leroy C. Anderson was lost at sea, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.


 

 

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