Baldon_R

 

Pvt. Ray Baldon


    Ray Baldon was one of the twin sons of Ozro, Baldon Sr. & Mabel Parrish-Baldon and was born in Wisconsin on May 6, 1919.  Besides his twin brother, he had three other brothers and one sister.  It is known that he and his brother, Fay, worked on farms in Walworth County, Wisconsin.

    Knowing that it was just a matter of time before he would be drafted into the army, Ray with Fay, and their friend Donald Schultz, enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville.  Another member of the company was his cousin, Phil Parish.  On November 25, 1940, the National Guard unit was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion and left for Ft. Knox on November 28, 1940.  He was now a member of the regular army.

    While Ray was training at Ft. Knox, his little brother injured his leg which resulted in a serious infection.  In an attempt to cure her youngest son, Ray's mother moved to Belvedere, Illinois, near her oldest son.  

    After training for nearly a year, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  It was after the maneuvers that the members of the battalion were told that they were being sent overseas.  Ray received a furlough home to say his goodbyes.  Once home Fay and Ray took their little brother from doctor to doctor hoping to find one who could cure him.  At one doctor, they were told that by the time they returned home from overseas, their little brother would be dead.
   
Over different train routes, the battalion traveled to San Francisco, California.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals. and those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.      When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships 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 shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
During this p
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
     At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized to the men 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 which had been put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance preparing to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
 

    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the tankers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Many believed this was just a ruse and they had started the maneuvers.   They went to their positions around the airfield to guard against what they believed was a pretend enemy.  At 8:30 that morning,  American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon to be refueled and where lined up, in a straight line, near their mess hall.  The pilots went to the mess hall to have lunch.
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 white planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American Naval planes. As they watched, what were described as "raindrops" fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  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.  
    That night, since they did not have any foxholes, the men used the old latrine pit for cover.  Being that it was safer in the trench than in their tents, the men slept in the pit.  The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes.  Without knowing it, Ray had slept his last night on a cot or bed.  From this point on, the men slept in blankets on the ground.

    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would could protect a highway and railroad from sabotage.  On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta with the rest of the battalion.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
   
From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position so other troops could cross the river.  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. The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.  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 a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, 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.  It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.  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.
   
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.
    A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese Marines who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank had left the pocket.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. Driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    On March 2nd or 3rd, during the Battle of the Points.  The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line.  The Japanese were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket. 

    On April 9, 1942, Ray became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered.  With his brother, Fay, he took part in the death march.  He and many other members of A Company, made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, there they started what became known as the death march.

    Ray made his way north toward San Fernando.  Once there, he and the other POWs were held in a bull pen.  The pen had been used by other POWs the night before and full of human waste. 

    After spending the night at San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each one.  They then shut the doors.  The heat and smell was unbearable. Those men who died remained standing.

    At Capas, the POWs disembarked.  The bodies of the dead fell out of the cars.  The POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    As a POW, Ray was held at Camp O'Donnell.  As many as fifty POWs died each day.  There was only one water faucet in the camp for 12,000 POWs.  In an attempt to get out of the camp, Fay and Ray volunteered to go out on a work detail back to Mariveles.  It was there Ray, became ill with dysentery.  He was returned to Camp O'Donnell, where he died on Thursday, May 7, 1942, at about 2:15 in the afternoon from dysentery and malaria.  He was buried in Section D, Row 3, Grave 10 in the camp cemetery.

    After the war, the remains of Pvt. Ray Baldon were reburied at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.  The reason this was done was that his mother did not want him buried alone in a grave meant for his brother and him.  His family also had a memorial headstone placed at Billings Creek Cemetery in Vernon County, Wisconsin.

    One final part of this story needs to be told.  Ray had probably already died when his little brother was treated with a new medicine named penicillin.  His little brother, who the doctor had predicted would be dead before Ray and Fay would return home, not only lived to see the end of the war but resided, in Wisconsin, near their childhood home, until his death in October 2016.


 


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