Baldon_R

 

Pvt. Ray Baldon


    Ray Baldon was one of the twin sons of Ozro, Baldon Sr. & Mabel Parrish-Baldon.  He 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.  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.
   
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.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  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. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized to the men that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
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 and did tank maintenance.
 

    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.
    The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the tankers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  They went to their positions around the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  At 8:30 that morning,  American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon and their pilots lined up, in a straight line, near their mess hall.    
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American. As they watched, what were described as "raindrops" fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.

    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would could protect a highway and railroad from sabotage.   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.
    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. They successfully crossed at 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.
    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 Reed.  The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
    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. 

    Ray continued to fight to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands for the next several months.  It was on April 9, 1942, that he became a Prisoner of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.

    On April 9, 1942, Fay became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered.  With his brother, Ray, 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.

    Fay 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.

    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 still resides in Wisconsin near their childhood home.


 


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