|Tec 4 Frank Lester
T/4 Frank L. Beaver was born on October 31, 1918,
in Piqua, Ohio, and was the son of Frank C. Beaver & Stella M.
Clingon-Beaver. He grew up, with his three
sisters and four brothers, on a farm near
Washington, Ohio, and attended Houston High School
where he graduated valedictorian of his
class. After high school, he worked for the
Lear Company manufacturing radios.
Frank was inducted into the U.S. Army on February 1, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. He attended radio school and qualified as a radio operator. He was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion, most likely as a replacement, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to Headquarters Company. He was assigned to one of the company's three tanks as a radio operator.
In the August, 1941, Frank went home for on a short furlough. When he returned to Ft. Knox, the tank battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. Being assigned to headquarters meant that most of the soldiers worked behind the scenes and did not really participate in the maneuvers. In Frank's case, he most likely was a more active participant since he was assigned to a tank.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd was ordered to report to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox as they had expected. On the side of a hill, the tankers learned they were bring sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service. They were replaced by men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes. Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced or treated and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They ships sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam. When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, and the ships took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Sotsenburg north of Manila.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. King made that the tankers had their Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased so they would not rust during the trip to the Philippines. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
On Monday, December 1st the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against Japanese paratroopers. From this moment on, two members of each tank crew had to remain with their tanks at all times. The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes landed to be refueled and parked in a straight line. It was at this time that the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, planes approached the airfield from the north and the tankers counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for weeks. It was during this time that Frank's parents received a telegram from him stating that he was okay. It was also at this time that the battalion was sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.
For the next four months Frank worked to keep the tanks of his battalion running. On April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni told the men that they would surrender the next morning. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. He brought with him pineapple juice and food and the company had what he called their last meal. They remained in their bivouac for two days.
The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the
day, Frank's group of POWs was moved to a school
yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left
sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese
did not feed them or give them water.
were ordered to move again by the
Japanese. Frank and the other men had no
idea that they had started what became known as
the death march. At one
point the POWs were ordered to sit.
Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery
pieces which began firing on Corregidor and
Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two were still alive. When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
At San Fernando, Frank was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car at Capas. From Capas, Frank walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training
base that the Japanese pressed into service as a
Prisoner of War camp. It turned out to be
a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying
each day. There was only one working water
faucet for the entire camp. To get a
drink, men stood in line for days. Many
died while waiting for a drink since the
Japanese guard would shut off the water for no
reason. Because of the death rate among
the POWs many POWs went out on work details to
get out of the camp.
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