Pfc. Harold Carl Becker
| Pfc. Harold C.
Becker was born on April 23, 1917, in Illinois to
Henry & Adeline Becker. With his two
sisters and five brothers, one of which was his
twin, he lived at 622 South Eleventh Avenue in
Maywood, Illinois, and attended Proviso Township
High School. After he left high school, he
worked as a machinist at Mississippi Valley Steel
in Melrose Park, Illinois.
On April 14, 1941, in Chicago, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. During basic training, he volunteered to join B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. His reason for doing this was the company had been an Illinois National Guard Tank Company from Maywood, and many of the members of the company were friends of his from high school. He qualified as a radio operator.
In late August, the battalion was informed it would take part in maneuvers in Louisiana. During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained at Camp Polk. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.
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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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 Gen. Edward King, who apologized 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.
The first week of December, 1941, the tankers were ordered to Clark Field to assigned locations. At all times, two members of each tank crew or half-track crew had to remain with their tank or half-track. On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of 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.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th. On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
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.
also took part in the Battle of the Pockets
to wipe out Japanese soldiers 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 exited the pocket.
At some point, Harold was sent on a work detail to Nichols Field. The camp they lived in was about a mile from the airfield and known as Pasay School. This meant the POWs awoke at 6:00 AM each morning and had to do mandatory calisthenics. Their morning meal was fed them at 6:15 before they marched to the airfield.
Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had
no plans on using construction
equipment. Instead, they intended the
POWs to do the work with picks,
shovels, and wheel barrows. The
first POWs arrived at Pasay in August
1942. The work was easy until
the extension reached the hills.
When the extension reached the hills,
some of which were 80 feet high, the
POWs flattened them by hand. The
Japanese replaced the wheel barrows
with mining cars that two POWs pushed
to the swamp and dumped as
land-fill. As the work became
harder and the POWs weaker, less work
The brutality shown to the POWs
the camp, a
Lt. Moto, was
the camp for
One day a POW
Moto was told
about the man
and came out
him to get
made to carry
the man back
to the Pasay
In late September 1944, Harold's name appeared
on a list of POWs being transferred to
Japan. He was taken to Pier 7 on October
1st, and he was boarded onto the Hokusen
Maru. His POW detachment was
scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru,
but the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail
but the POW detachment had not arrived.
The Japanese switched Harold's detachment with
the other detachment so the ship could sail.
The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for Hong Kong when it was informed American planes were in the area. During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships. The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th. While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th. On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.
The ship arrived on at Takao,
Formosa, on October 24th. After remaining
in the hold for 15 days, the POWs were
disembarked because the Japanese decided they
were too ill to continue the trip to
Japan. The POWs were taken to the Inrin
Temporary Camp which was opened for the
POWs. They were not required to do any
heavy work because of the condition they were in
from being in the ship's holds for so
long. They gardened and cleaned up around
the camp. Those who were in better shape
worked at a sugar mill.
Lois Ann Jason on March 19, 1954, she was a
1948 graduate of Proviso Township High
School. The two would later move to
Fort Meyers, Florida, where he worked as a
contractor. They became parents of