Bennett_H

 


Pvt. Horace Bennett


    Pvt. Horrace Bennett was born on February 14, 1917, in Alto, Cherokee County, Texas, to Lee Bennett and Mattie Landrum-Bennett.  With his fiur sisters and three brothers, he resided on Old Rusk Road in Cherokee County.  He left school after the fifth grade and worked on the family's farm.
    On March 18, 1941, Horace was inducted into the U.S. Army in Houston, Texas.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  It is not known what technical schools he attended.  After completing training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had been sent to the fort from Ft. Benning, Georgia, but it did not take part in the maneuvers taking place there.
     After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  The battalion members had no idea why they were being kept at the base. 

   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.  It was at this time that Horace volunteered to join the battalion.
    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 Gen. Edward King, who apologized that the men 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 goldgrease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A 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.
    A Company remained at Clark Field until December 12th, when it was ordered to the barrio of Dau so it could protect a road and railroad from sabotage.
  From there, the company was sent to join the remainder of the battalion just south of the Agno River.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position so that other units could withdraw from the area.
     On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.   When the main bridge at Carmen was bombed out, the companies at to make "end runs" to get south of the Agno River during the night of December 24th.
   
    On December 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  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.  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 tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americana 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.  They had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
    On another occasion, the company had bivouacked for the night on two sides of a road.  They posted guards and attempted to get some sleep.  During the night, the guards heard a noise down the road.  They woke the other members of the company, who grabbed their guns, and waited to see what had caused the noise. 
    As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion came riding down the road into their bivouac.   The tankers opened up with everything they had.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
   
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back.  According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
     The tanks were also involved in the Battle of the Pockets.  The Japanese lunched an offensive and were stopped.  Two  groups of Japanese soldiers were trapped in pockets behind the main defensive line.  To wipe the pockets out, the tanks were sent into the pockets.  According to the tankers, one tank entered the pocket and then one tank would leave.  This was done until every tank had been relieved. 
   
The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.  When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
 
    About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  They circled their tanks.  Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks.  Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.

   
    On April 9, 1942, Horace became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando.  There, the POWs were boarded onto small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men.  One hundred men were packed into each car.  The dead remained standing until the living left the cars.  He then walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Camp which the Japanese pressed into service as a POW Camp.  As many as fifty men died each day.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  The death rate among the POWs rose fast reaching as many as 55 men dying a day.
    To lower the death rate, the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.  It is not known if  Horace was sent directly to the new camp or if he was sent to the camp after returning from a work detail.  What is known is the he was in the camp in late January when the POWs were liberated by U.S. Army Rangers on January 31, 1945.
    After liberation, Horace received medical treatment and remained in the Philippines until September 1945.  He returned to the United States on the Dutch ship, the S.S. Klipfontaine arriving at San Francisco in October 1945.  After arriving he received additional medical treatment.  He was promoted to corporal and discharged from the Army on January 31, 1946. 
    Horace married Wilma Annie Pegues and spent the rest of his life in Texas.  He passed away on February 27, 1975, in Houston, Texas, and was buried at Lynches Chapel Cemetery in Alto, Texas.


 

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