Sgt. Robert E. Bronge was born on June 14, 1917, to
James V. Bronge & Julia Nelson-Bronge. With
his two brothers and his sister, he grew up in Maywood
and Melrose Park, Illinois. As a child he
attended Mount Carmel Catholic School and graduated in
1933. He then went to Proviso Township High
School and graduated in 1937. At some point, his
In 1940, he was living at 910 North 14th Avenue and caring for his younger brother. At the same time he worked for a pencil manufacturing company as a buffer.
In 1937, like many other men from the Maywood-Melrose Park area, Bob joined the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company. One reason for his joining was the tank company was headquartered in an armory across the street from his high school. Another reason for his joining the tank company was that many of the members of the company were friends of his. One of the other members of the company was his cousin, Daniel Boni.
On November 25, 1940, Bob's tank company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. His address when inducted was 1921 South 19th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois. For the next year, he trained with the company at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was during this time that he was promoted to sergeant and made a tank commander.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was at that time that Bob and the other members of the battalion were informed that they were not being released from federal service as expected. Instead, they were old that their time in federal service had been extended, and that they were being sent overseas.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco. Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin 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.
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times. The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6th/7th, the 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross a bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions , on January 28th, 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.
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.