Chaffin

 

Sgt. Charles P. Chaffin


    Sgt. Charles P. Chaffin was born on December 18, 1919.  He was one of the five children of William H. Chaffin & Amelia Chaffin.  With his two brothers, he grew up at 322 Perry Street in Port Clinton, Ohio, and worked as a truck driver.  He was known as "Chuck" to his friends.   

    In 1938, Charles joined the Ohio National Guard's tank company which was headquartered in an armory in Port Clinton.  Two years later, while working at a winery, he was inducted into the regular army when the company was called to Federal duty as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

    For almost a year Charles and the rest of C Company trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.    It was during this training that he became a motorcycle messenger.  In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    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.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, the transport, S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents. 
    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.  They were scheduled to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On Monday. December 1st, the tanks and half-tracks were ordered to the southern perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two members of each crew remained with their vehicles at all times.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  All members of the letter companies were ordered to the tanks and half-tracks at the airfield.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac.
    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.  Paul and the other members of HQ took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes.  After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    A Company, on December 12th, was sent to the Barrio of Dau to protect a road and railroad from sabotage.  It remained there until the 21st when it was sent to join B and C Companies which had been sent north toward the Lingayen Gulf were the Japanese were landing troops.

    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.  This platoon fought the first tank battle of the war which allowed the 26th to withdraw from the area.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta, where the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed, so the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but 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.

    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan. 
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.               
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.   Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks. 

    On December 31st/January 1st,  the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge.  The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew.  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.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6th/7th the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver:  "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw.  Just after the infantry evacuated a column of Japanese came marching down the road and were taken by surprised by the tanks and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese  This stopped the Japanese advance and the tanks withdrew without any problems.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    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, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.

    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.

   
C Company 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.
   
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.  The 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.    
    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.

    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  The situation on operational tanks was also critical, with C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, having only seven tanks left.

    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.   
    On April 9, 1942, Charles with the rest of the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered and became Prisoners Of War.
  From Mariveles, Charles, Sgt. John Andrew, Sgt. Howard Wodrich and Tec 5 Alton Dodway started what became known as the death march.  Dodway was already suffering from dysentery and the lack of food and water contributed to his collapsing on the fourth day of the march.  Somehow, Charles and the other men got Dodway a ride on a truck to Camp O'Donnell.  

    Charles recalled that the POWs were put in groups of 100 men.  The POWs were marched at night and rested during the day.  When given a rest, they sat in the sun all day and got very little sleep.  This became known as the sun treatment.  When night came, the prisoners were ordered to march again.

    At San Fernando, Charles and the other prisoners were boarded onto box cars.  They were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing.  Disembarking at Capas, Charles walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a death trap.  As many as 50 men died each day.  If a POW wanted a drink of water, he had to stand in line for hours to get one.  The reason why was that there was only one water faucet for 12,000 men.  At some point Charles was sent out on a work detail.  It is known that he returned to the camp before a new POW camp opened.

    When a new camp opened, Charles was sent to Cabanatuan.  While a POW there, Charles went out on a work detail to Clark Field to cleanup wreckage.  It was while he was working on this detail that Charles received beatings from the Japanese.  It was his belief that the POWs were beaten because the Japanese were angry about losing such a large number of troops while conquering the Philippines. 
    After the detail was ended, Charles was sent to Cabanatuan.  It was while he was in the camp that he became ill.  Medical records kept at the camp, Charles was admitted to the camp hospital.  When he was admitted and why he was admitted was not indicated.

    On October 16, 1942, Charles was sent to the Port Area of Manila.  He and the other prisoners were held for two days on the docks while the Japanese prepared the ship to sail.  The only two members of C Company with him were John Minier and Charles Boeshart.

    Charles and the other men were placed into the hold of the Tottori Maru hold.  They would remain there for five days before the ship sailed.  When Charles and the other POWs disembarked, they found themselves in Korea.  They were boarded onto a train bound for Manchuria.  This trip took an additional two days.

    At Mukden, Manchuria, Charles was given a set of clothes and a overcoat.  These were the only clothes he received while he was held at Mukden.  At Mukden, Charles performed two jobs.  The first was working in a lead mine.  The Japanese worked the prisoners until they completely finished the job.  If this meant that the POWs worked for twenty-four hours straight, they did so.

    In the camp, the POWs worked as slave labor in either a machine shop or a wood shop.  The climate at the prison camp was brutally cold.  Many of the POWs grew beards to protect their faces from the cold.  The steam from their breath froze to their beards creating a matted mess.

    The winter temperatures were so cold that if a POW died, his body was stored until the spring.  When the ground thawed, the POW was buried.  If a prisoner spit, the spit would freeze before hitting the ground.

    The second job Charles worked was as a cook in the camp kitchen.  For those men who got this job, the job mean more food.  To get extra food, the POWs snuck the food.  A meal consisted of rice, beans, barley and soup.  Since the soup tasted like straw, the POWs called it alfalfa soup.

    In May 1944, Charles was selected for transport to Japan.  On May 24th, he was boarded onto the Nissyo Maru bound for Japan.  During the trip the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa, on May 26th, before sailing for Moji arriving there on May 29th.  In Japan, Charles was held as a prisoner at Kamiaka POW Camp also known as Nagoya #7-B.  The prisoners in the camp worked in a zinc mine and a lead mine.  

    The Japanese treatment of the POWs was brutal.  Charles recalled that when the Japanese heard news of an air raid by the Americans, they selected eight or ten POWs and punished them.  Afterwards, they threw them into the guardhouse where the men were forgotten.  The POWs also learned that when the Japanese called them out in the middle of the night for an inspection, it meant that the Japanese had suffered another defeat and that the Americans were getting closer.

    On August 15, 1945, Charles and the other POWs learned of the Japanese surrender.  This happened because the prisoners purchased a Japanese newspaper on the Black Market.  The prisoners wanted to celebrate, but the officers feared that if they did the Japanese would retaliate.

    Several days later the prisoners took control of the camp and waited for American forces.  When they arrived, Charles and the other liberated POWs were returned to the Philippines.  When he was liberated, on September 7, 1945, he weighed 100 pounds.  He was discharged, from the army, on May 20, 1946.

    During the war, Charles received only two letters from home.  One came on February 21, 1943, and the other he received on February 18, 1945.  He also received his first Red Cross package while he was a POW on Christmas Eve, 1944.  He would received two more.
    On September 10, 1945, Charles was liberated and taken by the U.S.A.H.S. Marigold to Sapain.  From there, he was taken to Marianas and flown by Air Transport to the United States.  He was sent to Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and given a leave home from October 16th until November 6th.

    Charles returned home to Port Clinton where he started a taxi cab company.   He married and was the father of a son, Roland.  According to other members of C Company, Charles never recovered from the physical abuse that he received as a POW.  After a short illness, he passed away on November 30, 1947. 
    The photo below was taken while Charles was a POW at Hooten Camp in Mukden, Manchuria.



 




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