Tec 5 Earl Lemont Charles Jr.
T/5 Earl L. Charles Jr., was
born on July 21, 1917, to Earl L. Charles Sr. and Anna
Charles. With his two sisters he was raised in
Troy, Cleveland, and later Springfield, Ohio. He
was known as "Bud" to his family and friends. He
was working as a sandblaster when he was inducted into
the U.S. Army on January 27, 1941, at Fort Hayes in
Columbus, Ohio. He was sent to Ft. Knox,
Kentucky, for basic training and was assigned to C
After training in Kentucky for nearly a year, Earl took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that Earl learned that his battalion was being sent overseas. He returned home to say his goodbyes and returned to Camp Polk, Louisana.
The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers. They were kept at Camp Polk after the maneuvers without being given a reason. According to members of the battalion, General George Patton told them the news that they were going overseas. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service. Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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. They sailed the same day for Manila. The ships 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. The general 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.
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.
At six in the morning, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to move their platoons to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. The 192nd had been assigned to the southern portion of the airfield. The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
Earl spent the next four months fighting the Japanese. On April 9, 1942, he and the other tankers received the news of the surrender. He destroyed his tank and made his way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from the southern tip of Bataan that Earl started what was known would be come known as the death march.
Earl and the other POWs made their way north out of Bataan to San Fernando. The POWs were given little water and even less food. Those who fell were bayoneted or shot. At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men or eight horses. Each car held 100 men. Those who died remained standing until the living left the boxcars. At Capas, the POWs left the cars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Training Base. There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. Men died while attempting to get a drink. The death rate went wild among the POWs. When a new POW camp opened, to lower the death rate among the POWs, Earl was sent to it. After arriving in the camp, he came down with cerebral malaria and was put in the camp hospital on June 22, 1942.
According to U. S. Army records, T/5 Earl L. Charles Jr. died on Thursday, June 25, 1942, of dysentery and cerebral malaria at Cabanatuan Prison Camp #1, Philippine Islands. His approximate time of death was 6:00 AM. He was buried in Grave 419, Row 0, Plot 4, in the camp cemetery.
During the war, his mother died not knowing if her son was dead or alive. His father, who had moved to Detroit, officially learned he was a POW on June 23, 1943. He learned of Earl's death on July 20, 1943.
After the war on September 23, 1948, his remains were disinterred by a remains recovery team. The remains of T/5 Earl L. Charles Jr. were moved to the new American Military Cemetery outside Manila, Philippine Islands.