Charles_e




Earl E. 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 Company.
    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.
 
    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tank at all times. At six in the morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  All tank crew members were ordered to their tanks.  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 8:30 that morning, American planes took to the sky to protect the airfield.  At noon, the planes landed, lines up in a straight line outside the mess hall, 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.
   

    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 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.    
    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 before they fell back to Cabanatuan.     
    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 tanks destroyed as much of the Japanese equipment before they headed 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 Baluiag
2nd 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.             
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.
 
The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and than cover the 192nd's withdraw.  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. 
    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.     
                                    
    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.
 






 

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