Davenport

Cpl. Thomas G. Davenport


    Cpl. Thomas Davenport was born on May 13, 1914, in Murray City, Ohio, to George W. Hughes & Mary E. Davenport.  His mother placed him to live with his grandparents Edward & Sarah Davenport in Murray City, Ohio.  His grandparents adopted him and his legal name became Thomas G. Hughes-Davenport.   He attended school and completed two years of high school.  In 1940, he was living with his mother, Mary, and his step-father Henry P. Muncie, in Canal Winchester, Ohio, and working as a bulldozer operator.  He had three half-sisters and five half-brothers.  He was known as "Tom" to his friends and family.
    Tom was drafted into the Army on January 24, 1941, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio.  He was using "Muncie" as his last name when inducted, but since his last name was legally Davenport, he was required to use it on his military records.  He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The company had been an Ohio National Guard tank company from Port Clinton.
    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.  During the maneuvers, the Red Army, which the 192nd was part of, broke through the lines of the Blue Army.  As they approached the headquarters of the army, which was under the command of General George Patton, the maneuvers were suddenly canceled.  The 192nd was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the members had any idea why this order was given.
    On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the tankers learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours many men had figured out that "PLUM" stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Replacements for the men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia.   The 192nd also received the battalion's tanks and half-tracks.
    Over different train routes, the battalion was sent to San Francisco.  Once there, they were taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  At the fort, they received physicals and inoculated against tropical diseases.  Those men with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion in the Philippines.
   

    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.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guardsmen were scheduled to be released from federal service.  The soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, they were greeted by General 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.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st.   At all times, two members of  each tank crew remained with their tank.  That morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and reported to their tanks.  That morning, when they looked up the sky, it was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed, parked in a straight line outside the mess hall, and the pilots went to lunch.  

    Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers noticed planes approaching the airfield.  When bombs began exploding around them, they knew the planes were Japanese.  Besides their .50 caliber machine guns, they had few weapons to use against the planes.  Most took cover and waited out the attack.  After it ended, they saw the destruction done by the bombs.

    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.  They then 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.

    On December 31, 1941, Capt. William Gentry, commanding officer of C Company, 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 John Morley, of the Provisional Tank Group, 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 steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Gentry had told Morley 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 held his 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 C Company was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.  

    C Company withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group.  When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown.  Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river.  Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice.  This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops.

    The tanks were about 100 yards apart.  The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them.  The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire which caused the rice stacks to catch fire.  The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.
    Tom's tank company was next sent to the Barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino Army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire.  From a Filipino lieutenant, they learned where the guns were located and attacked.  Before the Japanese withdrew, the tanks had knocked out three of the guns. 
  
    After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until all the troops were across.  The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the Japanese up for a few days.  This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.

    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 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.  According to members of the battalion, the tankers slept upwind from the tanks.
    About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  They destroyed their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them.  When they did, the Americans officially became Prisoners of War.  They made their way, as a company, to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  There, they started what they simply referred to as "the march."
    From Mariveles, the POWs made their way north to San Fernando.  They received little food and almost no water.  At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into a bull pin.  In one corner was a slit trench that was used as a washroom.  The surface moved from the maggots that covered it.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses and were known as "Forty or Eights."  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp.  As many as fifty POWs died each day.  Disease spread quickly among the POWs.  To get out of the camp, POWs volunteered to go out on work details.  Tom was selected to go out on the bridge building detail.  The American commanding officer of the detail was Lt. Colonel Ted Wickord of the 192nd.
    On the detail, the POWs were divided into two detachments.  One detachment was sent to various barrios to rebuild the bridges that the retreating Filipino and American Armies had destroyed as they fell back into Bataan.  The other detachment was sent Calauan to cut down the trees and mill the lumber that was used in building the bridges.

    According to records kept at the camp by the American doctors, Cpl. Thomas Davemport died from dysentery on May 27, 1942, at Calauan and was buried in the Calauan Cemetery.  His military records tell a different story, since they indicate he was Killed in Action.  It is known the Japanese would force the American doctors to list a false cause of death for POWs who were executed.
    Cpl. Thomas G. Davenport was buried at the Calauan Cemetery.  Later, the Japanese allowed the POWs to build a small wooden fence around Tom's grave and the grave of Sgt. Johnnie Bottoms who was a member of D Company. 
    After the war, the family of Cpl. Thomas G. Davenport requested that his remains be returned to Canal Winchester, Ohio.  His remains arrived in the United States on September 22, 1948, on the U.S.A.T. Sgt. Morris E. Crain.  On October 24, 1948, with full military honors, the funeral of Cpl. Thomas G. Davenport was held at David Lutheran Church, and he was reburied at the Lithopolis Cemetery in Canal Winchester, Ohio.


 

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