Deck

Pvt. Vernor Deck


   What is known about Pvt. Vernor Deck is that he was born in 1915 to James A. Deck & Melvina J. Pemberton-Deck.  With his five brothers and one sister he grew up just outside of Jacksboro, Jack County, Texas, on the family's farm. 
   Vernor was inducted into the army on March 21, 1941, at Dallas, Texas, after  doing his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion.  Vernor volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion at Camp Polk, Louisiana.  He did this knowing that his new battalion was being sent overseas.  After joining the battalion, he was assigned to C Company as part of the tank crew of Sgt. Emerson P. Smith. 
Also assigned to his tank crew were Pvt. Sidney Rattner, and Pvt. Robert Young.
    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.  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 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. 
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.  That morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  When they looked up that morning, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed 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 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line. 
    At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.   The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
    The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over.
   
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.

    It was at the Battle of Anyasan Point, the tanks of three of the letter companies of the 192nd were assigned the duty of helping the Filipino army wipe out the Japanese Marines who had landed behind the main line of defense on Bataan.

    During this engagement Vernon's tank was disabled when it hit a landmine causing the tank to throw a track.  Vernor and the other members of his tank crew were trapped inside their tank.  A number of attempts to rescue the crew failed.  

    There are two stories as to what happened next.  In the first story, the four crew members realized that the tank could not be moved. They attempted to evacuate the tank, but as they were climbing out of the tank the Japanese threw grenades into the tank killing them.

    The second story, which appears to be the accurate story, is that after the tank was disabled the crew refused to surrender.  The Japanese knowing this began filling the tank with dirt that they were digging out from under the tank to make a bunker.  The three soldiers trapped in the tank suffocated.

   The tank was later recovered and turned over to empty the dirt out of it.  Upon doing this, the bodies of the tank crew members were recovered and buried.

    Pvt. Vernor Deck died when he suffocated inside his tank on Monday, February 2, 1942, near Agaloma, Philippine Islands.  After the war, his remains could not be positively identified, so he was buried as an "Unknown" at the new American cemetery.  Since his final resting place is unknown, Pvt. Vernor Deck's name appears on Tablets of the Missing at  the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

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