S/Sgt. Wallace Denny
| S/Sgt. Wallace
Denny was born on August 29, 1918, in Mercer County,
Kentucky. He left high school after his
third year and worked as a farmer. He was
married to Mary Ann Best, a school teacher, and
was working on his grandmother's farm. On
April 1, 1939, he joined the Kentucky National
Guard to earn a little extra money.
In September 1940, Wallace's tank company received orders that it was being federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. During this time, the members of the company attempted to recruit new members to bring the company up to strength. On November 25th, the company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where it joined National Guard tank companies from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio.
During his training at Ft. Knox, Wallace attended tank school. He qualified as a tank commander. The unit trained at the base for nearly a year before being sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. At the end of the maneuvers, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk without being given a reason. They had expected to return to Ft. Knox.
On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
It was at this time, men 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Those who did were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion. This battalion had been sent to the fort, but it had not taken part in the maneuvers. The M3 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd. It was at this time that he was promoted to first sergeant.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco and ferried to Angel Island. On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals. Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The battalion sailed. on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King. King 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 love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
After arriving in the Philippines the paperwork began to be processed to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion. Doing this meant that both battalions would have three letter companies. With the start of the war, the transfer never was completed.
The morning of December 8th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tank companies were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against paratroopers.
All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch. The three tank crew members were sent to the food trucks to get their lunches while one man remained with the tank. At 12:45, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company with C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts which reflected the moon light. The tankers were able to stop the Japanese and caused them to drop back to regroup.
On January 7th, Wallace volunteered to take point a lead a patrol into the Barrio of Balangas. After entering Balangas, he killed two Japanese soldiers with his pistol. Lt. Col. Ernest Miller believed that Denny should have received the Silver Star for service beyond his duties. His name was submitted for the medal, but General James Weaver denied the medal. According to 1st Lt. William Gentry, Wallace received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, but there is no evidence to confirm this.
The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban Airfields. They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers. They would continue this duty until April 7th. On April 8th, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat. The lines had broken and there was general chaos, but D Company with A Company, 194th, held their position. An attempt was made to send a company of the 192nd to reinforce them, but the fuel dump containing its fuel had been abandoned, and by the time the tanks reached it, the gas had been used by Self-Propelled Mounts vehicles or SPMs, so the company's orders were revoked. The two tank companies fought at Cabcaban until receiving the news of the surrender.
After destroying their tanks the tankers could wait in their bivouac until the Japanese made contact with them. Wallace and the other members of the company made their way to Mariveles. It was from this barrio at the southern tip of Bataan that he started what has become known as the Bataan Death March.
The POWs made their way north toward San Fernando. At Cabcaban, they ran past Japanese artillery which was firing on Corregidor. The Americans on the island returned fire knocking out three of the four guns.
During the march, they received little food and almost no water. If a man fell, the POWs did not dare attempt to help him up out of fear of being killed. At San Fernando, they were herded into a bull pin which was covered in human waste. In the corner was a trench that was suppose to serve as a toilet. It's surface was alive with maggots. They were left in the pin for the day.
When they were ordered to move, they formed detachments of 100 men and were marched to the train station. The POWs climbed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as "forty of eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed all 100 men of each detachment into each car. The POWs who died in the cars remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. It was only when the living left the cars at Capas that the dead fell to the floors of the cars.
The surviving POWs marched about ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. This Filipino training base was put into use as a POW camp. There was only one water faucet for the entire camp. Since the POWs had little medicine, disease ran wild in the camp. The death rate among the POWs rose to as many as 55 POWs a day.
The death rate became so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. Being considered a healthier POW, Wallace was sent to the camp. After arriving in the camp, it was reported by the camp medical staff that Wallace was admitted to the camp hospital on June 9, 1942, suffering from diphtheria. He was held in Barracks 1 in the hospital area.
It appears that Wallace was never released from the hospital because records kept by the camp medical staff show that he died of diphtheria and malaria on Wednesday, July 22, 1942, at approximately 4:00 A.M. He was buried in the camp cemetery.
After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of S/Sgt. Wallace Denny were reburied at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila. Because D Company was suppose to be transfer to the 194th Tank Battalion, his cross indicates he was a member of that battalion. It was only when the Presidential Unit Citations were issued that it was learned that the company had never been transferred to the 194th.