Devine


Sgt. Ben R. Devine Jr.

    Sgt. Ben R. Devine Jr. was born in 1919 in Funks Grove, Illinois, to Ben Devine Sr. and Effie Devine.  He was known as "Bud" to his family and friends.  It is known he had six sisters and one brother.  He was known as "Bud" to his family and friends.  He left school after eighth grade and worked on the family farm on Route 1 in rural Mercer County. 
   
Ben joined the Kentucky National Guard, at some point, in Harrodsburg.  The company met above a store in the town.  In September 1940, the company was federalized and designated D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  After the notification, recruits were sought to fill-out the company's roster. 
    On November 25, 1940, the company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of active military duty.   At the base, he attended reconnaissance school and learned to ride a motorcycle. 
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 returned home and married.
    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 4h, 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.
  
 
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. 
 
    Most of the members of D Company made their way to Mariveles.  From there, they started what has become known as the Bataan Death March.  At Cabcaban, the POWs ran past artillery firing on Corregidor.   The American artillery on the island returned firing knocking out three of the four Japanese guns. 
    The POWs made their way to San Fernando, there they were put into a bull pin which had been used by other POWs before them.  The floor was covered in human waste.  They were kept in the bull pin until ordered to form groups of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station where they boarded small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as "forty or eights" because a car could hold forty men or eight horses.  Since the detachments were made up of 100 men, the Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars as Capas.  As they left the cars, the dead fell to the floors of the cars.
    The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.  When they reached the camp, the camp commandant informed them that they were not POWs but captives and would be treated as captives. The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base put into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink of water.
    Since there was little medicine, disease ran wild among the POWs.  Ben became ill after arriving at the camp .  According to Field Reed of D Company, Ben was so sick with beriberi he could not relieve himself and his lips were open soars. In Reed's words, "Ben stopped eating - died because he wanted to die,"
   
According to records kept at the camp, Sgt. Ben R. Devine Jr, died on Tuesday, May 19, 1942, from scurvy and malaria.  He was buried in Section G, Row 8, Grave 5, of the camp cemetery. 
    After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of Sgt, Ben R. Devine Jr.  He was reburied, at the request of his family, at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot D, Row 2, Grave 257.



 

 

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