Pvt. Jesse Willard Durham
| Pvt. Jesse
Durham was born on August 11, 1916, in
Jacksonville, Texas, to Lonnie L. Durham &
Lillie Stuart-Durham. With his three sisters
he grew up in Cherokee County, Texas, and attended
high school for one year.
Jesse was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 18, 1941, in Houston, Texas, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. What training he received is not known. After completing his basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The 753rd had been sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941. Maneuvers were taking place at the fort, but the battalion did not take part in them. After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, but none of its members had any idea why they were being kept at the base. It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within in hours, many of the men had figured out that they 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. Jesse was one of the men who volunteered, or had his name drawn, to replace a National Guardsman. The 192nd also received the battalion's tanks and half-tracks.
The decision to send the 192nd overseas - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Over different train routes, the battalion was sent to San Francisco. Once there, they were taken by ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. At the fort, they received physicals and inoculated against tropical diseases from the battalion's medical detachment. Those men with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion in the Philippines. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and the S. S. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. During this part of the voyage, smoke
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st. St all times two members of each tank crew had to remain with their tank. 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, parked in a straight line outside the mess hall, and their pilots went to lunch.
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
that it was to
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
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 Baluiag. 2nd 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.
Battle of the
sent in to
line and than
the line after
members of the
ways to wipe
sectors in an
On the 6th,
were sent to
fire at the
Trails 6 &
8, and the
On April 8th,
the 194th was
the East Coast
fall of 1944,
appeared on a
list of POWs
This was being
landed in the
By train, the
taken to the
Port Area of
Manila to Pier
were informed, on October 9th, that American
carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for
Hong Kong when it was informed American planes
were in the area. The ships changed course
during this part of the trip and attempted to
reach Hong Kong. The ships ran into
American submarines which sank two more
In the camp,
the guards carried bamboo clubs which they hit
the POWs with on a regular basis for various
reasons. When being punished, the POWs
were ordered and forced to stand at attention,
in the snow, in their inadequate clothing.
On several occasions they were forced to stand
at attention with holding buckets of water at