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 held at Camp Polk. 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 to replace a National Guardsman. 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
for Hawaii as
part of a
at Honolulu on
2nd. The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the
one point, the
an island at
did so in
This for many
soldiers was a
sign that they
ships took on
same day for
and docked at
was the date
were taken by
bus to Ft.
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.
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.
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 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