Fancher

 

 

Tec 5 Wesley B. Fancher


    Tec 5 Wesley Fancher was born in 1922 in Janesville, Wisconsin, to George W. Fancher & Jeanette Fancher.  His family resided at 529 Jefferson Street in Mason City, Illinois.  During the 1930s his father died and with his mother he returned to Janesville, Wisconsin.  He was the half-brother of Capt. Walter Write the commanding officer of A Company.
    With his best friend
Laurence Grim he joined the Wisconsin National Guard while in high school.  His tank company was federalized in September 1940 during his senior year of high school.  On November 25th, the company gathered at the armory in Janesville and departed for Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28th.
    It is not known what job Wesley qualified at while training at Ft. Knox, but he was promoted to Tec 5.  A soldier of the the rank was referred to as corporal.  During his time at the fort, he was trained to use all the equipment of the battalion.
     In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and took part in the maneuvers there.  It was after the maneuvers that the tankers expected to return to Ft. Knox, but instead they were held at Camp Polk and not given a reason.  It was on the side of a hill that they learned that they were being sent overseas.  Those 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
   
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. 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 November 5th, 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.  It sailed the same day for Manila.  The ship entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  It docked at Pier 7 and 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.
    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.
 

   
    On December 8, 1941, Wesley and the other members of A Company were told about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The tankers were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  As they were eating lunch, the soldiers noticed planes approaching the airfield.  At first they believed the planes were American.  It wasn't until bombs began exploding that the soldiers knew that they were Japanese.
   Around December 21st, the tanks from the 192nd were sent north to Lingayen Gulf.  As they approached, they could hear the sound of Japanese guns firing on the beaches where the Japanese were landing.  The tankers saw the horses, from the 26th U. S. Cavalry, of Filipino Scouts, without riders galloping past his tank.  The tankers never reached the landing area because they were ordered from the area.
    From this time on, until the withdrawal into the Bataan Peninsula, the tankers would find themselves sent to areas where the Japanese had broken through the Filipino and American lines. The tanks were used repeatedly as a rearguard so that the infantry could withdraw from an engagement.

    Wesley spent the next four months fighting the Japanese.  At various times, they were attached to the 194th Tank Battalion.  On one occasion, they had made their bivouac, for the night, and posted sentries.  As sentries stood guard, they heard a noise down the road ran through the middle of the bivouac.  The sentries woke the other soldiers who grabbed their guns.  As they stood behind their tanks, a Japanese bicycle battalion road into their bivouac.  They opened up on the Japanese with everything they had.  When they ceased fire, they had wiped out the entire bicycle battalion.
    The night of April 8th, the tankers received the order "crash."  They circled their tanks, fired a armored round into the engine of the tank in front of their tank, opened the gasoline cocks, and dropped grenades into each tank to disable them.  On April 9, 1942, the soldiers became Prisoners of War.
    The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  Once there, they were searched by the Japanese who took what they wanted from the POWs.   They were organized into detachments of 100 POWs and started the march out of Bataan. 
    During the march, the POWs received little food and water.  Those who could not keep up were killed when they fell out of the formation.  When the POWs reached San Fernando where they were herded into a bull pen.  In one corner of the bull pen was a pit which was suppose to be used as the toilet.  The top of pit moved on its own from the maggots.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form a detachment and marched the POWs to the train station.  The POWs were put in small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane.   The cars were known as "forty and eights" since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  They packed 100 POWs into each car. Those POWs who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  As the living left the cars the dead fell to the floors.  The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base which the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp.  The death rate among the POWs rose to as many as 55 deaths a day.  The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. 
    It was while Wesley was a POW in the camp that he came down with dysentery.  According to the diary kept by 2nd Lt. Jacques Merrifield, Tec 5 Wesley B. Fancher died from dysentery on Sunday, May 23, 1942.  He was 19 years old.
    After the war, the remains of Tec 5 Wesley Fancher were exhumed from the camp cemetery and reburied at the new American Cemetery at Manila.  He was buried in Plot L, Row 11, Grave 108.


 

Return to A Company

Next