Fanning

Pfc. Harold George Fanning


    Pfc. Harold G. Fanning was the son of Patrick J. Fanning and Lulu J. Mullin-Fanning.  He was born on December 16, 1916, in Milton, Wisconsin.  Harold was the sixth of eight children and had four brothers and three sisters.
    As a child, he grew up on a farm located on Rural Route One in Milton.  He attended Milton Grade School, but it is not known if he went to high school.  It is known that he worked on neighboring farms before his tank company was federalized.
    According to his family, Harold's parents left Milton to visit his older brother in Niagara Falls, New York, in June of 1940.  While they were gone, Harold enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company in Janesville at the age of twenty.  It is their belief he did this so that his parents could not forbid him from enlisting.
    On November 25, 1940, the members of the 32nd Tank Company were federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  His parents drove him to the train station in Janesville where he joined the other members of the tank company who were being sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for training.
    In January, 1941, Harold was reassigned to Headquarters Company when the company was formed.  During his training, Harold qualified to drive the equipment assigned to the battalion.
    In the late summer of 1941, Harold with the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the members of the battalion were informed that their time in the military had been extended, and the 192nd was being sent overseas.  Harold received a ten day pass home to say goodbye to his family and friends.  
    During Harold's visit home, he visited with friends.  For his family, the time went by much too quickly.  The evening he left for Camp Polk, Louisiana, there was an ice storm and it was extremely cold.  His entire family accompanied him to the train station and their were a great many tears.  His family did not know it at the time, but it would be the last time that they would ever see him.
    At Camp Polk, Harold and the other members of the battalion loaded their equipment onto flatcars.  Traveling west by train, the tankers arrived in San Francisco and were ferried to Angel Island.  There, they received the necessary shots and had to pass physicals before they were allowed to go overseas.

    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii, on the U.S.S. Hugh L.Scott, 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 October 29th 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
  
    The morning of December 8, 1941, December 7th in the United States, Harold and the other tankers heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The tankers were assigned to the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers.
     Around 11:45 in the morning, Harold and the other tankers saw planes approaching Clark Field.  When bombs began exploding, they knew the planes were Japanese.
    For the next four months, Harold with the rest of the battalion, fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands.  During this time, Harold was assigned to 1st Lt. Emmett Gibson as his driver.  Gibson's job was to relay orders to the tanks when necessary.
    One evening, Harold and Lt. Gibson left Angeles for San Fernando.  The two would take turns driving.  Harold drove during the day, while Gibson drove at night.  On the way, they gave a ride to a pregnant Filipino woman who was attempting to locate her husband.  This resulted in them going to Santa Anna.  There, Harold and Lt. Gibson took pity on the friends of the woman because they had nothing to eat.  Not too far from the town, they met Capt. Fred Bruni who was a member of the 192nd from Janesville, Wisconsin.  Capt. Bruni gave them food for the family.
    After returning to Santa Anna with the food, Harold,  Lt. Gibson, and the young woman left the barrio for San Fernando during a drenching rain storm.  It was evening and it got dark very quickly.  The storm made the night even darker.  Since there was always the possibility of attack by Japanese planes, the two soldiers drove with only blackout headlights which gave off very little light.
    As Harold and Lt. Gibson approached a bridge, about five kilometers outside of San Fernando, a bus filled with Filipino soldiers loomed up out of the dark in front of them.  Since both vehicles were driving with blackout lights, neither driver could see the other until the last minute.
    There was not enough room for both vehicles on the bridge so Gibson slammed on the jeep's breaks.  Since the bridge was wet, the jeep skidded and slammed into the bus.  Lt. Gibson's left leg was crushed on impact.  The Filipino woman with them also suffered a broken leg.  Harold flew out of the jeep. Only Harold came out of the accident with minor injuries.  The three were taken to San Fernando to a temporary hospital.  Lt. Gibson would later be evacuated from Bataan to Australia on the last transport out of the Philippines.
    Harold was released from the hospital and returned to his duties.  On April 9, 1942, Harold became a Prisoner Of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He and the rest of HQ Company remained in their bivouac for two days.  They were then ordered out to the road near their bivouac.
    Harold and the other men were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, Japanese troops passing them took whatever they wanted from the Prisoners of War.  A short time later, the POWs drove to Mariveles.
   

     Outside the barrio, they were herded onto an airfield.  They were left there for several hours.  As they sat, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form across from them.  The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad.  Many believed it was the end of the line for them.

    As they prepared to die, a car pulled off and a Japanese officer ordered the soldiers not to harm the prisoners.  As he pulled away in the car, they lowered their guns.

    Later in the day, Wayne and the other men were marched to a school yard in Mariveles.  Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire.

    Shells began landing around them and men attempted to take cover.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it was hit.  When the barrage ended, most of the Japanese guns had been destroyed.

    It was from this school yard that Wayne began the death march with his cousins.  They made their way from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march he saw men who had fallen shot and bayoneted where they fell.  At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars.  Those who died in the cars did not fall down until the prisoners exited the cars at Capas.

    Harold took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  The conditions at the camp were so bad, that as many as fifty men a day died from starvation and disease.  It is not known at this time if Harold went out on a work detail to escape the conditions of the camp.
    It is known that Harold was sent to Cabanatuan #1 which was opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.  According to records kept by the hospital staff a the camp, Harold was admitted to "Zero Ward" on June 18, 1942, with dysentery.  The hospital was known as "Zero Ward" since the medical staff had little medicine to treat the ill.  The Japanese also refused to allow the Filipino Red Cross from supplying medicine to the prisoners.  It was there that Pfc. Harold George Fanning died of dysentery on Tuesday, September 1, 1942, in the camp hospital.
    Pfc. Harold G. Fanning was originally buried in the Cabanatuan Cemetery in Plot 2, Row 18, Grave 2302.  After the war, the remains of Pfc. Harold G. Fanning were reburied at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.


 

 

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