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, and was the sixth of couple's eight children.  He had four brothers and three sisters.
    As a child, he grew up on a farm located on Rural Route One in Milton and 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 1940.  While they were gone, Harold enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company in Janesville at the age of twenty.  It was 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 on November 27th.
    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, but it is not known what his specific duties were.
    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the members of the battalion were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and informed that their time in the military had been extended.  It was on the side of a hill that the men learned that 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 there was 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.  This included new M3A1 tanks - the tanks were at least new to the battalion - that had been transferred to the battalion from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  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.  Some men were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  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.   The ship 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, another transport, the S. S. 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 from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly countr
    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.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who 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.
  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.

    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
  
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield.  All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.

    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, the members of HQ company slept in a dry latrine since it was safer then the tents.  They had no idea they had spent their last night sleeping on a bed.
    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. 

    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."   
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.     
    Later in the day, HQ Company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of 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 the POWs watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out and spoken the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  As he pulled away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
    Later in the day, the POWs were ordered to move and were taken to a school yard.  There they were ordered to sit again. 
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, but there was no place for them to hide.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit.  When the barrage ended, three of the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.   
    It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march.  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.  They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The conditions at the Camp O'Donnel 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.  The situation reached the point that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
    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 identified and reburied at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.      


 

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