|Pvt. Howard Robert
Pvt. Howard R. Gasaway was born November 20, 1918,
Ohio, to Charles I. Gasaway and Jane
Snodgrass-Gasaway. With his three sisters and
two brothers, he lived in West Virginia and 106
South Second Street in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He left
school after completing grammar school to go to
work. His mother passed away
when he was eighteen.
Howard was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 23, 1941, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion which had been a Ohio National Guard tank company from Port Clinton.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. During the maneuvers, the Red Army, which the 192nd was part of broke through the Blue Army's defenses and were on their way to capturing the army's headquarters when the maneuvers were suddenly captured. The commanding general of the Blue Army was George Patton.
When the maneuvers ended, the 192nd Tank Battalion was given orders to remain at the fort. It was on the side of a hill that the members of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Men, 29 years old or older, were given six hours to resign from federal service. Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
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 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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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. The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guardsmen were scheduled to be released from federal service. The soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they 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. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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.
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
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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
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.
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