Cpl. Jack Preston Gauthier
| Cpl. Jack P.
Gauthier was born in October 1917 in East Lansing,
Michigan, to George & Evelyn Gauthier. At
the time, his father was employed by Michigan State
Agriculture and Applied Science. With his
brother, he grew up in Delaware, Ohio, when his father
became the athletic director at Ohio Wesleyan
University. The family resided at 202 West
Griswold Street in Delaware, where Jack attended local
schools and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in
The draft act had been passed and Jack was inducted in the U.S. Army on January 21, 1941, at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. Since he was from Ohio, he was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion. The battalion was composed from National Guard units that had been called to federal service; one of which was from Port Clinton, Ohio.
The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers. During the maneuvers, HQ Company serviced the tanks of the battalion, but they did not actively participate in the maneuvers. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected. On the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. According to members of the battalion, General George Patton selected them personally. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service and replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Many of the members of the battalion were given leave so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and 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. Others were simply replaced.
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 and arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. It was during this part of the trip that smoke, from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The heavy cruiser, that was escorting the two transports, revved its engines, resulting in its bow coming out of the water, and took off toward the smoke to intercept the ship. The unknown ship turned out to be from a neutral country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. They sailed the next morning for Manila. The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7 later the same day. Many of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg, while those assigned to trucks drove them to the fort. The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload the battalion's tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made remained with them and made sure that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons, which had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the trip to the Philippines. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance, since they expected to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
The morning of Monday, December 1st, the two tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield. The 194th was assigned the northern portion of the airfield to guard, while the 192nd was assigned the southern portion of the airfield to protect. At all times, two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. At 6:00 A. M., the morning of December 8th, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack and ordered to the airfield with their full companies. HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.
All morning long the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled, lined up in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps. The members of HQ took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes. After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
The battalion remained at Clark Field until December 21st, when it was ordered to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops. For the next four months Jack worked to keep the tanks supplied and running.
The evening of April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni, the commanding officer of HQ Company, called his men together. He informed them that they would surrender to the Japanese the next morning at 7:00 and instructed them to destroy any weapons or supplies that the Japanese could use. He instructed the sergeants, to destroy the three tanks assigned to the company, but that they should not to destroy the company's trucks. As he spoke, his voice choked and he turned away from his men for a moment. When he turned around and face them again, he continued and emphasized that they would surrender together. Somehow, Bruni came up with enough bread and pineapple juice for the men to have what he called, "Their last supper."
On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. The members of the company remained in their bivouac until April 11th, when the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. They were now Prisoners 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 and put 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.
After this, the company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers. The officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail before getting back in the car and driving off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs were moved to an open field in Mariveles, where they were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. These two islands had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
When the POWs
were ordered to move again, they had no idea that
they had started what became known as the death
march. During the march, the POWs received no
water and little food. It took the members of
HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.
Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that
had a fence around it. In one corner was a
slit trench used as a toilet by the POWs. The
surface of the trench moved since it was covered in
maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but
they could not lie down.