Pvt. Charles John Giamalva
| Pvt. Charles J.
Giamalva was born on February14, 1915, in Lufkin,
Angelina County, Texas, to Sam Giamalva and
Rosalie Scalise-Giamalva. With his six
sisters and five brothers, he grew up at 1403 Cook
Street in Houston, Texas. He was known as
"Charley" to his family and friends. He left
high school after one year and worked as a clerk
at a newspaper.
On March 20, 1941, Charles was inducted into the U.S. Army in Houston and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It is not known what school he attended during basic training, but after completing it, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion. The 753rd had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia, in the late summer of 1941, but it did not take part in the maneuvers that were going on at the fort.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was held behind at the fort and informed that they were being sent overseas. Since the battalion was created from four National Guard Tank Companies, those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Replacements, including Charles, for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion. He was assigned to C Company. The 192nd also received the tanks and half-tracks from the battalion.
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.
At Cabu, C Company's tanks were hidden in brush. The Japanese troops passed the tanks for three hours without knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese. They then fell back to Cabanatuan.
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that C Company's tanks won the first tank battle victory of World War II against enemy tanks. After the battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, the 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, the company set up it's defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
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. Lt. 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 Morley 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's steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him 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's platoon held it's 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 Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
The tankers 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 spaced 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.
Lighting the rice stacks, the Americans opened up with small fire. They then used their .37 mm guns. The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.
The tank company was next sent to the barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire. From a Filipino lieutenant, Gentry learned where the guns were and attacked. Before the Japanese withdrew, the tankers had knocked out three of the guns.
After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until all the troops were across. The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the Japanese up for a few days. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.
In addition to serving as a rear guard, the
tankers burnt everything that was being left
behind. They burnt warehouses, banks, and
businesses that would help the
Charles remained on the detail until July
14, 1944. At that time, he was selected to
be sent to Japan and taken to Pier 7. The
POWs were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru
on July 17th and forced into the number one
hold. When the Japanese realized they
could not get all the POWs into the hold, they
opened the second hold. After dark the
ship was moved from the pier but dropped anchor
in the harbor and waited for a convoy to
form. After over 24 hours in the holds,
the Japanese finally gave the POWs water and