Gibson

1st Lt. Emmett Francis Gibson


    1st Lt. Emmett F. Gibson was born in September 15, 1916, to Daniel & Frieda Gibson in Illinois.  As a child, he and his brother grew up at 227 South 12th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois.  Emmett attended grade school in Maywood and Proviso Township High School.   His mother would later marry Joseph Craig.

    On October 17, 1933, Emmett enlisted in the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company in Maywood.  To enlist, he had to get his mother's signature since he was only sixteen years old.  He transferred from the Illinois National Guard to the District of Columbia National Guard on May 7, 1935.  In Washington D. C., he worked as a messenger at the patent office.  When he knew he was being transferred to Chicago, to work as an inspector in June 1938,  he resigned from D.C. National Guard on May 30, 1938.  When he returned to Maywood. he rejoined the tank company on November 2, 1938.  It is known he was married and resided at 1025 South Tenth Avenue with his wife, Anna, and his daughter, Carol.  

    In November 1940, the 33rd Tank Company was called to federal duty.  When  the company was federalized, it became Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Emmett and the other company members went to Kentucky and trained at Fort Knox.  During this time. Emmett was commissioned a second lieutenant.  He was B Company's maintenance officer.

    He next took part in the maneuvers of 1941.  After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained behind at Camp Polk.  On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas.  They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. 
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
   
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.  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.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men 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.

     At some point, he was transferred to Headquarters Company of the 192nd.  When war came, Emmett was assigned as Liaison Officer between the four letter companies and HQ.

     When the Japanese attacked Clark Field on December 8, 1941, Emmett was in the Provisional Tank Group's headquarters building on duty.  Amazingly, the building was not hit by Japanese bombs.

     Five days later on December 13, 1941, Emmett and Capt. Fred Bruni of HQ Company, were walking together and talking.  Gibson had had a premonition of his own death.  What really bothered him was that it was his daughter's birthday.  Bruni tried to get Gibson's mind off the idea by talking about the north woods of Wisconsin and fishing there.  Suddenly the two men were strafed.  Seven Japanese fighters had appeared over the airfield.  Gibson jumped into a halftrack that was hidden under a tree and grabbed its machine gun.  Bruni told Gibson to stay where he was and that he would direct Gibson's fire.

    That afternoon, a second attack took place.  This time there were seven Japanese bombers.  Gibson climbed onto a halftrack and grabbed its .50 caliber machinegun.  Bruni called out to Gibson, "Stay there, and I'll direct your fire."  Bruni walked out into the open with bombs exploding around him.  He proceeded to direct Gibson's fire at the Japanese bombers as bombs exploded around him.  Gibson opened fire where Fred told him to do so.  Together, they were credited with shooting down one of the bombers.

     During the Battle of the Philippines, Emmett was assigned to command the motorcycle messengers for General Wainwright.  Emmett eventually acted as a messenger himself.  As part his duties, Emmett stole a tractor that was sitting along side a road because it was needed by the American forces.

    One day, Emmett and his driver Pvt. Harold Fanning, left Angeles for San Fernando.  On the way, they gave a ride to a Filipino woman who was attempting to locate her husband.  This resulted in them going to Santa Anna.  There, Emmett took pity on the friends of the woman because they had nothing to eat.  Not too far from the town, Emmett met Capt. Fred Bruni who was  a member of the 192nd from Janesville, Wisconsin.  Capt. Bruni gave Emmett food for the family.

    After returning to Santa Anna with the food, Emmett, Pvt. Fanning and the young woman left the town, in a drenching rain, for San Fernando.  It was evening and it got dark very quickly.  To give his driver a break, Emmett was driving.

    As they approached a bridge about five kilometers outside of San Fernando near Mexico, a busload of Filipino soldiers loomed up out of the dark in front of them.  Since both vehicles were driving without lights, neither driver could see the other until the last minute.  There was not enough room for both vehicles on the bridge so Emmett slammed on the jeep's breaks.  The jeep skidded and slammed into the truck.

    Fanning flew out of the jeep and Emmett's left leg was crushed on impact.  The Filipino woman also suffered a broken leg.  Only Pvt. Fanning came out of the accident with minor injuries.  The three were taken to San Fernando to a temporary hospital.

    Emmett was next taken to the Philippine Women's University in Manila.  While a patient there, he and the other patients could hear the bombs exploding that were being dropped by Japanese planes.  The patients laid in bed wondering if they would be the next to be bombed. 

    While in the hospital, Emmett met Lt. Richard Danca.  Lt. Danca was in the hospital suffering from a nervous condition that paralyzed his legs.  He would later return to combat and be wounded.

    On December 31, 1941, the patients were informed that the Japanese had agreed to allow a ship to leave Manila with the wounded.  Emmett and other patients were moved to the docks to be put on the ship. The ship was only about 2000 tons and had red crosses on white fields painted on its sides.  The patients were placed on cots on the deck of the ship because there was no room for them below deck. 

    At ten o'clock at night, the ship sailed.  As it left Manila, the patients could see and hear the explosions of gasoline storage tanks being dynamited by American troops.  The patients had not been told about their destination so when the silhouette of Corregidor loomed out of the darkness they believed this was their destination.  When the island began to fade into the darkness, the patients knew for the first time that they were being sent to Australia.

    The remainder of the trip would not be uneventful.  First, the ship's crew had to battle a fire in its engine room.  Then, the ship had to struggle through a storm before arriving in Australia.

    In Australia, Emmett was a patient at the 113th Australian General Hospital in Sydney.  He returned to the United States in June of 1942 and sent to Ft. Dix, New Jersey. 

    Emett was somewhat of a celebrity and spoke to the families of the men of the 192nd Tank Battalion in both Maywood and Janesville.  Emmett did not consider himself a hero and often spoke of the men, who were now Prisoners of War, as the true war heroes.

    Emmett was reassigned to the Armored School at Fort Knox where he was promoted to Captain.  He  remained at Fort Knox fighting to stay in the army because his injury had left his injured leg an inch shorter than his other leg.

    In February 1945, Emmett was released from active duty and returned to Maywood.  His one regret was that he had not been able to remain with the other members of the 192nd Tank Battalion. 

    Emmett's first marriage ended in divorce.  On January 17, 1953, he married his second wife, Jenna,  He would become the father of two sons.

    On July 13, 1958, Emmett F. Gibson died from head injuries he received in an accident while a police officer in Maywood.  His last request was to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at the battle sites on Bataan.  On April 9, 1959, on the seventeenth anniversary of the fall of Bataan, his wish was carried out.   His ashes were scattered on the battlefields of Bataan by helicopter.  The urn was dropped into Manila Bay.




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