Gillespie

 


Pfc. James W. Gillespie


    Pfc. James W. Gillespie was born on February 2, 1916, in Dayton, Ohio, to William A. Gillespie and Estella Beers-Gillespie.   With his sister, he grew up in various homes in Dayton.  In 1940, his family was living at 520 Peach Avenue.  He attended high school for three years before going to work as a molder in a Bakelite factory.  He was known as "Jim" to his family and friends.
    Jim was drafted into the army and inducted at Fort Thomas in Newport, Kentucky, on March 25, 1941.  He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The company had been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company from Port Clinton, Ohio.  At Ft. Knox, he attended tank mechanics school and qualified as a tank mechanic.  

    After ten months of training at Ft. Knox, the battalion 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 lines of the Blue Army.  As they approached the headquarters of the army, which was under the command of General George Patton, the maneuvers were suddenly canceled.  The 192nd was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the members had any idea why this order was given.
    On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the tankers learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours many men had figured out that "PLUM" stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Replacements for the men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia.   The 192nd also received the battalion's tanks and half-tracks.
    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.  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.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  That morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  When they looked up that morning, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  

    Around 12:45 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 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.
    During this time, Jim worked to keep the tanks running.  This was often difficult since the tanks could not be maintained like they should since they were needed in areas where the Japanese were advancing.
    The morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, the tankers received the order "crash."  They destroyed their equipment and after the Japanese made contact were ordered to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
   
From Mariveles, the POWs made their way north to San Fernando.  They received little food and almost no water.  At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into a bull pin.  In one corner was a slit trench that was used as a washroom.  The surface moved from the maggots that covered it.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses and were known as "Forty or Eights."  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp.  As many as fifty POWs died each day.  Disease spread quickly among the POWs.  To get out of the camp, POWs volunteered to go out on work details.  To lower the death rate among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
     It is known that Jim was in the camp in the late summer of 1942.  According to records kept by the medical staff in the camp, Jim was admitted into the camp hospital on September 9, 1942, suffering from dysentery and malnutrition.  Other records show that Pfc. James W. Gillespie died of dysentery on September 24, 1942, at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon.  He was buried in the camp cemetery. 

    After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team identified the remains of Pfc. James Gillespie, and at his family's request, he was buried at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot L, Row 15, Grave 52.   


 

 

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