Pvt. Paul Alexander Grassick
Pvt. Paul A. Grassick was the
son of Alexander Grassick and Mabel
Marks-Grassick. He was born in May 6, 1919,
and raised in Mansfield, Ohio. With his two
brothers, he resided at 327 East Fourth
Street. Paul was a 1938 graduate of
Mansfield Senior High School. After high
school, he drove a truck for a dry cleaner.
Paul was musically talented and played the trumpet. He and his brother, Bill, traveled the Ohio with their band.
In late 1940, a draft act had just been passed by the U.S. Government and Paul received his draft notice. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. While there, he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The reason this was done was that the tank company had originally been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company from Port Clinton, Ohio, and the army was filling vacancies with men from the home states of each tank company.
At Ft. Knox, Paul was sent to radio school and trained to be a radio operator. Since each tank crew member needed to know how to do more than one job, he also learned how to use a machine gun.
In the late summer of 1941, Paul's battalion
took part in maneuvers Louisiana. On
October 25, 1941, after maneuvers in Louisiana,
Paul and the other members of the company were
given the news 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 Kabu, 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
members of C
mixed in with
Of War and began
Paul was in a
Miller and Pvt.
Paul recalled that the Japanese
mean for no
The guards did
things to the
they could do
guards strip a
chain him to a
This was done
even though it
that the man
was out of his
The lack of food and water was also a major issue for the POWs. In his own words, " I went nine days without food." The Japanese would not allow the prisoners to drink water from the artesian wells that they marched past, but they would let the POWS drink from the ditches that ran alongside the road. For water, Paul filled his canteen with ditch water that was covered in slim. To make it safe to drink, Paul added iodine pills that he had hidden by sewing them into his clothing. On one occasion, a Japanese guard knocked the canteen from his hand. When he reached for it, the guard kneed him in his groin.
Paul was amazed at the courage of the Filipino
people. He watched as they openly defied
the Japanese by giving food and water to the
He made his way north on the march to San
herded into a
In one corner,
there was a
was for use as
The surface of
the pit moved
maggots on its
in the pin
marched to the
What Paul remembered about Camp O'Donnell was that many men died there. Many starved to death while others died from beriberi. Paul was assigned to burial detail at the camp. On this detail, he and the other men went out to the cemetery in the morning and dug graves. They then returned to the camp to pick up the bodies of the dead. In blankets attached to poles, they carried the dead to the graveyard for burial. By the time they returned, the graves were filled with water. To bury the dead, the workers held the corpse down in the grave with a pole. So they could be identified after the war, a dog-tag was wedged between the two front teeth each dead POW.
To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Paul was selected to go out on a bridge building detail. On the detail, the POWs rebuilt the bridges that had been destroyed during the retreat into the Bataan Peninsula. It was the rainy season and many men came down with malaria. Those who died on the detail had their remains cremated. When the detail ended, Paul was sent to Cabanatuan. It is not known how long he remained in the camp.
Paul was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing on October 28, 1942. The POWs were given a physical and it was determined that he was healthy enough to be sent to Japan. Paul was boarded onto the Nagato Maru on November 5, 1942. The POWs were packed in so tightly that it was impossible to move. The ship sailed, after dark, on November 6, 1942, and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on November 11th. When it arrived, seventeen POWs had died in the holds. After a three day stay, the ship sailed but returned due to a storm. It sailed again on November 17th and arrived at the Pecadores Islands the same day. The ship remained off the islands until November 18th, when it sailed for Takao, Formosa arriving the same day. It remained there until November 20th when it sailed for Japan. The ship arrived in Japan on November 24, 1942.
During the trip to Japan, Paul watched as many men died. Their bodies were hoisted through the hold's hatch and dumped overboard. When the ship arrived in Japan, Paul with the other POWs disembarked at Moji, Japan. It was there that the POWs were divided into two groups.
Paul was assigned to Mitsushima
Camp outside of Tokyo. There, the
POWs worked twelve hours days without a day
off. At this camp, the POWs were assigned
to a detail that was building a dam. To do
this the POWs carried bags of concrete on their
backs a distance of over two miles to where a
dam was being built. Since the men were
weak and sick, many died. Those who died
were cremated. Since much of the work was
done during the winter, Paul's feet froze.
It was also while he was a POW in the camp that
his parents received a letter from him on August
Paul received one of the worse beatings as a POW in the camp. A Japanese Guard punched him in the face. The impact of the punch broke Paul's jaw and nose. Paul remained on this detail for one and a half years. On April 16, 1944, Paul was transferred to another camp with 100 other POWs.
Paul was then sent to work in a carbide plant at Tokyo 16-B. He spent the remainder of the war on this detail. The POWs working there had no idea how the war was going. One day, the POWs were in the plant when they were sent back to the camp. This was the first sign that something was up. When Paul and the other POWs returned to the camp, they were informed that the war was over.
The POWs were transported to Tokyo by train. There they were taken to the bay. For him, one of the most meaningful events was to see an American ship flying the Stars & Stripes.
Paul was boarded onto a ship and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. He was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh Rodman and arrived at San Francisco on October 3, 1945. It was almost four years after he had sailed from the city for the Philippines. He was sent to Letterman General Hospital and then to the John P Fletcher VA Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio. He would later testify against Japanese guards who had abused American POWs. The majority of these guards were later executed. He was discharged, from the army, on April 1, 1946.
LeVerbne Mitchell and with his wife raised two
children, Judy and Jerry. Paul worked for
Tappen Corporation until he retired. In
April 1967, the employees of Tappen contributed
money so that Paul and his wife could return to
the Philippines for the 25th Anniversary of the
surrender of Bataan.