Grassick

 

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.

    From Camp 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.
    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.  They repeated this maneuver over and over again.

    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 Baluiag2nd 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 Japanese.    
    The company took part in the Battle of the Pockets.  The Japanese had lunched an offensive and were pushed back to the original battle line.  Two pockets of Japanese soldiers were trapped behind the line.  The tanks were sent in to the pockets to wipe them out.  One platoon of tanks would relieve another platoon.  The tanks would do this one at a time. 
    The tanks used two strategies to do this. In the first, the tanks would go over a foxhole.  Three Filipino soldiers were sitting on the back of the tanks.  Each man had a bag of hand grenades.  As the tank was passing over the foxhole, the three soldiers would drop hand grenades into the foxhole.
    The second method was to park a tank over a foxhole.  The driver would then spun the tank, in a circle, on one track until it ground itself into the ground wiping out the Japanese.  The tankers slept upwind from the tanks so they didn't have to smell the rotting flesh.

    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their their assigned area because the roads were blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.   
    The morning of the April 9, 1942, at 6:45 the tankers received the order "crash" and destroyed their tanks.  When the Japanese made contact with them, they were ordered to Mariveles where they started the death march.

    At Mariveles, members of C Company were mixed in with other Prisoners Of War and began the death march.  Paul was in a group of prisoners that included Sgt. Albert Allen, Pvt. George Zimmerman, T/5 Earl Charles, Pvt. Merle Miller and Pvt. Robert Robinette. 

    Paul recalled that the Japanese guards were mean for no apparent reason.  The guards did things to the POWs because they could do them.  Paul watched the guards strip a prisoner and chain him to a stake.  This was done even though it was apparent that the man was out of his head.   
    In another incident,  a Japanese truck intentionally swerved into the POWs.  Sgt. Albert Allen was hit during one of these incidents.  He did not finish the march with Paul's POW group.  It took Paul nine days to complete the march.   

    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 POWs.  He made his way north on the march to San Fernando.  There, the POWs were herded into a bull-pin.  In one corner, there was a trench that was for use as a toilet.  The surface of the pit moved from the maggots on its surface.  They remained in the pin until the Japanese ordered them to form detachments of 100 men.  Once the groups were formed, the men were marched to the train station.
    The POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as forty or eights since they could hold forty men or eight horses.  100 POWs were packed into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From Capas, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
 
    When the POWs arrived at Camp O'Donnell, they were lectured by the camp commandant who told them they were not prisoners of war but captives and would be treated as such.  The camp had only one water spigot, and the POWs stood in line for hours for a drink.  Disease ran wild since the medical staff had nothing to treat the diseases. As many as 55 POWs died each day.  The burial detail worked long hours attempting to bury the dead.

    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.  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.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that it was impossible to move.  The ship sailed, after dark, on November 7, 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 and arrived at the Pecadores Islands the same day.  The ship remained off the islands until November 18th, when it sailed for Taipei, 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 18, 1943.

    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 San Francisco almost three years after he had sailed from the city.  He was sent to a Veteran's Administration 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.

    Paul would marry and with his wife, LeVerne, he 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.  Paul Grassick passed away in Bellville, Ohio, on March 25, 2009.  He was buried at Mansfield Cemetery in Mansfield, Ohio.


 

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