Harrie

 

Cpl. Robert M. Harrie


    Cpl. Robert M. Harrie was the son of Charles F. Harrie & Bessie Gordon-Harrie.  He was born on November 9, 1922, in Whitestown, Wisconsin.  His mother died and his father remarried.  Robert moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, with his family, where he attended elementary school and high school.   It is known that he had two sisters, two half-brothers, and three half sisters.   After high school, he worked for the Janesville Gazette.

    While he was in high school, Robert joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company headquartered in the armory in Janesville.  Since he was sixteen, he was discharged.  In 1940, he reenlisted in the National Guard.

    While he was still in high school, the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Robert left high school in November, 1940 and traveled to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for nine months of training. 
    Documents from the time show that during his time at Ft. Knox, Robert attended radio operator's school and qualified as a radio operator.  In letters that he sent home he stated that he had become very good at driving tanks. He also was familiar with guns and had the job of showing those men who did not know how to hold a pistol how to stand to fire it.
    In July, 1941, Robert was one of a detachment of soldiers sent to Detroit to pick up trucks and motorcycles.  He commented that by the time they got back  to Ft. Knox, some of the trucks and motorcycles had been damaged.

     In the late summer of 1941, Robert as a member of the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941.  After the maneuvers he and the other members of the battalion learned that their time in the military had been extended.  They were sent to Camp Polk arriving there on September 30th.  On October 14th, the company received M3
    The battalion left Camp Polk at 8:30 A.M. on October 20th, and traveled by train, along the southern route, to San Francisco, California.  From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.   During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. they spent their time breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.  The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they all received what they needed and that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.

    The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the 192nd was told of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  They returned to their positions around Clark Field.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon, to be refueled, and were lined up, in a straight line, near the mess hall.   The pilots went to lunch. 
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American.  As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  Anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.    
    After the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it could guard a highway and railroad from sabotage.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd who were on their way to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese were landing troops.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening and successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
    From there, the company rejoined the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  The tanks, with A Company, 194th, held the position so other units could disengage and withdraw.  On December 25th, the 192nd held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
   The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read on December 30th.  As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers.  The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks.  To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smoke screen.  Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line. 
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  On a road east of Zaragoza, the evening of December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
    As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31st and January 1st.  Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep.  It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.
    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.      On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.
    From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.  It was also in January that the food rations for the soldiers were cut in half.  Not long after this, malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever hit the soldiers.
anuary 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.      The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan.  The night of January 7th, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
    While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops.  The morning of January 27th, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it.  That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn.  While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualtie    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  They also took part in the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points.

    As the Filipino and American forces entered Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River.  Knowing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep.  It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.  Robert climbed out of his tank to see what was going on and had the steel helmet he was wearing shot off his head.  He got back into the tank.

   The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat.  The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten.  They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.   
    On March 2nd or 3rd, during the Battle of the Points.  The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line.  The Japanese were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.   Both of the pockets were wiped out.
   The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea.  By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.  Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave.  When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die."  The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.

    The Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft on April 4th.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He and the other members of A Company made their way to Mariveles where they began the death march.

    Robert, and the other POWs, marched for days without food or water.  At San Fernando, he and the other POWs were packed into wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane.  The POWs were packed in so tightly, that men suffocated from lack of air.       
   At Capas, the prisoners disembarked and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.  This former Filipino Army Camp was pressed into service by the Japanese without prior preparation.  Arriving at the camp, they were told by the camp's commandant that they were not Prisoners of War but captives of Japan, and would be treated as such.
   As a POW Robert was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  Cabanatuan was opened to lower the death rate among the POWs.  After arriving in the camp, he was assigned to Barracks #14.  During his time in the camp, Robert came down with dysentery and put into the camp hospital on July 16, 1942.  He was discharged from the hospital on September 6th. 

On Tuesday, September 9, 1942, he was readmitted to the camp hospital.  Cpl. Robert M. Harrie died from dysentery on Saturday, November 21, 1942, at 10:30 PM.  He was 20 years old.  His parents learned of his death in August, 1943.

    After the war, his family asked that Robert's remains be returned to Janesville, and he was reburied at Milton Lawn Cemetery, in Janesville, on July 23, 1949.  





 

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