Pvt. Leonard Marvin Hart
| Pvt. Leonard
M. Hart was born on July 13, 1915, in Chaney,
Oklahoma, to Thomas J. Hart & Nellie A.
Taylor-Hart. He was raised in Otter
Township, Harper County, Oklahoma, with his four
sisters and four brothers. Leonard attended
Luther Hill High School, Luther Hill, Oklahoma,
but left after his third year. He married
Rilla Yates and became the father of a son.
To support his family, he worked as a laborer in
the construction of a dam.
On March 17, 1941, Leonard was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion had been transferred to the base, but it did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place.
In late August, the 192nd Tank Battalion, which had taken part in the maneuvers, was informed it would not be returning to Ft. Knox. During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there. 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 S. Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. It was at this time that Leonard either volunteered, or had his name drawn, to replace one of these National Guardsmen. He was assigned to A Company.
The tank companies traveled, over different by train routes to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they received inoculations and physicals from the battalion's medical detachment. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
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. 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. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from 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.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
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.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. The tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky all morning. They landed at noon, to be refueled, and were lined up, in a straight line, near the mess hall. The pilots went to lunch.
During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat. While guarding his half-track, Abel heard the sound of planes approaching Clark Field. As he and the other men watched the sky, they felt good about the planes in the sky and the protection they were providing them. It was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling did they realize that the planes were Japanese. 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 for the next three and one half years.
After the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it could protect a highway and railroad from sabotage. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd, which were on their way to the Lingayen Gulf were 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. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River. There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th, held the position. 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. That night, on a road east of Zaragoza, the company was bivouacked and had 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.
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. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had lost about half their men.
A Company was next sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken by the Filipinos to be Japanese, and the 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three tanks. The company rejoined the 194th west of Guagua.
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 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.
While the 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. The tanks continued to hold the position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn, and with the self propelled mounts, the tanks ambushed the advancing Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties. While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties. 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
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 casualties. 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.
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.
During the Battle of the Pockets, to wipe out Japanese troops who had been trapped behind the main defensive line, the tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until the tank, which had been relieved, had left the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
During the Battle of the Points on March 2nd and 3rd, the tanks supported the Philippine Army as it wiped out two pockets of Japanese Marines who had been landed behind the main defensive line. The Japanese landed on one point and were quickly cut off. The Japanese attempted to land more troops to relieve them, but landed them at the wrong spot. These troops were also quickly surrounded. Both 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.
On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. 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.
The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks. Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets. The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill. At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. They received little water and little food. When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom. The surface of the trench was alive with maggots. How long they remained in the bull pen is not known.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base. There was one water faucet for the entire camp. Men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day. The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. Often, when they returned the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
The Japanese knew they had to do something to lower the death rate, so they opened a new camp near Cabanatuan. It is not known if Leonard was sent directly to the camp or if he was sent there after returning from a work detail. The death rate in the camp did drop after the POWs received Red Cross packages.
The POWs were use to plant rice and worked on the camp farm. Leonard remained in the camp until July 1943, when his name appeared on a list of POWs being transferred to Japan. The POWs were taken by truck to Bilibid Prison near Manila. They were given physicals and taken to Pier 7 at the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Clyde Maru.
The ship sailed on July 23, 1943, and arrived at Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philippine Islands the same day. The ship remained there for three days loading manganese ore. The ship sailed again on July 26th for Takao, Formosa. During the voyage, 100 POWs were allowed on deck from six in the morning until four in the afternoon. The ship arrived at Takao on July 28th. It remained in port until August 5th when it sailed at 8:00 A.M. as part of a nine ship convoy.
During the trip to Moji, Japan, the convoy was attacked by a an American submarine. Several of the ships were sunk. The remaining ships arrived at Moji on August 7th. The POWs were disembarked on August 8th and divided into 100 men detachments. The POW detachment Leonard was in was marched to the train station and boarded a train. The train left at 9:00 A.M. and the POWs rode the train for two days.
When the POWs left the train, they walked eighteen miles to Fukuoka #17. Those too ill to walk were driven by truck to the camp. The camp was surrounded by a ten foot high wooden fence that was topped off with three electrified wires. Fifty POWs were assigned to each barracks. The barracks were 20 feet wide and 120 feet long. There were ten rooms in each barracks. A minimum of four to six POWs shared each room.
In the camp, the POWs were used as slave labor in an condemned coal mine. In the camp, the stronger POWs preyed on the weaker POWs. POWs would trade their food rations for cigarettes. The situation got so bad that the Japanese put an end to it.
One day, the POWs in the camp saw a large explosion over Nagasaki. When the POWs who were in the mine returned to the camp they were told about it. Many believed that the main Japanese ammunition dump had been hit. None of the POWs had any idea that they had seen the atomic bomb exploding. They also had no idea that Fukuoka #17 was located in the primary target for the bomb, but the crew of the plane chose to go to the secondary target because of cloud cover.POW
The guards in the camp began acting differently toward the POWs. The POWs were given a day off from work which had never happened before. When they received a second day off, they knew something was up.
One morning, George Weller a reporter for the Chicago Daily News came through the gates of the camp. He informed the POWs that the war was over and that American troops were on the island. Some of the POWs left the camp and met up with the troops. The remaining POWs stayed in the camp until liberated.
Leonard was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment and finally returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Marine Shark which arrived in San Francisco on November 1, 1945. After treatment at Letterman General Hospital, he returned to his wife, Rilla. He became the father of four daughters and a second son. Leonard became the post master for Laverne, Oklahoma.
On March 3, 1983, Leonard Hart died in Laverne, Oklahoma. His son, Thomas, also died on the same date, so they may have been died in an accident.
Leonard and his son were buried at Laverne Memorial Cemetery in Laverne, Oklahoma.