Hay

 

2nd Lt. John Frederick Hay


    2nd Lt. John F. Hay was the son of the Dr. Samuel H. Hay & Dr. Rachel McMaster-Hay.  He was born in Coddle Creek, Iredell County, North Carolina, on November 8, 1919.  His father would later become the minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, Tennessee.  With his two sisters, he grew up at 21 Church Street in Morristown.  

    John attended Davidson College and enrolled in the college's  R.O.T.C program on September 13, 1937.   He was also the vice-president of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and graduated from college with a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry in June 1941.  He was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

    In September 1940, John accepted commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve Corps.  John was called to active duty, during the summer of 1941 and sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, receiving training in tanks as a member of A Compnay, 753rd Tank Battalion.  In the fall of 1941, he joined the 192nd Tank Battalion as it prepared for duty in the Philippine Islands at Camp Polk, Louisiana.  His volunteered, or had his name drawn by lot, and filled a vacancy created when an officer was promoted to replace a National Guardsman who was considered "too old" to go overseas.  He was assigned, as a tank platoon commander, to C Company.
    Traveling west over different train routes the 192nd arrived in San Francisco.  During the trip John wrote a letter home.  In it he showed his love of his hometown, "These mountains are not as beautiful as our beloved east Tennessee."  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Angel Island where the tankers were given physicals and inoculated against tropical diseases.  Those men with minor medical issues were held back on the island and scheduled to rejoin 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.   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 they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received 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 been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance., and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field on December 1st to protect it from paratroopers.  The tankers were were having lunch when 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched. what appeared to be raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the wounded were everywhere.  When the hospital ran out of room for the wounded, cots were set up under trees and anything else that could provide shade for the wounded.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.

    During the battle for the Philippines, John came down with pneumonia.  He was sent to the hospital.  The officer in the next bed was Col. Charles Steel who had been John's R.O.T.C. unit commander at Davidson College, in 1937, when John was a freshman.  It was Steel who awarded John his commission as a second lieutenant.  Both men celebrated Christmas together before returning to their respective units.

    According to Col. Charles Steel, during the Battle of Bataan, John and his tank platoon came to the aid of his 31st Infantry which had received orders to withdraw from their positions.  Steel's command had lost so many men, that it was almost impossible for him to safely fall back to new positions.  It was only after John's tanks arrived and provided support that Steel's unit was able to take the new positions.

    On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing.  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.
    At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
    The night of January 7th, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa.  Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver:  "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    The tank battalions, on January 28th, 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, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.

    John's tank platoon arrived about 5:15 on February 2nd.  He did a quick reconnaissance of the area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of the Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire. When a Japanese .37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, the tanks withdrew.  It turned out that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire.
    The next day, Hay's platoon repeated the maneuver, but because there were many tree stumps, they had to go slow so they would not get stuck on a stump.  This time the tanks were supported by Philippine Scouts.
    On February 4th, the attack resumed.  Each tank had a walkie-talkie so that the crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and send the tanks to where they were needed.  The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs.

    It was during the Battle of the Tuol Pocket from February 2, 1942, to February 5, 1942,  that John was credited in developing a method of clearing the Japanese Marines from their positions.  With the American forces, attempting to clear out the Japanese pocket, were members of the Air Corps who had been converted to infantry.  The commanding officer asked John what they should do since the airmen were not trained as infantry.

    John thought about the problem and came up with this solution to it.  Since the Japanese were dug in, the tanks could not get a good shot at them.  John's solution was to have six soldiers ride on the back of each tank.  As the tanks rolled toward the foxholes, the Japanese would dive over their foxholes.  Each American soldier took a hand grenade from his sack and dropped it into the foxholes wiping out the Japanese.
    On February 5th, the attack resumed.  This time the Japanese were pushed back to the cliffs.  At the end of the day, John's tank platoon was returned to the command of the 192nd.

    John led as many as five attacks a day, into the pocket, to wipe out the Japanese.  A few of the cleansing missions lasted for five hours.   After several days of this, the pocket was completely cleared of enemy soldiers.  For this action, John posthumously received two Silver Stars for Gallantry.

    On February 8th, John wrote this letter to his parents.  The letter was in a mail sack pulled from the ocean after the ship it was on was sunk by a Japanese submarine.  After it was recovered, it made its way to his family.

 

    Dear Folks,

        Another week has gone by and our whole band is resting after heavy action. I have written several letters to you since my stay in the hospital but they were all lost.

       Every little barrio (town) has a huge cathedral, some of them dating back to the sixteenth century. The buildings are mostly square without arches. But their plain architectural lines along with her massiveness give them a grandeur which cannot be hidden by decaying walls.  I was in one the other day whose steeple was being used as an observation point for artillery fire. The church was in a village which was bombed and shelled continuously by the enemy. It alone of the many buildings was standing while all around were tangled masses of concrete, tin, and army equipment.  The Japanese had concentrated on this spot but the walls of the church were so thick that no real harm could be done. This church has long since been abandoned but while we still had the surrounding territory it was certainly a haven. At the base of the tower the walls are over nine feet thick.

    I am now in a mountainous region which is one of the prettiest places I have ever been in. The acacia trees which I love so much are left behind but huge mahogany trees five and six feet thick and towering many feet high along with other kinds of huge trees and large vines make this one of the wildest and yet most peaceful places that I have yet come across.

    I neglected to finish telling about my health. When I left the hospital I was a mere skeleton. I feel sure that I now weigh over 160 pounds which puts me in the almost fat class. Death and tragedy do not seem to bother me - I worry that it does not. I eat enormous meals and continue to gain weight. I am sure you are suffering more than I and that all other parents and loved ones of the fellows are doing the same. The strain upon us here is terrific. We really never get any rest. But we are happy. In my last letter I told you I had no casualties in my company which was really something. By casualties I mean fatal casualties. The tropical fevers are even more dangerous than the enemy or least have been to date.

    I know you would like to know how I am getting along as an officer. I led my troops in one of the heaviest and most successful actions we have as yet had. I know the team work of my platoon deserves the credit - every man did his job and we were successful. Of course it was I who received the congratulations of the colonels, generals, captains, and fellow officers. By the work of my platoon (of tanks) casualties in the supporting infantry were cut down to nothing. I know I have made the grade - my hope is that I continue in the same way - I have been lucky. God has been more than good to me and only hope I can show my thankfulness by going into his service upon my return.

    I have not yet been able to contact Col. Steel since last December. He is getting along fine though. His men are doing a good but hard job.

    I am about written out. I hope that this orgy is soon finished but I am afraid that we are in for a long one. I have slept in the open now for a month and a week exactly, most of the time on the ground. I can get as good a sleep on the ground as I can on a bed. I have a cot and have several times preferred the ground to the cot since putting the cot up at night and then having to repack it is a lot of trouble.

    Another thing I enjoy even if there is drudgery is washing my clothes. We are all on pretty much of an edge with never a chance for our nerves to relax. Doing little jobs with my hands rests me. Today I washed .........I really had wash woman hands when I got through.

    I have some some work in a religious way. In fact, I have been called a preacher a few times. Last night we had Major Dawson of California here for supper. I hope I can also get a Catholic chaplain later - Major Dawson is a Baptist.

    Last Wednesday 77 of us went to Major Dawson's prayer-meeting. He complimented me in his service saying it was fine for me to bring them rather than just telling the fellows were to go. Of course I didn't really deserve the praise since I just went along. His service was very good-he taught rather than preached and said as much.

    Give my regards to everybody, Give my love to Rachel, Louisa, and the other folks.

                                                                With love and longings to be home,

                                                                                                                  John

    C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers 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 a tank exited the pocket.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.

    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.

    In March, the gasoline ration was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be reduced to 10 gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  It was also at this time the Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.  Wainwright dismissed the suggestion.
     The Japanese lunched at all out attack on April 4th, with combat harden troops from Singapore.  C Company, 194th Tank Battalion, was attached to the 192nd and on the 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the defensive line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.   During this action one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.

    During the Japanese break through C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line on east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.   When Gen. King  realized the situation was hopeless, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    Although Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942, John did not become a POW until April 11, 1942, since the Japanese did not enter the bivouac area of C Company for two days. After making contact with the Japanese, John and the other members of his company went to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  From there, he started the death march. 

    John made his way to San Fernando, there the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars.  Each car could hold 40 men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those men who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. John and the other POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.  

    In Camp O'Donnell, John saw Col. Charles Steel for the last time.  Steel shook John's hand and said his goodbyes as he and the other senior officers left the camp to be shipped to Formosa. 

    Conditions at Camp O'Donnell were so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  John was sent to the new camp when it was opened.  According to records kept by the medical staff in the camp, John was admitted to the camp's hospital on Friday, September  18, 1942, suffering pellagra, dysentery, and edema.  It was there that he died - according to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield - of beriberi and dysentery.   Two reports and John's headstone indicate his date of death was Saturday, October 10, 1942.  According to another report, his date of death was Wednesday, October 28, 1942, and the cause of death is listed as pellagra.  He was buried in the camp cemetery in Plot 2, Row 23, Grave 2960.

    On July 4, 1943, Dr. Samuel Hay was officially notified by the Army that John had died as a Japanese POW.  After the war, in 1949, 2nd Lt. John Hay's family had his remains returned to the United States.  On April 20, 1949, a funeral service at the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown was held for John.  During the service, Col. Charles Steel told of his meetings with John during the fight against the Japanese and while they were POWs. 
    It appears that John may have been first buried at Emma Jarnigan Cemetery in Morristown but exhumed and moved after the deaths of his parents.  Today, 2nd Lt. John F. Hay rests in Elmwood Memorial Gardens in Columbia, South Carolina.  His parents, who later lived in Columbia, are also buried there.


 

 

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