Hepburn

Tec 4 Andrew Hepburn


    T/4 Andrew Hepburn was born July 25, 1918, in Northern Ireland to Samuel and Mary Hepburn.  With his two brothers, Jack & Sam, he was raised at 2411 West Oakton Street in Park Ridge, Illinois.  He graduated from Oakton Elementary School and Maine Township High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, in 1936, at the age of fifteen.  After high school, he worked in a department store as a stock boy.

    Andrew joined the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company with his high school friends, Jim Bashleben and Willard Von Bergen.  In September, 1940, the draft act had been signed into law and all three men wanted to fulfill their one year of military service  and get on with their lives.  He and his friends decided that joining the tank company was a good idea because riding in a tank sounded better than marching.

    In November of 1940, the tank company was federalized as Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion, and Andy went with the company to Fort Knox, Kentucky to train.  He qualified as a member of a tank crew and was assigned to one as the assistant tank driver and machine gunner.
    The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers in the fall of 1941.   At one point, the red army, that the battalion was part of, broke through and were about to overrun the headquarters of General George Patton, the commander of the blue army, when the maneuvers were canceled.  But instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion was ordered to remain at Camp Polk.  None of the soldiers had any idea why they were being held there.

    On the side of a hill, they were informed that they being sent overseas.   It was at this time that Andy was given leave home and married. 

     Andy returned to Camp Polk.  His company was given new tanks and other equipment that had been used by the 753rd Tank Battalion.  After the companies were brought up to strength, with replacements for the men released from federal service, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks.  Over different rail routes, the battalion was sent to Angel Island for preparation for duty in the Philippine Islands.
    On the island, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals.  Those who had minor medical issues were held back 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 from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  For many, it would be the last time that they would ever see the United States.  The battalion arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.
   
At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  

    Seventeen days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Harold and the other members of Company B arrived in Manila.  The battalion was deployed Fort Stotsenburg. 
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service  They spent the next seven days preparing their equipment for use in the maneuvers they expected to take part in.

    When war came in with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Andy was stationed at Clark Field.  Ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battalion was guarding the perimeter of Clark Airfield against Japanese paratroopers.  At 12:45, 54 Japanese bombers approached from the north.   Bombs began exploding on the airfield destroying most of the American Army Air Corps. 
    Andy survived the Japanese bombing of Clark Field.  As a machine gunner in a tank crew, Andy took part in some of the first engagements of World War II involving American Armor personnel.   

    At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The Japanese almost broke through, but when morning came, the tankers had held.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.   The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
    The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over.
   
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back.  According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.  When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
 
    The night of April 8, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  They circled their tanks.  Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks.  Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
    Andy was one of the members of the company that attempted to reach Corrigedor.  The tankers found
a boat that was getting ready to sail to Corregidor, but they were told there was no room for them on the barge, Zenon Bardowski, another member of B Company, re-positioned his Tommy-gun to make it understood that they intended to make the trip.
    It is not known what duty Andy was given on Corregidor, but it is known that he became a Prisoner of War on May 6, 1942, when the island surrendered after the Japanese lunched a major offensive against it.  He and the other men remained on the island for two weeks in what was designated the Corregidor POW Camp.   This camp was on the beach of the island.
    When the Japanese did move the POWs, they were taken by barge to an area off Bataan where they were made to jump into the water and swim to shore.  Once on shore, the POWs spent time repairing a nearby pier that had been damaged by shells during the Battle of Bataan. 
    After the repairs were finished, the POW were ordered to form ranks.  They were told to march.  Having heard about the march from Bataan form men who had escaped it, they feared they were going to receive the same treatment.  To their surprise, they were marched at a reasonable pace and given breaks.  The POWs were marched up Dewey Boulevard in Manila to Bilibid Prison where they were held until transferred to Cabanatuan.
    It is not known when Andy arrived at Bilibid, but a
t some point, during 1943, Andy went out on a work detail known as the Cabcoban Detail which also was referred to as the Bachrach Garage Detail.  The POWs on the detail repaired trucks and other equipment for the Japanese.
    It was while he was on this detail that he became ill.  It was reported he was developed a high fever,  a cough, vomiting, and had chest pains on October 10th.  He was sent to U.S. Naval Hospital Unit at Bilibid Prison suffering from pneumonia and malaria and also running a fever of 103.4 degrees.

    The medical staff determined he was suffering from malaria, bronchial pneumonia, and malnutrition.    According to medical records, he was admitted on October 14, 1943.  On Monday, October 18, 1943, Andy died from what was officially reported as pulmonary tuberculosis at 9:00 AM.  Other records state he died from bronchial pneumonia.  He was buried in Row 4, Grave 13 in the POW cemetery at Bilibid.
    According to records, Andy's personal possessions were given to Captain N. Nogi the Japanese commanding officer of Bilibid  Prison.  Among his possessions were two photos, a wallet, two notebooks, a wedding ring, and a New Testament.

    During Christmas 1943, Andy's parents received a Christmas card from him  It said:

 

"Dear Mother, Dad and Fam.,

   

    I hope this finds all of you in best of health.  I am doing fine and am in good health.  Give my love to Jean (his girlfriend) and family.  Regards to relatives and friends  Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. "

 

    Reading this card, his parents had no idea that their son had died in a Japanese POW Camp.  He had written it a year before they had received it.

    In 1949, his family requested that Andy's remains be returned to the United States from the Philippine Islands.  A wake for Andy was held in Park Ridge on April 22, 1949, and a funeral service the next day.  An honor guard was provided by the Park Ridge V.F.W. Post.   He was reburied at the Town of Maine Cemetery in Park Ridge, Illinois, on April 23, 1949.  Jim Bashleben, the only one of the three friends to survive the war, attended the funeral.


 

 


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