Hopple

Sgt. John Olin Hopple 


     Sgt. John Olin Hopple was born on July 15, 1914, in Missouri to Dwight Hopple & Maude Meddenhall-Hopple.  His parents were farmers residing in Taylor County, Iowa, near the town of Bedford.   He attended Valley School in South Taylor and graduated in 1932 from Hopkins High School with honors.  John was also very well known in the town of Bedford and worked to clear ground so the community could create The Lake of the Three Fires.  

    John next attended Maryville State Teachers College for two years.  He finished his studies in electrical engineering at Iowa State College, in Ames, graduating in March, 1940, and worked as a consulting electrical engineer in Des Moines.

    John moved to the Chicago area where he was employed by the Northern Illinois Public Service Company.  It was while he was living in Illinois, that John joined the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard from Maywood, Illinois.  In November of 1940, he was called into federal service when the tank company was federalized.  

    At Fort Knox, Kentucky, the192nd Tank Battalion was organized.  Company A was from Janesville, Wisconsin; Company B from Maywood, Illinois; Company C from Port Clinton, Ohio; and Company D from Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  The formation of the battalion was according to army plans that had been put into place after World War I.

     During the training at Ft. Knox, the members of the 192nd were trained to operate various equipment in use by the battalion.  John qualified as a magneto expert for tanks.  He would later be assigned to tank maintenance. 

    John, along with unit, was sent to Louisiana to take part in the maneuvers of 1941.  It was upon completion of these maneuvers that the battalion was informed that they had been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.  

    It is known that John returned home and visited his parents on leave.  He then returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  From there, he traveled west by train to San Francisco and was ferried to Angel Island,  After receiving inoculations, John with his battalion sailed for the Philippines.
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They 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. 
    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.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    In the Philippines, the 192nd found itself thrust into combat when Clark Field was bombed on December 8, 1941 by the Japanese.  During an engagement against the Japanese at the Little Pocket, John was credited with saving the lives of a tank crew.  The tank had been set on fire with a hand grenade.  John grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire out saving the lives of the crew and saving the tank.  

     As a member of Lt. Edward G. Winger's tank crew, John was trapped in the tank when the Japanese, for the first time in the war, used flame and oil throwers against a tank.  Lt. Winger's crew was blinded by the flames and smoke which resulted in the tank being wedged between two trees.  John, with the rest of the crew, abandoned the tank while under enemy fire and made their way back to American lines.  In his attempt to get back to American lines, John was wounded.  He was later awarded the Purple Heart.

   During the Battle of Toul Pocket at Assayian Point, John took part in the recovery of a wounded member of the battalion.  On February 18. 1942, during this recovery attempt, John was wounded by a sniper as he, Owen Sandmire of A Company, and two other members of the battalion attempted to rescue Jack Bruce.   The four men crawled out to Bruce while under fire, put him on the litter, and returned him to American lines.  Three of the four rescuers were wounded.

    Owen Sandmire, of A Company, drove John and the other soldiers, who had been wounded, to the field hospital.  This meant he drove down the west coast of Bataan, through Mariveles, and back up the east coast to the field hospital.  Because of the tropical climate, infections set in quickly.  John succumbed to his wounds on February 18, 1942, at Hospital #1 on Bataan.   He was awarded the Purple Heart.

    According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, Sgt. John Olin Hopple was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on February 7, 1942.  This was confirmed by Brigadier General James Weaver in his short book on the operation of the Provisional Tank Group.  
    Since his final resting place is unknown, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.  According to Deloris Brumfield, a cousin of John Hopple, John is buried next to his parents in Hopkins, Missouri, but the headstone indicates it is only a memorial stone.

    According to John's family,  his mother had an extremely difficult time of dealing with the death of her only child.  On September 7, 1942, she attempted to commit suicide and shot herself.  Several days later, she died from her wounds.


 

 


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