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
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.
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
John, along with unit, was sent to
Louisiana to take part in the maneuvers of
1941. During the maneuvers HQ Company did
not actively participate, but it was there job
to deal with any problems with the tanks.
After the maneuvers,
the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as
expected. It was on the side of a hill
that the soldiers learned they were being sent
overseas. Many men received leaves home to
say their goodbyes.
It is known that John returned home and visited
his parents on leave. He returned to
Camp Polk, and traveled west by train to San
Francisco, California, and was ferried to Angel
Island. At Ft. McDowell on the island, the
soldiers were given physicals and received
inoculations. Those men with minor medical
conditions were held back and scheduled to
rejoin the battalion at a later date.
Other men were simply released.
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.
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.
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, but he had only learned of
their arrival days earlier. He made sure
that they had what they needed and that they
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.
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.
1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter
of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese
paratroopers. From this time on, two tank
crew members, or half-track crew members,
remained with each vehicle at all times and
received their meals from food trucks.
morning of December 8th, December 7th in the
United States, the 192nd was guarding the
perimeter of Clark Field. A week earlier,
they had been given assigned positions around
the airfield. At 8:30 in the morning, the
American planes took off and filled the
sky. They landed at noon and lined up in a
straight line, near the mess hall to be
refueled. The pilots went to lunch.
were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes
was spotted approaching the airfield from the
north. The tankers believed the planes
were American and commented how pretty they
looked. As they watched, raindrops fell
from the planes. When bombs exploded on
the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of
Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company
commander, Capt. Walter Write. In
spite of his wounds, he continued to give orders
to his company. His main concern was for
his soldiers safety. 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 but
successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang
was also at this time that the tankers was
told by General Wainwright's headquarters that
he was their only commander. Up to this
time, many officers held the belief that the
highest ranking officer, in an area, could
countermand the tankers orders, It was
only when tank command made it clear that the
tanks would only take orders from it that this
25th, the tanks of the battalion 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.
Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an
area east of Pampanga on December 30th. It
was there that they lost a tank platoon
commander, Lt. William Read. That
night on a road east of Zaragoza, 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.
At the Gumain
River, the night of December 31st to the morning
of January 1st, 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 were taking heavy casualties, so they
attempted to use smoke to cover their advance,
but the wind blew the smoke into the
Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the
attack, they had suffered fifty percent
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. The 11th
Division accurately used mortars on them.
The result was the loss of three tanks.
On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were
holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the
Southern Luzon forces to withdraw into
Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting
to hold the main Japanese force coming down
Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut
off. Gen.MacArthur's chief of staff issued
orders that the troops holding the bridge should
withdraw and about half did. Wainwright
was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there was confusion
among the troops about who was in command.
Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled mounts,
the 71st Field Artillery, and a wild attack by
the 192nd Tank Battalion, the Japanese advance
was stopped allowing the Southern Luzon forces
to escape. It was not long after
this date that food rations were cut in half and
malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began
spreading among the defenders.
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.
B Company also took
part in 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
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 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
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
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
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