Pvt. Lewis Haymond Kirby
| Pvt. Lewis H.
Kirby was born July 13, 1921, in Big Chimney, West
Virginia, to James Kirby and Lula Darlington-Kirby
in Gallipolis, Ohio. The family
resided at 108 Third Ave in Gallipolis. He
was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 28,
1941, at Camp Atterbury, Columbus, Indiana.
He was sent to Fort Lnox, Kentucky, for basic
training and assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank
Battalion. The company had been an Ohio
National Guard Tank Company from Port
Clinton. It is not known what training he
received at the fort.
The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers in the late summer of 1941. According to members of the battalion, they, as members of the Red Army, broke through the Blue Army's defensive and were on their way to capture it's command center when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled. The commanding general of the Blue Army was George S. Patton.
After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk. None of it's members had any idea why they this order had been issued. It was on the side of a hill that the members of the battalion received the news that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many had determined that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service. They were replaced with volunteers from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Polk, the battalion traveled west over
four different train routes.
Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers
were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. On the island, the
soldiers were given physicals and
inoculated for tropical diseases. Those
with health issues were released from
service and replaced.
At Cabu, C Company's tanks were hidden in brush. The Japanese troops passed the tanks for three hours without knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese. They then fell back to Cabanatuan.
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that C Company's tanks won the first tank battle victory of World War II against enemy tanks. After the battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, the commanding officer of C Company sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, the company set up it's defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge. Lt. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag. 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
Kennady's platoon held it's fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
The tankers withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group. When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown. Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river. Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice. This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops.
The tanks were spaced about 100 yards apart. The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them. The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire.
Lighting the rice stacks, the Americans opened up with small fire. They then used their .37 mm guns. The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.
The tank company was next sent to the barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire. From a Filipino lieutenant, Gentry learned where the guns were and attacked. Before the Japanese withdrew, the tankers had knocked out three of the guns.
After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until all the troops were across. The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the Japanese up for a few days. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.
In addition to serving as a rear guard, the
tankers burnt everything that was being left
behind. They burnt warehouses, banks, and
businesses that would help the
Lewis made his way
north on the march
There, the POWs were
herded into a
one corner, there
was a trench that
was for use as a
surface of the pit
moved from the
maggots on its
remained in the pin
until the Japanese
ordered them to form
detachments of 100
the groups were
formed, the men were
marched to the train
Trucks appeared at the camp and drove the POWs to Manila and boarded the Canadian Inventor on July 2, 1944. The ship sailed on July 4th but returned to Manila on the 5th because of boiler problems. It remained in port until it sailed on July 16th. The ship sailed through a hurricane and finally reached Takao, Formosa, on July 23rd. The ship sailed again on August 4th and arrived the same day at Keelung, Formosa, because of additional boiler problems. On the 17th, the ship sailed again but had addition boiler problems near Naha, Okinawa. It stayed there for six days before sailing for Moji, Japan. The ship finally arrived at Moji on September 1st. The POWs disembarked on September 2nd and taken to stables.
Detachments of 100 POWs were formed and
they were taken to the train station.
Lewis was taken to Omine
The POWs in the camp worked in a coal
mine. This was also the "propaganda" POW
camp, so the POWs were treated better.
Lewis remained in the camp until he was
liberated in September 1945.