LeGrow

 


Pfc. Silas Benjamin LeGrow


    Pfc. Silas B. LeGrow was born in August 12, 1918, in Bauline, Newfoundland, Canada, to Benjamin LeGrow & Mary Whalen-LeGrow.  He was raised, with his brother, at 3512 Tacon Street in Tempa, Florida, where he attended school.  While he was a child, he was orphaned and raised by his aunt and uncle.  He later moved to Toledo, Ohio, where he lived with a cousin at 1116 Starr Avenue.  He would later work on a farm as a hired hand in Portage Township, Wood County, Ohio.   

    While a resident of Toledo, Silas attempted to join a local Ohio National Guard Unit, but since there were no openings, he could not join the company.  With the help of Lt. Col. Roland B. Lee of the Ohio National Guard, Silas was able to join the Company H Tank Company of the Ohio National Guard.  He was sixteen years old when he enlisted.

    On November 25, 1940, Silas's National Guard company was called to Federal duty as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The company was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky were it joined three other National Guard companies from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kentucky to form the battalion.  For most of the next year, the soldiers trained and attended school. In Silas's case he became a tank driver.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that Silas learned that the battalion was being sent overseas.  He and the other soldiers were given furloughs home to say goodbye to family and friends.
    They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  King stayed with the tankers until they finished their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterward, he left to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, Silas learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Around 12:45 in the afternoon, while Silas was serving lunch to C Company, the Japanese attacked Clark Field.  During the attack, Silas could do little but watch. Silas recalled, "It seemed like a false alarm. No one could believe that the Japs would ever attack the United States." 

    When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 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 tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them 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 Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this 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,  Company was 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, Lt. Gentry set up his 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.   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 Baluiag2nd 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 its 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. 

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
   
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  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.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
   
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.
   
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 exploded.
    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. 

    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  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.  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.

    The morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers heard the order "crash" and destroyed their tanks.  It was on that day that Silas became a Prisoner of War.  Two days after the surrender, C Company made its way to Mariveles.  It was from there that they started what became known as the Bataan Death March.  "I weighed 175 pounds at the start of the two week march and was down to 110 when it ended."  Suffering from malaria, Silas had to be helped on the march by other members of the company.  "We all had to help each other.  The men were ready to drop from exhaustion and anyone who lagged would be prodded along with bayonets and rifle butts."

    Silas and the other POWs made there way to San Fernando.  There, they were packed into small wooden boxcars and taken to Capas.  At Capas, the dead fell out of the cars as the living climbed out.  From Capas he made his way to Camp O'Donnell.

   Silas was next held as a POW at Cabanatuan.  He remained in the camp until October 1942, when he was selected for shipment to Manchuria.

       On October 5, 1942, Silas and another 1600 POW's were sent to the dock area of Manila,  They spent two days housed in a warehouse on the dock before being boarded onto Tottori Maru

    Silas and the other men were placed into the ship's hold.  They would remain there for two days before the ship sailed.  The trip would take 31 days before the ship docked in Korea. According to Silas "All we had to eat was fish and wormy rice. We had to pick out as many worms as we could, but we couldn't get out all of them.  Sometimes we got so hungry, we ate the rice, worms and all."

    The ship sailed for Takao, Formosa. on October 7th at 10:00 A.M. and passed Corregidor at noon.  The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  The lucky POWs remained on deck.   The conditions on the ship were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck.

    The morning of October 9th, the Totori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine which fired two torpedoes at it.  The captain of the ship maneuvered the ship and successfully avoided the torpedoes. 

    The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 11th.  The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing on October 16th at 7:30 A.M., but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M.  It sailed again on October 18th arriving at the Pescadores Islands the same day.   When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor and remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao.  During this stay on Ocrober 28th, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.

   The ship sailed again on October 30th arriving off Makou, Pescadores Islands, and dropped anchor around 5:00 P.M.  The next day, it sailed as part of a seven ship convoy for Pusan, Korea.  During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.  After the storm the ships were attacked by an American submarine which sunk one ship while the others scattered.  

    After 31 days on the ship, the Totori Maru docked at Pusan, Korea on November 7th.  1300 POW's got off the ship and were issued new clothes and fur-lined overcoats.  They were sent on a two day trip north to Mukden, Manchria.  The 400 POWs who remained on the ship were sent to Japan.  There, they worked in a sawmill or a manufacturing plant.

    At Mukden, Manchuria, Silas was given a set of clothes and a overcoat.  These were the only clothes he received while he was held at Mukden.  At Mukdan, the POWs were housed in wooden barracks.  The prisoners slept on double-deck shelves with only a thin mat between them and the wooden boards.  He and the other POWs had to sleep on their sides since there was no room to stretch out.
    Of his time in Mukdan, Silas said, "We could tell the Japs had gotten defeated somewhere by the treatment we received."  When American B-29s raided Mukden and caused widespread fires, the POWs were so happy that they didn't care how the Japanese treated them.

    Silas remained in Manchuria until he was liberated by Russian troops in 1945.  He recalled,"We carried them around on our shoulders."  He was taken to Darien, China, and then the Philippines.  He was promoted to staff sergeant.  Silas returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Storm King and arrived in San Francisco on October 15, 1945.  When he saw the Golden Gate Bridge, he said that it was the, "happiest day of my life." After a stay at Letterman General Hospital, he visited his relatives in Florida. Later, he returned to Port Clinton to be reunited with the other surviving members of C Company.

    Silas married, on December 29, 1946, Edna Lewis at Seminole Heights Presbyterian Church in Tampa, Florida.  The couple became the parents of five sons.  At some point, he transferred to the Air Force and remained in the military holding the rank of master sergeant.  Silas B. LeGrow later resided in Cabot, Arkansas, after leaving the Air Force. 

    Silas B. LeGrow passed away on January 13, 2013, at Little Rock Veterans Hospital, North Little Rock, Arkansas.  He was buried at the Arkansas State Veterans' Cemetery, North Little Rock, Arkansas.  He was last surviving, National Guard member, of C Company.


 

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