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.
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
to support the
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 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 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
was mined and
about to be
The 192nd held
so that the
frog past it
and then cover
192nd was the
unit to enter
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
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.
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
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.