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.  King 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.
    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 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." 

    For the next four months, Silas attempted to feed the soldiers of C Company in whatever manner he could.  The morning of April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  

    Two days after the surrender, Silas and the rest of C Company made their 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.  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.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed.  Many POWs died during the trip.

    Shortly after leaving Manila, the Totori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine.  The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes.  Woody and the other POWs watched as the two torpedoes fired at the ship missed. 

    The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 12th.  The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing.  It returned to Takao the same day and sailed again on October 18th.   When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao.  During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.

   The ship sailed again on October 30th.  On October 31st, the ship stopped at Makou, Pescadores Islands before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea.  During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.  It was during this storm that Woody's friend lost the vision in one eye because he was hit the face by salt water spray.

    After 31 days on the ship, the Totori Maru docked at Pusan, Korea on November 7th.  1300 POW's got off the ship and sent on a four day train 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-decker 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 returned to the United States and visited his relatives in Florida. Later, he returned to Port Clinton to be reunited with the other surviving members of C Company.

   Silas married and became the father of five sons.  Silas B. LeGrow resided in Cabot, Arkansas.  He was last surviving National Guard member of C Company.

    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.


 

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