Leonard_F

 

Pvt. Fred G. Leonard Jr.


    Pvt. Fred G. Leonard was born on August 12, 1919, in Mercer County, Kentucky, to Fred G. Leonard Sr. and Alma Roach-Leonard and grew up on the family farm with his sister and two brothers.  At some point, the family moved to Dayton, Ohio, but Fred  remained in Harrodsburg living with his grandparents and joined the Kentucky National Guard's tank company there.
   

    In September 1940, the tank company was designated D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and on November 28th, the members of the company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where they joined three other National Guard Tank Companies to form the battalion.

    During their time at Ft. Knox, the tankers rebuilt tanks that they pulled from the junkyard at the fort.  They also attended various schools associated with tank operations.  It is not known what specialized training Fred received during this time.  In January, Fred was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created with men from the four letter companies of the battalion.

    In the late summer, the tankers were ordered to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  At one point, the 192nd, which was part of the Red Army, broke through the Blue Army's defensive perimeter.  As they were about to overrun the headquarters of General George S. Patton, the maneuvers were canceled.   
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  The members of the battalion had no idea why they were sen to the fort.  It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent overseas.  Those men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Once this was done, replacements came from the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to the base.  The 753rd also gave their tanks to the 192nd.
    Over southern train route through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, company traveled to San Francisco, California, where they were taken by ferry to Fort McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  There, they were given physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands.  Those men who were found to need minor medical treatment remained behind at the fort and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy. that arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  During this part of the trip many of the soldiers suffered from seasickness.  When they weren't sick, they broke down machine guns, cleaned weapons, and did KP.

    The ships arrived in 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.  On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. 
During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
   
When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila.  At one point, the ships passed an island, at night, in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.   The ships sailed the next day for Manila and entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7 later that day.  The soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guardsmen were scheduled to be released from federal service. 
    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.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
 
   
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. 

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
 
   The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers learned of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor.  The members HQ Company remained in the battalion's bivouac.  Around 12:45 P.M., the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield.  When bombs began exploding they knew the planes were Japanese.  Although they did the best they could, the tankers did not have the right type of weapons to fight the planes.
    For the next four months, HQ Company worked to keep the tank companies operational.  It was during this time that Fred was promoted to private first class. 
    The evening of April 8, 1942,
Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
  
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Fred was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours. When the soldiers were ordered to move, they boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. They were stopped outside the barrio and f
rom there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
  
    Sitting, watching, and waiting the POWs wondered what the Japanese intended to do.  It was at that time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers and got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off while the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Fred's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide, and some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food. What made things worse, for the POWs, was as they marched, they came across artesian wells and watering holes, but they were denied their request for water.  The Japanese would chase the POWs away from the wells.  It got to the point that even though the Japanese attempted to keep the prisoners from the water they still went to the wells.  This resulted in the deaths of many men who were bayoneted while getting water. 
  
The first night of the march the POWs were marched all night.  When they felt something soft under their feet, or stumbled, they knew it was the body of a dead POW.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  At some point during while on the march, Fred was reported as missing.
    Once at San Fernando, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. The Japanese intentionally left them sitting in the sun.

    During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.  At some point, the Japanese ordered the men to form ranks.  They were marched in detachments of 100 men to the train station.

    At the train station, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars were known as "forty and eights" because they could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by dirt.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.
    The Japanese finally acknowledged that something had to be done to lower the death rate among the POWs and opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  The Japanese sent what they considered "the healthier POWs" to the camp in late May.  Fred was one of these POWs.

     On July 3rd, Fred was admitted to the camp hospital suffering from diarrhea and assigned to Barracks 28.  According to the records kept by the camp medical staff, he remained in the hospital for seven days being discharged on July 10th. 
    Fred was again admitted to the camp's hospital on August 24, 1942, suffering from malaria and splenitis which is an inflammation of the spleen.  According to the records kept at the hospital, Pvt. Fred G. Leonard Jr. died on Friday, August 28, 1942, at approximately 3:30 A.M. of cerebral malaria and
was buried in the camp cemetery.  He
was 23 years old.

    After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of Pvt. Fred C. Leonard.  At the request of his family, he was reburied at Spring Hill Cemetery on Harrodsburg, Kentucky. 


 

 

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