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.  With his two sisters and two brothers, he grew up on the family farm.  At some point, Fred joined the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
   

    In September 1940, the tank company was re-designated D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  On November 25th, 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 the late summer, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk, 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 Patton, the maneuvers were cancelled.   
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to remain at Camp Polk.  The members of the battalion had no idea why they were remaining at the fort.  It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent overseas.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Once this was done, replacements were sought from the 753rd.  Charles was one of the replacements.  He was assigned to C Company.
    Over different train routes, the battalion's companies traveled to San Francisco.  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.  
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. 
The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7.  November 20th was the date that the National Guardsmen were scheduled to be released from federal service.  The soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
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. 

    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.  The morning of April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, commander of HQ Company informed his men of the surrender.  Bruni somehow came up with enough food for the men to have what he called, "Their last supper."  The meal consisted of bread and pineapple.  Bruni told his men that from this point on it was each man for himself.  Most of the company remained in their bivouac for two days.
    The first contact HQ Company had with the Japanese was when Japanese officers entered their bivouac.  They ordered the Americans to go to the road that ran past their encampment.  Once on the road, they were made to kneel on both sides of the road.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers passing them took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
    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 Japanese soldiers.  He 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.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Stanley'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.  These two islands 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.  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 by the Japanese.  The men 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.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  At some point on the march, Fred was reported as missing.
    Once at San Fernando, the POWs were put into a bull pin 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. 

    During their time in the bull pin, 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.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, Frank walked the last ten 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.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day.  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 earth.  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.  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 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.  He was 23 years old. 
Fred was buried in the camp cemetery.

    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.  He was posthumously promoted to Private First Class.


 

 

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