Massey_C

 

Pfc. Curtis Massey


 

     Pfc. Curtis Massey joined the 192nd Tank Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He was born on May 20, 1918, to Joseph M. & Lydia Massey in Clay County, Kentucky, and had two brothers and five sisters.  His family's farm, where he worked, was on the Manchester-Burning Springs Road.  

    When he was inducted into the army, he was living in Hamilton County, Ohio.  After joining the battalion he was assigned to the Medical Detachment of the 192nd to train as a medic.  He was assigned to B Company as a medic and lived in the company's barracks.  While the company trained with their tanks and reconnaissance cars, the medics learned first aid from the battalion's doctors.
    It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as they had expected.  On the side of a hill, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign to from federal service and were replaced by men of the 753rd Tank Battalion, and the battalion received the tanks of the 753rd.  The decision to send the battalion to the Philippines was made on August 15, 1941.
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day, and the next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - was making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    The company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at 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 ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
   At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance., and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tankers learned about the attack.  That morning, they were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against paratroopers.  The medics remained behind in the bivouac.  At 12:45 P.M., the Japanese attacked the airfield.  During the attack, the medics took cover since they had no weapons.  After the attack he and the other members of the medical detachment provided aid to the wounded and dying.  

    During the battle for the Philippines, Curtis would travel with various companies of the 192nd as they fought the Japanese and withdrew into the Bataan Peninsula.  During this time, the Filipino and American troops were bombed and shelled constantly.

    On February 5, 1942, during an air raid, Curtis was hit by a piece a shrapnel from a Japanese bomb.  The shrapnel cut his spinal cord leaving him permanently paralyzed.  He was taken to a Field Hospital #2 where the medical staff did what they could without adequate medical supplies.

    Curtis was visited by Capt. Alvin Poweleit the chief medical officer of the 192nd Tank Battalion on February 7, 1942.  Poweleit determined that it would be just a matter of time before Curtis would die from his wounds.

    According to U. S. Army records, Pfc. Curtis Massey died on Monday, March 2, 1942, from his wounds. Since his final resting place is unknown, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.


 


 

Return to Medical Detachment

Next