Pvt. Francis I. McGurie was born on April 26, 1917,
in Tooele County, Utah, to Bartholomew McGuire and
Mary Duffy-McGuire. With his brother and
sister, he grew up at 20 Glenwood Avenue in Tooele
City, Utah. It is known that his father was an
engineer for the Tooele Valley Railroad which
provided railroad service to a copper smelter.
Francis was a worker at the copper smelter owned by the Anaconda Copper Company when he was drafted into the U.S. Army while living in Nevada. He was inducted on March 19, 1941, at Salt Lake City and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. In the late summer of 1941, he was sent to camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Francis's tank battalion did not take part in the maneuvers that were being held at Camp Polk while they were there. After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion, which had taken part in maneuvers, was informed that it was being sent overseas. Since the battalion was mainly made up of National Guardsmen, those men who were married, or 29 years old or older, were given the chance to resign from federal service. Francis volunteered to replace a National Guardsman. He was assigned to B Company and to the tank of Zenon Bardowski.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco. Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back 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. They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they 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.
During the time they were in the Philippines, the tankers worked to ready their tanks for maneuvers. They loaded ammunition belts and decosmolined the guns of their tanks.
The tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field on December 1st to guard against enemy paratroopers. Two crew members of each tank or half-track had to remain with them at all times.
On December 8th, December 7th in the United States, Francis lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield just ten hours after Pearl Harbor. That morning news of the attack on Pearl Harbor reached the Philippines. The tankers were issued orders to guard the perimeter of the airfield against Japanese paratroopers. All morning, the sky was filled with American planes. At 12 noon, the planes landed.
Around 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. Fifty-four planes were counted by the tankers. At first, they believed the planes were American. Then, they watched as little silver droplets fell from the planes. It was only when explosions took place on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
The tankers did not have weapons to fight the planes, but two of the half-tracks had been rigged with .50 caliber machine guns on rings that could rotate. Zenon Bardowski shot down a Zero from one of the half-tracks during the attack.
The tankers would remain at Clark Airfield until they were sent north to support the 26th U.S. Cavalry at Lingayen Gulf on December 21st. The job they found themselves in again and again was that of holding a position so that the other troops could disengage from fighting the Japanese.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th. On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.
B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
During the Battle of Bataan, B Company was assigned to guard the east coast of Bataan against a possible Japanese invasion. The tank battalion, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.
Doing this duty, the tanks would hide under the jungle's canopy during the day and come out onto the beaches at night. While on this duty, Francis was involved in firefights between the tanks and Japanese gunboats in Manila Bay when the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
The morning of February 3rd, after being up all night guarding the beach, the members of B Company were attempting to get some sleep. Each day, a Japanese reconnaissance plane known as "Photo Joe" flew over attempting to locate the tanks. Walter Cigoi, tired of being awakened by the plane had his driver pull his half-track onto the beach and took a potshot at the plane. He missed.
About twenty minutes later, Japanese dive bombers appeared and bombed and strafed the area. During the attack, three members of B Company were killed and Francis was wounded. He was taken to a field hospital by other members of his company.
The morning of April 9th, at 6:45, the tankers received the order "crash." This was their order to destroy their tanks and guns. The next morning, they made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Francis was now a Prisoner of War.
On the march, the POWs received little food and no water. Artesian wells flowed across the road, if the POWs attempted to get water from the wells, they were killed. The first few miles, leaving Mariveles, were uphill. Since many of the POWs were sick, this made the march worse. At one point, the POWs ran past Japanese artillery which was firing at Corregidor which had not surrendered. Shells from the American guns landed among the POWs.
The POWs made their way to San Fernando. At the train station, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as "forty or eights." This meant the cars could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and shut the doors. Those men who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. The dead fell out of the cars as the living climbed out.
From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. The camp was an unfinished Filipino Army Base. There was only one water faucet for the POWs. Men died standing in line for a drink. As many as 50 POWs died each day. The situation got so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
After being sent to Cabanatuan, Francis was selected to go out on a work detail to Palawan Island. The POWs sent to the island built an airfield with picks and shovels. They also received brutal treatment at the hands of the Japanese guards. The men were beaten with pick handles. They were and kicked and slapped on a daily basis. Prisoners who attempted to escape were executed. Francis became ill with malaria and was sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila on August 22, 1944. As it turned out, this was a stroke of good luck. Those POWs who remained on Palawan Island were later burnt to death by the Japanese on December 15, 1944.
Francis was held at Bilibid until September 30, 1944. He had been selected for transport to Japan and taken to the Port Area of Manila. On October1st, Francis and other POWs were boarded onto the Hokusen Maru. The ship sailed on October 3, 1944, for Japan. His voyage on the hell ship lasted until November 9th. The first part of the journey resulted in the deaths of 40 POWs before it arrived at Hong Kong on October 11, 1944. It was on this ship that Pvt. Arthur Van Pelt of B Company was beaten to death by another American POW because the man wanted his water.
It should be noted that Francis's POW Detachment was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, but since the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail and the other detachment of POWs had not completely arrived, the Japanese switched the POW detachments. As it turned out, the Arisan Maru was sunk by an American submarine resulting in the death of 1794 of the 1803 POWs on the ship.
The POWs boarded the ship on October 1st and were put in one hold. On October 3rd, the ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater. It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy. The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men. To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
As part of a ten ship convoy it sailed again on October 4th and stopped at Cabcaban. The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts. The ships stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6th, two of the ships were sunk.