Pvt. William Franklin Oldaker
Pvt. William F. Oldaker was
born December 26, 1913, in El Reno, Oklahoma, to
Eliza M. and Archie B. Oldaker. He was one
of five children and had two sisters and two
brothers. He grew up in Estella, a small
rural town about five miles from Vinita,
Oklahoma. There, he attended the Rock School
and completed the sixth grade. He was known
as "Bill" to his family and friends.
On March 27, 1941, Bill was inducted into Federal Service at Fort Still, Oklahoma. Sometime after his induction and trained at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. In the late summer of 1941, he traveled to Camp Polk, Louisiana, there he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. Although the maneuvers were taking place there, the 753rd did not take part in them.
After the maneuvers, the army began to recruit soldiers to replace members of the 192nd Tank Battalion who had been released from federal service. It was at this time that Bill joined the 192nd and became a member of B Company as a half-track driver.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes. Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. 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.
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Each tank had been assigned a position to defend. At all times, two crew members remained in the tanks. The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. The tankers returned to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry. Being a half-track driver, Bill was assigned to a platoon of B Company tanks. His half track commander was Sgt. Jim Bashleben. Together, they experienced several close calls while 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 fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th. While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.
After the tanks crossed the
river, they went up the other
slope on the other side.
Bill's half-track was the last
vehicle in the column and could
not get up the slope. He
and Sgt. Bashleben continued to
attempt to get up the slope, but the front wheels would not go over the river bank.
As the Japanese closed in on
their position and the tanks got
further away. Sgt. Bud
Bardowski noticed that the
half-track was missing and
turned his tank around.
When he found Bill and Sgt.
Bashleben, their half-track was
still stuck on the riverbank.
Sgt. Bardowski threw them a
towline and pulled the
half-track up the slope with his
tank. In all likelihood,
he had saved the lives of the
two men since the Japanese
overran the area.
On one occasion, Bill and Sgt.
Bashleben were driving down a
road when shells began landing
around them. One shell
landed to the side of their
half-track in an area where an
American unit was
bivouacked. Sixteen men
died in the explosion. On
a different occasion, Bill
witnessed a Japanese shell hit a
school bus loaded with Filipino