Peppers





Pvt. Clemath S. Peppers
    Pvt. Clemath Peppers was born on November 5, 1917, in Dallas County, Missouri, to Ernest Peppers & Lola May Palmer-Peppers.  He had three sisters and three brothers.  He resided in Windyville, Missouri, and later Glenpool, Kansas.  He worked in the oil industry and was living in Oklahoma when he was drafted.  He was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 20, 1941, in Oklahoma City. 
    Clemath was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training.  He attended tank school and became a member of a tank crew.  After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia, in the late summer of 1941.  
    After the maneuvers he and the other members of the battalion remained behind at Camp Polk.  None of them had any idea why they had not returned to Ft. Knox.   The battalion members learned that they were being sent overseas.  Those 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.    
    At Camp Polk, Louisiana, the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion were informed that they were going to remain at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  None of the men had any idea why this was being done.  It was on the side of a hill that the members of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Replacements for these men were sought from the 753rd.  Clemath was one of the replacements and was assigned to B Company.
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements for the men released from federal service, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and halftracks.  The battalion traveled over three different railroad routes to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. 
    On the island, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals.  Those who had minor medical issues 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.  For many, it would be the last time that they would ever see the United States.  The battalion 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.  
Ironically, it was the day the National Guard members of the battalion had originally been scheduled to be released from federal service.
    Seventeen days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the members of 192nd arrived in Manila.  The battalion was deployed Fort 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.  They spent the next seven days preparing their equipment for use in the maneuvers they expected to take part in.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two crew members were ordered to remain with their tanks at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  Early that morning, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had reached the Philippines.  The tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  As they sat on their tanks, they watched American planes fill the sky.  At noon, every plane landed. 
    The tankers were eating lunch when they saw 54 planes approaching the airfield from the north.  As they watched the planes, they saw what looked like raindrops falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  Most of the tankers could do nothing but watch since their weapons were not meant to fight planes. 

    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.
    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.
  
    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.
    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.
    B Company was assigned to guard one of the few beaches on Bataan, near Limay, where the Japanese could land land troops. 
The morning of February 3, 1942, an attempt was made by a Sgt. Walter Cigoi to end the daily flyovers of Recon Joe.  The tankers had been up all night and were attempting to get sleep.     

Cigoi pulled his half-track out from under the jungle canopy, onto the beach, and started shooting at the reconnaissance plane.  His attempt to shoot down the plane failed.  As a result of his decision, the Japanese now had a good idea where the tankers were located.  Twenty minutes later, four Japanese dive bombers flew to the location and pasted the tanks and half-tracks.

    According to Frank Goldstein, the falling bombs exploded upon contact with the tree canopy high above  the tanks and half-tracks.  This situation resulted in shrapnel flying in every direction.  Goldstein stated that Peppers had been sleeping on the back of his tank when the attack started.  After the attack, the tankers found Peppers dead on his tank.  Goldstein believed that Peppers never knew what hit him.
    Goldstein stated that the tankers took the bodies of Clemath and Richard Graff, who also died in the attack, and buried them at the cemetery at Cabcaben Army Airfield.
     After the war, the Army Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of Pvt. Clemath S. Peppers.  At the request of his family, the remains were returned home and buried at the Peppers Cemetery, Jasper Township, Dallas County, Missouri, in April 1949







 

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