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.
    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. 

    After remaining at Clark Field for several weeks, B Company was sent to Lingayen Gulf in an attempt to stop the Japanese from landing troops.  Lyle, along with the other members of Company B, fought the Japanese for four months. They did this with little food and no hope of being relieved.

    At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.  Bud's worst memory was of this battle.  He recalled that the Japanese attempted to break the Filipino-American line of defense.  The Japanese attacked after dark and the fighting went on all night. The line of defense held by the 192nd almost broke.   When dawn came, the tankers had held onto their position.  The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks. 
    The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over again.
    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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