PetersE



Pvt. Edgar P. Peters

    Pvt. Edgar P. Peters was born on August 11, 1915, in Millheim, Texas, to Herman Peters & Gertrude Abel-Peters. He had three brothers, two half-brothers, and one half sister., and the family resided on Burleigh Sealy Road in Austin, Texas.  He was known as "Pete" to his family and friends.  Like many others at the time, he left school after the sixth grade.
    Edgar was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 19, 1941, in Austin, Texas.  He did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentcky.  Upon completion, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had been sent to the base fort Ft. Benning, Georgia, but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place there.
    In late September 1941, Edgar volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had taken part in the Louisiana maneuvers and been informed that it was being sent overseas for additional training.  The battalion was made up primarily of National Guardsmen from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky.  He was assigned to Headquarters Company.

   
    On October 8, 1941, the 192nd traveled west over four different train routes to San Francisco.  Once there, they were ferried to Angel Island.  On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands.
    The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers.  They were kept at Camp Polk after the maneuvers without being given a reason.  According to members of the battalion, General George Patton told them the news that they were going overseas.  Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
   They and traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. 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.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  They sailed the same day for Manila.  The ships 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.  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.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
 
   At six in the morning, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to move their platoons to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  The 192nd had been assigned to the southern portion of the airfield.  The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    As a member of HQ Company, Philip remained in the bivouac of the battalion.  After the attack the tankers saw the carnage done by the attack.  The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps.  The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
    Edgar
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had been caught off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I, and one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks.
    On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M.  The members of the HQ Company remained in their bivouac.  Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  Somehow Bruni came up with enough food to have what he called, "their last supper."

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Edgar was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road.  They were told to put their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.

    The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  The POWs had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. 

    During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.

    At San Fernando, The POWs were put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.
    To get out of the camp, Edgar went out on the bridge building detail.  The detail was under the command of Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd.  
The detail was composed of 150 Prisoners of War whose job it was to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed during the American retreat. 

    Edgar first worked at Calauan.  There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.

     The POWs were next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge.  Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed.  Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.

    The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs. 

    After nine months, the bridge building detail ended, Edgar was sent to "Camp One."  The camp had been opened to lower the death rate among the POWs.  At Camp One, the prisoners ate rice and lived in crude huts.  If a prisoner was late or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole placed behind the knees to cut circulation.  The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over.  At this time the death rate in the camp was 50 POWs a day. 
    During the next two years, Edgar
worked on a the camp farm. He also collected wood for the camp kitchen, and carried rice to the camp kitchen.
    In 1944, the Japanese began to send large numbers of POWs to other parts of the Japanese Empire.  The reason for the transfers were that the Americans were approaching the Philippines.  After the Americans landed in the Philippines, the Japanese burnt the POWs to death on the Island of Palawan.  Knowing that this had been done, the decision was made by the Americans to rescue the POWs who were still at Cabanatuan. 
    At some point, the Japanese guards left the POWs unattended at the camp.  They raided the camp food lockers. Then other soldiers showed up at the camp.  The belief was that these new guards were job was to exterminate the POWs. 
    The night of January 31, 1945, U.S. Army Rangers raided the camp and rescued the POWs.  Many were carried by carts back to American lines.  The POWs were nursed back to health.  He returned to the United States on the S.S. Monterey arriving at San Francisco on March 16, 1945. 
    Edgar was promoted to corporal and discharged from the Army on July 26, 1945.  He married Kathleen Falk on October 2, 1946.  The couple resided in Bryan, Texas.  He was employed as a oil refinery construction specialist.   
    Edgar Peters passed away on July 18, 1995, in Bell, Texas.  He was buried at Bryan City Cemetery in Bryan, Texas.
    



 

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