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, Kentucky.  Upon completion of basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had been sent to the base, 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.  Some men with medical issues were replaced while others were held back and scheduled to rejoin 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, and
were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. 
The ships took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship, was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the ship was from a friendly country. 
   
When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables, before the ships sailed the next morning for Manila. 
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.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, and docked later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Some men drove there trucks to the base, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  The fact was that he had learned of their arrival just days before their ship docked.  He made sure that they had what they needed, and received Thanksgiving Dinner, before he went to have his own dinner.
    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.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks. 
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength around Clark Airfield.  The tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first they thought they were American planes and had enough time to count 54 planes.  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, Joseph remained in the bivouac of the battalion.  After the attack, the tankers saw the carnage done during 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.

    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, but they successfully crossed the river.
    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, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.
   
 
    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.

    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   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.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for 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 with 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 POWs remained along the sides of the road for hours.

    The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to a area just outside of 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 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 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 and were not fed or given water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group, of POWs, 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 and 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.

    The Japanese ordered the men to form detachments of 100.  When they had, they were marched to the train station at San Fernando.  There, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights" because each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas and 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.  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 graves.  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. 

    The detail first worked at Calauan, and 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 to attend the meal. 

    After four months, the bridge building detail ended, and Edgar was sent to Cabanatuan which had opened to lower the death rate among the POWs.  At Cabanatuan, the prisoners lived in crude huts and daily meals consisted of rice.  If a prisoner was late or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole placed behind his knees to cut circulation.  The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over. 
    During the next two years, Edgar
worked on the camp farm, collected wood for the camp kitchen, and carried rice to the camp kitchen.   It is known that he was hospitalized with entamoebic dysentery while at Cabanatuan.  Other medical records show that he was admitted to Hospital Building #3, from Group 2, Building #5, on July 5, 1944.  No reason was recorded as to why he was hospitalized.
    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 and they did not want the POWs liberated.  After the Americans landed in the Philippines, the Japanese burned 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, and they raided the camp food lockers before other soldiers showed up at the camp.  The belief was that these new guards 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 received medical treatment and were nursed back to health.  Edgar 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, and the couple resided in Bryan, Texas, where he was employed as a oil refinery construction specialist.   
    Edgar Peters passed away on July 18, 1995, in Bell, Texas, and was buried at Bryan City Cemetery in Bryan, Texas.
    



 

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