|Pfc. Lewis R. Phillips
Pfc. Lewis R. Phillips was born on November 4, 1916,
in Beloit, Wisconsin, to Louis H. Phillips and Rose
Lee Thomas-Phillips. With his two sisters and
two brothers, he lived at 467 Jalena Avenue,
Janesville, Wisconsin. He left high school after
three years and worked as a waiter. At some
point, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd
Tank Company in Janesville.
In September 1940, the National Guard unit was federalized and re-designated as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 25th, the company readied itself for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The company boarded the train for Ft. Knox on November 28th.
When the tankers arrived at Ft. Knox, they learned that their barracks were not finished, since the area of the fort that they were assigned to was brand new. They found themselves living in tents with stoves in them and remained in the tents several months. When they did move into their barracks, the roads in front of them were mud since the winter was extremely wet.
Lewis, like all the other members of the battalion, learned to operate all the equipment of the battalion. It is not known what he trained to do with the company. His exact job with the company is not known.
A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30. Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13th, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played. During Paul's time at Ft. Knox, he qualified as a tank driver.
In late August, the battalion was informed it would take part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through 30th. During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained at Camp Polk. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Some members of the battalion received furloughs home to say their goodbyes.
Over different train routes, the battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island. They were 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, at 9:00 P.M., on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. On Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they woke up the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th, since the ships had crossed the International Date Line during the night. It was during this part of the voyage, on Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke, which turned out to be from a ship from a friendly country.
The next day, Sunday, November 16th, they arrived at Guam, where the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing the next day 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 sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on about 8:00 A.M., Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M. the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. The truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
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 and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. The crews were instructed to use their .37 millimeter cannons as anti-aircraft guns. From this time on, two tank crew members, or half-track crew members, remained with each vehicle at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. The tanks were put on alert and took their positions around the airfield. At 8:30 A.M., American took off to intercept any Japanese planes. Sometime before noon, the planes landed to be refueled and were lined up, in a straight line, near the mess hall; the pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45. Many of the tankers counted 54 planes, as the planes approached the airfield. The tankers watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
The members of A Company lived through the bombing of Clark Field. During the attack, they could do little since their guns were not made to use against planes. For some reason, not known to the tankers, the Japanese did not attack the tanks. The few planes that did had their bombs land between the tanks.
After the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad and guard them against sabotage. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd which were on their way to the Lingayen Gulf.
On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed 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 were asked to hold the position for six hours but held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
At Gumain River, the night of December 31st to the morning of January 1st, 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. The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three tanks,
On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. The company returned to the command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
On January 28th, the tank battalions 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.
A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese Marines 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 had left 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. 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.
On another occasion the company was in bivouac on two sides of a road. They posted sentries and most of the tankers attempted to get some sleep. The sentries heard a noise down the road and woke the company. Every man grabbed a weapon. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. The tankers opened fire with everything they had. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942, which meant that they only ate two meals a day.
On March 2nd or 3rd, during the Battle of the Points. The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line. The Japanese were soon cut off. When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die." The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks. Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The tankers next opened up the gasoline cocks and dropped hand grenades into the turrets. The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War. The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill which was hard on underfed sick men. They were marched with no sense of direction, without any food, and without any water. Prisoners who tried to get food or water were shot, bayoneted or decapitated. If a prisoner fell out of ranks, he was initially mistreated. Some of these men were beaten the entire length of the march. If the man fell out again, he was shot or bayoneted. As they marched, they saw many bodies of prisoners lying along the sides of the road.
When the prisoners reached Cabcaban Airfield, they saw that the Japanese had set up guns and were shooting at Corregidor. The marchers had to get past the guns which was a dangerous undertaking. It was about this time that the American guns on Corregidor began to pinpoint the location of the Japanese guns. Shells were landing on the road that the POWs were marching on. 1st Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield, A Company, ordered the men to double time it across the area in an attempt to prevent casualties.
The only man to die during this incident was Lt. Bloomfield who had given them the order to double time it across the road. After he had made it to safety, he simply dropped to the ground. The members of A Company guessed that he had died from either heart failure or heat stroke. The POWs were allowed to bury him alongside of the road.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. The POWs walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp. There was one water faucet for the entire camp, and men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day. The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. Often, when they returned to the cemetery the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
To lower the death rate among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new POW camp near Cabanatuan in another Filipino Army base. It is not known if Lewis went directly to the new camp or if he was sent there after a work detail. What is known is that Lewis developed dysentery and was admitted to the camp hospital. The medical staff had no medicines to treat him, even though the Philippine Red Cross had come to the camp with medical supplies for the POWs. The Japanese refused to allow the POWs to receive them.
According to the diary kept by 2nd Lt. Jacques Merrifield, 192nd Tank Battalion, Pfc. Lewis R. Phillips died from dysentery on November 4, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery in Plot 7, Row 0, Grave 707. His parents learned of his death in August 1943.
After the war, the recovery team exhumed the remains in the grave Lewis was buried in with eight other POWs who died on the same date. The remains of two men were identified. It was determined that none of the remaining remains could be positively identified, so Lewis' remains were buried, with the remains of the other seven men, at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot 2, Row 18 Grave 2233. His name appears of the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.