Pfc. Harley G. Reeves
Pfc. Harley G. Reeves was
born in June 1918 to Ellen M. Brooks-Reeves &
Elmer H. Reeves. His parents divorced and
his father remarried. He grew up at 551
Brehl Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, with his brother,
two sisters, half-brother, and two
half-sisters. He attended Central High
School, and after graduating, he worked at
Universal Pipe and Concrete Company.
He was drafted into the U. S. Army in January, 1941. He did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It is not known if he joined the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox, or if he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, as a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion. What is known is that he was assigned to Headquarters Company.
After taking part in the maneuvers in Louisiana in late 1941, the 192nd learned they were being sent overseas. Harley received a furlough home on which he said goodbye to his fiancÚ Dorothy Von Wille. It appears that during his leave he married Dorothy. Harley returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana to pack equipment and travel by train to California.
Harley sailed for the Philippine Islands after a
stay on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
He and the other members of the battalion
received the necessary inoculations during their
stay on the island.
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The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Fred Bruni informed his men of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield, but HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac. At 12:45 in the afternoon, he lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.
For the next four months Harley and the other members of HQ worked to supply the tank companies in the fight against the Japanese. Being assigned to HQ meant that he never saw front-line action, but he did live with the constant strafing and bombing by Japanese planes.
When the Filipino-American forces in the Philippine Islands were surrendered, Harley became a Prisoner of War. The morning of April 9, 1942, 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. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Harley was now a Prisoner of War.
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. A Japanese officer ordered Harley and the rest of his 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.
Harley and his 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, Harley's group of POWs was 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.
They were ordered to march. At one point they were halted and allowed to rest. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which were 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. Harley and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the Bataan Death March. During the march, he received no water and little food.
The group Harley was with were guarded by Japanese soldiers who did not show pity on the American prisoners. According to U.S. Army records, on Monday, April 12, 1942, while on the march, near Balanga, Pfc. Harley G. Reeves is reported to have died of dysentery. 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield diary, which he kept while a POW, has Harley's date of death as April 16, 1942. Regardless of which date he may have died, he most likely was executed by a Japanese guard.
Since his final resting place is unknown, Pfc. Harley G. Reeves' name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.