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, and 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.

    Harley was drafted into the U. S. Army in January 1941, and 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 when he joined the battalion. 

    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 the battalion's equipment.
    Over different train routes, the battalion traveled to San Francisco, California.  Once there, they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island the soldiers received physicals and were inoculated.  Those found to have minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.

   The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii, as part of a three ship convoy that arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th 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 the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload the battalion's tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    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.
    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.  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 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 who remained along the sides of the road for hours.

    The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to outside of Mariveles and walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit.  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.  As he drove away, the 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 without food or water.   Behind the POWs were four Japanese cannons which began firing at Ft. Drum and Corregidor.  These two islands had not surrendered and began returning fire.  The shells landed among the POWs, who had no place to hid, killing some men.  Three of the four Japanese guns were knocked out.

    The POWs were ordered to move again and 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 POW group Harley was with were guarded by Japanese soldiers who did not show pity on the Americans. 
    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 for being sick.

    After the war, the Remains Recovery Team searched the path of the march to recover remains.  It is not known if Harley's remains were recovered.  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.




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