Smith_Emerson

 


Sgt. Emerson P. Smith


    Sgt. Emerson P. Smith was born in 1919 the younger son of Samuel & Nellie Smith.  With his brother, he resided on State Route 260 in Ludlow Township, Washington County, Ohio.  He was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 21, 1941 at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio.  From Ft. Hayes, he was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, where he joined the 192nd Tank Battalion.  

    The reason Emerson was assigned to C Company was because the company had originated as an Ohio National Guard Tank Company. To fill out the company's roster, the army attempted to fill the roster with men from the home state the company.

    In October of 1941, the battalion members were informed they were being sent overseas.  Most of the men received ten day leaves to say goodbye to their families and friends.

    Over different train routes that companies of the battalion made their way to San Francisco, California.  Also arriving with them were their "new" M3 Tanks.  Once in San Francisco, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island.  There they received physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands. 
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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.  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. 
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7.  After several hours the soldiers disembarked and most and the were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The maintenance crews remained behind to unload the tanks from the ship.
    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. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
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.

    The tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field on December 1st.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times.  On December 8, 1941, Emerson and the rest of C Company heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the use of paratroopers by the Japanese.

    While having lunch, the tankers noticed planes approaching Clark Field.  At first, the thought they were American, but when the bombs began to explode around them, they knew the planes were Japanese.

    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.  They successfully crossed at 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 held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cebu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Santa Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.            
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
  
  On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.       
    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
    By the afternoon, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in a rice field on the north end of the barrio. 
One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.  Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.       
    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.          
    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

   
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan. 

    It was at the Battle of Anyasan Point that the tanks of three of the letter companies of the 192nd were assigned the duty of helping the Filipino army wipe-out the Japanese Marines who had landed behind the main line of defense on Bataan.

    During this engagement Emerson's tank was disabled when it hit a landmine causing the tank to throw a track.  Pvt. Robert Young, Pvt. Vernor Deck, Pvt. Sydney Rattner and Emerson were trapped inside their tank.  A number of attempts to rescue the crew failed.  

    There are two stories as to what happened next.  In the first story, the crew members, realizing that the tank could not be moved, attempted to evacuate the tank.  As they were climbing out of the tank, the Japanese threw grenades into the tank killing them.

    The real story is that even though their tank was disabled, the crew members refused to surrender.  The Japanese decided to use the tank as a bunker and began digging the earth out from underneath it.  As they dug, the Japanese began filling the tank with dirt by pouring it into the viewing slits as they were digging out from under the tank.  The four tank crew members suffocated in the tank.

    The tank was later recovered and turned over to empty the dirt out of it.  Upon doing this, the bodies of the tank crew members were recovered and buried.

    Sgt. Emerson P. Smith died when he suffocated inside his tank on Monday, February 2, 1942, near Agaloma.  After the war, his remains were reburied at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

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