|Pvt. John C. Spencer
| Pvt. John C. Spencer was the son of of
Cecil and Rose Spencer and was born on December 8,
1916, in Zenda Township in Walworth County,
Wisconsin. When John was a child, his family
moved to 385 Western Avenue in Janesville. He
attended grade school, in Janesville, and was a 1935
graduate of Janesville High School. After high
school, he worked as a truck driver for a storage
In late 1940, John knowing that with the start of a draft that it would just be a matter of time before he would be inducted into the army, decided to join the Wisconsin National Guard. He was the third man to join before the 32nd Tank Company was called to federal service on November 25, 1940. The company was now A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 28th, the company boarded a train for Fort Knox, Kentucky.
At Ft. Knox, John trained for nearly a year. 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. He attended radio school and qualified as a tank radio operator.
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 and 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 the late summer of 1941, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through 30th. It was during the maneuvers that John was bitten by a rattlesnake, but he had no bad effects from the bite. It turned out the area that the 192nd had been assigned for its bivouac was infested with snakes. The good things that the battalion learned from the maneuvers were how to load and unload their equipment and how to drive their vehicles over rough terrain. After the maneuvers, he and the other members of his tank battalion learned they were being sent overseas.
went home to Janesville to say goodbye to family and
friend. Afterwards, he returned to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, where the
company traveled by
train to San Francisco,
California, where they were
taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island and received inoculations
and physicals from the
detachment. Those members
of the battalion who were found
to have treatable medical
conditions remained behind on
the island and were scheduled to
rejoin the battalion at a later
date. Some men were simply
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the
perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. Two tank crew
members had to remain with each tank at all
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 planes
took off to intercept any Japanese planes.
Sometime before noon, the planes landed
and were lined up, in a straight line, near the
pilots' 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 had enough time to count 54 planes in formation. As the planes approached the airfield and watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes. When the raindrops began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
the attack, they could do little since their only
their machine guns were of use against the planes.
For some reason, not known to the tankers,
most of the Japanese did not attack the
tanks. Those planes that did dropped their
bombs between the tanks.
the night of
to the morning
1st, the tank
south bank of
were easy to
see since they
to use smoke
to cover their
the wind blew
the smoke into
On January 1st, the tanks of the
194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon
hold the main
Route 5 to
chief of staff
On February 3, 1942, during the Battle of
the Pockets, as a member of S/Sgt.
William McAuliffe's crew, John was involved
in an attempt to recover a disabled
tank. During the recovery attempt, his
tank hit a landmine which resulted in S/Sgt.
McAuliffe being wounded, but John was not
On July 17,
1944, the POWs were boarded onto the Nissyo
Maru at 8:00 in the morning. The
ship sailed but dropped anchor with the Manila
breakwater and sat waiting for a convoy to
form. The ship sailed on July 23rd, at
8:00 AM, but again it dropped anchor at 2:00
P.M. This time off Corregidor. On
July 24th, the ship sailed again as part of a
convoy came under attack, at 3:00 A.M., from an
Wolf Pack composed of the submarines; the U.S.S.
Crevale, the U.S.S. Angler, and
the U.S.S. Flasher. Several
ships in the convoy were sunk.
During the voyage, the prisoners heard a "bang"
under the ship. They assumed that it was a
torpedo from an American submarine.
Another ship, the Hakusan Maru, was hit
by torpedoes resulting in the deaths of almost
one point, John managed to climb out of the hold
of the ship, when he reached the ship's deck, he
was beaten with a hose until he climbed back
down the ladder into the hold.
The main food for the POWs in the camp was barley. At one point, John somehow got two fried clams which were a feast to him. As a POW, John's weight dropped from 170 pounds to 90 pounds.
John recalled that the Japanese could not understand how the Americans could find anything to laugh about. Although they tolerated the POWs laughing, the guards would not allow them to sing or whistle. In his opinion, this was because the Japanese believed that the prisoners should act like they were defeated.
A work day for the POWs started at 4:30 in the morning, and the men would walk four or five miles to the mine, where they worked until 2:30 in the afternoon. Then, they returned to the camp. He recalled that the POWs were expected to work the entire time that they were in the mine. If they caught a POW taking a break or having a cigarette, the guards would beat them.
It appears that sometime
during his captivity, in
Japan, that John was
The POWs in this camp
worked in a copper mine
remained in the camp
until he was liberated
1945. He recalled
that when the B-29's
began dropping food to
them, they had so much
food that they shared it
with Chinese POWs in a
nearby camp. The
POWs were officially
liberated on September
7, 1945, and taken to
Yokohama and returned to
John was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with four battle stars, American Defense Presidential Unit citation with two oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart, and nominated for the Silver Star.
John Spencer passed away on August 30, 1973, in Newhall, California, and was buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, California.