Steen

 

Tec 5 Arnold M. Steen
    T/5 Arnold M. Steen was born in Wisconsin on October 18, 1918.  He was the son of Hans A. Steen and Amelia R. Hill-Steen.  He had three sisters and one brother. and the family lived at 103 North Washington Street in Janesville, Wisconsin.  He worked as a truck driver for a wholesale company. 
    On November 25, 1940, his National Guard tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  They arrived at Ft. Knox on November 28th.  During his training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Arnold attended cook's school and was assigned to A Company as its second cook.
    Arnold took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through the 30th.  It was after these maneuvers, that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, they learned that they were being sent overseas.  He was given a furlough home would married, Mary, before going overseas and his wife resided at 103 North Washington Street in Janesville.
    The other members of the company rode a train to San Francisco, California,  where they were ferried to Ft. MacDowell on Angel Island and received physicals and shots from the battalion's medical detachment. Those who had treatable medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion in the Philippines.  Some men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed 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. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  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 shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and 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 entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
Dur    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date 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 as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  At all times, two tank crew members remained with their tanks and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, Arnold and the other soldiers were called together by Capt. Walter Write the company commander.  He informed his men of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ten hours earlier.  He then ordered his tank crews to secure part of the perimeter of the airfield.
    American planes took off at 8:30 A.M. and patrolled the sky looking for Japanese planes.  At noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and were parked, in a straight line, outside the pilots mess hall, while the pilots ate lunch.
    Around 12:45 in the afternoon, while Arnold was serving lunch to the tank crews from a food truck, Japanese planes appeared over the field.  Being a cook, Arnold could do little more than take cover and watch as the Japanese destroyed the American Army Air Corps.  For whatever reason, most of the planes did not go after the tanks.  The few that did had their bombs land between the tanks.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, the tankers lived through several more air raids.  Most slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one half years.    
    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would be close to a highway and railroad.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River. 
    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 held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.

   
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.
    The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to a line from on the night of December 27th and 28th.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.   
    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.
    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 the 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.
    During all these engagements, it was Arnold's job to get food to the tankers.  This often resulted in him and the other cooks guessing on where the tanks where based on what information they had.  When he went looking for the tanks, he was often in a situation where he was driving into an area held by enemy troops. 

    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.
    For the next four months, Arnold and the other cooks for the battalion did their best to feed the soldiers.  This became more difficult as the food supply dwindled.  As the Americans and Filipinos fell back toward Bataan, food became scarce and rations were cut to one third of what a soldier needed to fight.  In an attempt to give his company adequate food, Arnold served horse meat, snake and monkey to the men.
    On one occasion, Arnold and the other cooks got their hands on beans.  They sent out a radio message to the tanks that they had food for them.  The problem was that message was heard by anyone in the area.  By the time the tankers arrived, the officers who had heard the message had eaten most of the food.
    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.   Both, of the pockets, were wiped out.
    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an 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 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.
    The morning of April 9, 1942, Arnold and the other men learned of the surrender of Bataan to the Japanese from Capt. Fred Bruni.  Arnold with most the other members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  It was from there that he began what became known as the death march.
    As a Prisoner of War, Arnold was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  It is not known if he went out on any work details to escape the conditions in the camps.  What is known is that T/5 Arnold M. Steen died of malaria, at 2:00 A.M. on Sunday, June 21, 1942, at Cabanatuan POW Camp, Philippine Islands.  Official word of his death was not received by his parents until November 3, 1945.  In the letter it said:

    "I am writing you relative to my previous letter in which you were regrettably informed that a finding death was made in the case of your son .  Technician Fifth Grade Arnold M. Steen, 20645277, Infantry, and that the presumptive date of death had been established at 1 July 1944.
    An official report has now been received that he died in the Philippine Islands on 21 June 1942, while a prisoner of war of the Japanese government at Cabanatuan Prison Camp, as a result of malaria.
    My continued sympathy is with you in the great loss you have sustained.

                                                                                                         General Edward F. Witsell
                                                                                               Acting Adjutant General of the Army"


    After the war, the remains of T/5 Arnold M. Steen could not he positively identified, so he was buried at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila as an unknown.  Since his final resting place is unknown, T/5 Arnold M. Steen's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.  His family also had a memorial dedicated to him at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville.  


 

 

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