Stine

 

Pfc. Ralph Lee Stine


 

    Pfc. Ralph L. Stine was born on July 28, 1921 in Washington County, Kentucky. to Orville and Sadie Dean-Stine, and had seven brothers and one sister.  The family resided on Main Street in Burgin, Kentucky. 

    Ralph joined the Kentucky National Guard on December 5, 1939, in Harrodsburg.  He was working as a farmhand when his tank company was called to federal duty on November 25, 1940.   During the next year, Ralph trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he qualified as a tank driver.  His company was now known as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

   In the late summer of 1941, Ralph took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through 30th, 1941.  Men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  After the maneuvers, he and the rest of his battalion learned they were being sent overseas as part of operation PLUM.   Within hours most had figured out that PLUM was an acronym that stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.

    The decision to send the 192nd overseas -  which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away.  The island had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
    When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore.   Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    Ralph and the other soldiers received furloughs home to say their goodbyes and when they returned to Camp Polk, they loaded their tanks onto flat cars.  The battalion's new tanks were M3s "Stuart" Tanks which came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust.  Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.   
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. 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 transport, S.S. President 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.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. 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 made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
    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 spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  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.
    After arriving in the Philippines, the process was begun to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion, which had left for the Philippines minus one company.  B Company of the battalion was sent to Alaska while the remaining companies of the battalion were sent to the Philippines.  The medical clerk for the192nd spent weeks organizing records to be handed over to the 194th.
    On December 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th, with D Company, was assigned northern part of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern half.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the company was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.  All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.
    At 12:45, two formations totaling 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew tha planes were Japanese.  Being that their tanks could not fight planes, they watched as the Japanese destroyed the American Army Air Corps.
    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, most men 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.
    One of the results of the attack was that transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was never completed.  The company retained its designation of being part of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon and Bataan.

    That night the tanks left Clark Field.  Ralph and other tankers were sent to Maracot.  The tanks were set up along the bank of a river.  During this time, little happened, but the tankers were strafed a few times by Japanese planes.

    One of the results of the attack was that transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was never completed.  The company retained its designation of being part of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon and Bataan.
    The companies were moved again on the 12th to south of San Fernando near the  Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M. 
On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers from Clark Field to do reconnaissance and guard beaches.  The battalion received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts on the 15th.  The carriers were used to test the ground to see if it could support tanks.
    On December 22nd, the companies were operating north of the Agno River and after the main bridge was bombed, on December 24/25, made an end tun to get south of the river and not be trapped by the Japanese.  The tanks held the south bank of the river from west of Carmen to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road with the 192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin).
     Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove.  As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat.  From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units.  The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
    The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose line on December 26th.  When they dropped back from the line, all the platoons withdrew, except one which provided cover, as the other platoons from the area.  One tank went across the line receiving fire and firing on the Japanese.
    At Bayambang, Lt. Petree's platoon lost a tank.  It was at this time that D Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks, except one, because the bridge they were suppose to cross had been destroyed.  The company commander, Lt. Jack Altman, could not bring himself to totally destroy the tanks, and the Japanese repaired them and used them on Bataan.  The sergeant of the one tank, that had not abandoned, found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6th/7th the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.  It was at this time that the tank companies were reduced to three tanks each.  This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as replacements,

    The tankers fell back to the BamBan River and lined up along the bank.  They thought they were safe there.  Other tanks pulled in behind them around midnight.  It was sometime after their arrival that the shooting started.  It was at this time that Lt. Petree, Ralph's platoon commander was wounded.  According to Ralph, he heard Petree moan after getting shot and than Petree was shot a second time.  In an attempt to get Petree to a hospital, Ralph attempted to get his tank around the other tanks.  His tank hit a low spot and ended up on its side.  Ralph managed to get out of the tank and joined the crew of Marcus Lawson.  Lt. Petree died of his wounds several days later.
    It was from this time on that Ralph's tank and the other tankers played hit and run with the Japanese.  They did this until they got to Guagua.  There, they stayed for three days until the Japanese made it so dangerous that they pulled out.  As they left, the town was literally burning down around them.  Shells were landing in the street and bouncing down it.
    At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company and C Company, 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw.  The tank companies formed a defensive line along the 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 tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
    The night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek and entered Bataan.  Afterwards, the 192nd crossed the bridge before it was destroyed by the engineers.  This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.  At this time, the food rations were cut in half.

    On Bataan, Ralph's tank platoon was assigned to beach duty near the 148th kilometer marker.  It was while on this duty that the main defensive line broke.  His tank and the other tanks were sent north in an attempt to plug the hole.  It was during this attempt that his tank was knocked out by enemy fire.
    General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time. "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
     A composite tank company was created on January 8th under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa.  Its job was to keep the north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been formed.  The Japanese never lunched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed.  The tanks withdrew after they began receiving artillery fire.
    The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda Road.  While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month.  The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance.  It was also at this time that tank platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon.  This was done so that D Company, 192nd, would have tanks.
    The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda's forces, which were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw.  Attempting to do this two tanks were knocked out by landmines planted by ordnance, but recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was destroyed.  The mission was abandoned the next day.  Gen. Segunda's forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
    The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st Infantry's command post.  On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry, but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
    The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26th with four self-propelled mounts.  At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that a large Japanese force was coming down the road.  When they appeared the tanks opened up on them. At 10:30, the Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men.  This action prevented the new line of defense from being breached.
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that the Japanese couldn't land troops.  The 194th guarded the coastline from Limay to Cabcaban.  During the day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy.  At bight they were pulled out onto the beaches.  The battalion's half-tracks had the job of patrolling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols.
    For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been fought to a standstill.  On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them.  While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area.  Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point blank range.  He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew's fire.  The Japanese were wiped out.
    Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese lunched a major offensive on April 4th.  The tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance.  On the 6th, four tanks were sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry, Philippine Scouts. One tank was knocked out from anti-tank fire at the junctions of Trails 6 & 8, and the other tanks withdrew.  On April 8th, the 194th was fighting on the East Coast Road at Cabcaban.
    It was at this time that Gen. King knowing that the situation was hopeless sent officers to negotiate.  The tanks were instructed that they would hear the order "bash" on their radios, or that it would be given to them verbally.
    When the order was given, the tankers circled their tanks, fired an armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front, opened up the gasoline cocks in the crew compartment, and drop hand grenades into each tank.

    Since Ralph was in Hospital #2 and did not part in the death march.  Japanese used POWs as a human shield to protect their artillery firing at Corregidor.  The Americans returned fire until Gen. Johnathan Wainwright ordered them to stop since he did not want to kill POWs.
   
On May 19th, his name appeared on a roster of what was called the Cabcaben POW Camp  The roster was a list of POWs being transferred from the hospital to Bilibid Prison.  It is known that Ralph was sent to Cabanatuan in June 1942.  Medical records kept at the camp show he was in the hospital on June 12, 1942. 
    At that time Ralph was tested for tuberculosis.  No date of discharge was given.  It is known that he was later sent out on the Las Pinas Work Detail from December 12, 1942, to September 22, 1944.  The POW built runways with picks and shovels.  Recalling his time as a POW, he said, "I never gave up.  Every time six months would roll around, I'd say, Well, it can't be more than another six months."  Recalling the food as a POW he said, "I'd get sweet potato vines and cut 'em up and eat 'em over my rice, because I k
new they good for me.  Boy, I did everything to stay alive."  When the detail ended, Ralph was sent to Bilibid Prison.  He remained there until he was taken to Pier 7 in Manila on October 1, 1944.

    The POW detachment Ralph was in marched to the Port Area of Manila.  Once there, the POW detachment waited to be boarded onto the Arisan Maru which was not ready to sail.  Another ship, the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail, so the Japanese switched the POW detachments.  Ralph's detachment of POWs were boarded onto the Hokusen Maru on October 1st.  The ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater.  It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy.  The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men.  To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
    As part of a ten ship convoy it sailed again on October 4th and stopped at Cabcaban.  The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts. The ships stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6th, two of the ships were sunk.

    The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for Hong Kong when it was informed American planes were in the area.  The ships changed course during this part of the trip and attempted to reach Hong Kong.  The ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships. 
    The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th.  On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.
    The POWs were in such bad shape that the Japanese took them ashore, on November 8th, and sent them to Inrin Temporary.  The camp was specifically opened for them and they only did light work and grew vegetables to supplement their diets. Many of the men recovered while in the camp.

    On Formosa, he was held as a POW at Toroku Camp.  He remained on Formosa until he was sent to Japan on the Enoshima Maru on January 25, 1945.  The POWs were put in a hold containing hemp, but they quickly discovered that under the hemp were bags of sugar and canned tomatoes.  The POWs helped themselves to the canned tomatoes.  The ship arrived in Japan on January 30th and the POWs disembarked and marched to a schoolhouse.  Arriving there, they were stripped of their clothing since they were infested with lice and deloused.
    Ralph was first held as a POW at an unknown camp near Kobi.  The POWs in the camp worked in a steel mill.  When the camp was bombed out, Ralph was sent to Osaka and Maibara #10-B.  The POWs were used to build canals, drain a lake, work in steel mills, and worked in warehouses.
    During his time in the camp, the treatment of the POWs improved when a new commandant took over the camp.  As the war came closer to ending, the POWs received shoes and Japanese Army uniforms.      One day a British POW entered the camp and told the men that the war was over.  The prisoners decided that they were going to test this information.  The guards were standing nearby, but their guns were leaning against a building.  The POWs rushed the guns and so did the guards.  After a short struggle, the guards let go of the guns and left.  To the POW's this was the first proof that the war was over.  When the Japanese gave the POWs beer, they knew the war was over.  On August 19th, the camp commandant officially told them the war had ended.  When American planes appeared and started to drop them supplies, the prisoners' belief was confirmed.

    Ralph was liberated from this camp in September 10, 1945, and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  He was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. R. L. Howze, which sailed on September 23rd and arrived in San Francisco on October 16th, ten days short of four years since Ralph had left for the Philippines.  In San Francisco, he was held at Letterman General Hospital until he was sent to another hospital closer to Harrodsburg.  For his heroism during the Battle of Bataan, he was awarded three bronze stars.  After returning to Harrodsburg, he married Gladys Buckley and was the father of two sons.  He worked for and retired from Kentucky Utilities

    Ralph L. Stine passed away on March 4, 2003, in rural Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.


 

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