Wasson

 

Tec 5 DeWayne ElRoy Wasson


    T/5 DeWayne E. Wasson was the son of Harry A. Wasson & Gertrude Cutts-Wasson.  He was born on April 4, 1919, and grew up at 539 North Terrace Street in Janesville, Wisconsin.  He attended Janesville schools and was a member of the Janesville High School graduating class of 1937.  He worked as a waiter at a restaurant.  He was called Wayne by his family and friends.
    In August, 1939, Wayne joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville.  When the company was called to federal service in the fall of 1940, as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, DeWayne traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of military service.
    During the training at Ft. Knox, Wayne attended cooks and bakers school.  It was because of his training that he assumed the position of first cook for A Company.
    In September, Wayne with the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion gathered at Camp Polk and learned that  were being sent overseas not released from federal service.
       The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. 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 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward 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 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.
   

  

    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  They remained there off and on for several days.  At all times, two crew members remained with the tanks. 

    Ten hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked, on December 8th in the Philippines, Wayne lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  As tankers sat at their tanks, the sky above them was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and two crew members were allowed to go to a food truck to get lunch.
    The tankers who manning their tanks watched as two formations of planes approached the airfield from the north.  They counted the formations were made up of 54 planes.  Many believed the planes were American until they saw what looked like raindrops falling from the planes.  When the raindrops began exploding on the runways, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.

    Sometime after the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau 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.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position. 
    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that 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. 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.

     Sometime in January 1942, Wayne was wounded.  Since the American had no real air force, it was probably while being strafed by Japanese planes that were chasing his truck.  He remained in the hospital for the next two months.
 After being released from the hospital, Wayne's job was to feed the tank crews.  As food grew scarce, this became more difficult.

    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.
    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.
      
    On April 9, 1942, Wayne became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  He took part in the death march from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  The tankers made their way north toward San Fernanado.  At one point, they had to run past Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor.  The Americans on the island returned fire.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pin.  The concrete floor was covered with human waste.  In one corner was a trench that the POWs were to use as a latrine.  Its surface moved from the maggots on it.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns of 100 POWs.  They were marched to the train station and packed into small wooden boxcars known as "forty or eights."  The name referred to the fact that each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and shut the doors.

    With the Filipino sun beating down on the roofs of the boxcars, the journey by train was unbearable.  The prisoners were packed in so tightly that when a man died, he could not fall down.  There were no provisions for water or toilets, so the floors of the boxcars became a sea of diarrhea, vomit and urine.  The prisoners disembarked from the train at Capas.  When they exited the cars, the dead fell to the floors.  They marched the final few miles to Camp O'Donnell.and was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base pressed  into service as a POW camp.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink while standing in line.  Disease ran wild in the camp since thre was little medicine to treat the ill.  The burial detail had a difficult time keeping up the job of burying the dead.  Wayne was put into the camp hospital on June 11th and remained there until July 4th.  When he was released, he was sent to Cabanatuan.
    The Japanese opened a new camp near Cabanatuan in an attempt to lower the death rate among the POWs.  Since the meals given to the prisoners were not adequate and there was no medicine, the POWs suffered from various diseases.  It is known that in shortly after arriving in the camp, Wayne was admitted to the camp hospital suffering from dysentery and inanition.  The hospital was known as "Zero Ward" since most of the sick who entered it did not leave alive.  He was assigned to Barracks 2.
    T/5 DeWayne E. Wasson died on Thursday, July 9, 1942, of dysentery, malaria, and inanition at 7:00 in the morning.   He was 23 years old.  After the war, the Remains Recovery Team did not positively identify the remains of T/5 Dewayne E. Wasson, so they were buried in a grave as an unknown.  Most likely with those of other unidentified POWs.


 

 

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