Webb_L

 


Pvt. Louie Lee Webb


 

    Pvt. Louie Webb was born on May 17, 1923, in North Carolina to Lee Roy Webb & Bennie Mae Cashion-Webb.  With his three brothers, he grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina.   After completing two years of high school, he went to work.
    On November 8, 1940, he joined the U.S. Army and did his basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  After completing basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, but did not take part in the maneuvers taking place there.  It is known that in September 1941, he had a two week furlough home to see his family.
    While Louie was there, the 192nd Tank Battalion - which had taken part in the maneuvers - received orders to go overseas.  The battalion was made up mainly of National Guardsmen, so those men, 29 years old or older, were released from federal service.  Louie volunteered, or had his name drawn, to join the battalion and was assigned to B Company as a cook.
    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.
    The companies traveled west over different train routes to San Francisco, California, where, they were taken by ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Fort McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  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.   The ship 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, another transport, 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.
   At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized 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 that 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.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against enemy paratroopers.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew had to remain with them at all times. 
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field and ordered back to their tanks and half-tracks.  At 8:30 A.M., the Army Air Corps took off and filled the sky with American planes.   At noon the planes landed and were parked in a straight line outside the mess hall.   About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
   
    The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line. 

    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, where the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed.  The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but 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.   

    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On December 31st/January 1st,  the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge.  The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew.  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. 

    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver:  "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."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    The tank battalions, on January 28th, 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, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over the area.
    In February, the battalion took part in the Battle of the Pockets and sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than were trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back.  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 exited the pocket.  According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.  When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.  The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
  It was also at this time that Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.  Wainwright declined to do this.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  The number of operational tanks also became more critical with C Company, 194th - which was attached to the 192nd - having only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.

    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd and broke through the main defensive line.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
   It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile.  Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.  At 11:40, the ammunition dumps were blown up.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."     
   
On April 9th, just before 6:45 A.M., after receiving word that the forces on Bataan would be surrendered, Sgt. Zenon Bardowski led his tanks to the coast of Bataan in an attempt to escape to Corregidor.  When he was told that there was no room for him or his men, on the barge, Bardowski re-positioned his Tommy-gun to make it understood that he intended to make the trip.  They were allowed on the barge.
    It is not known what unit Louie was assigned to on Corregidor, but on May 6th, when the Japanese launched an all out attack on the island, the first tank to land was one of the tanks Louie's tank platoon had left on the beach.  The tankers had failed to disable the tanks.

    After the Americans surrendered, they remained on Corregidor for two weeks.  They were than taken by barge a few hundred yards from the coast of Luzon.   At that point, they were ordered to jump into the water ans swim to shore.  Once on shore, they were taken to a pier and used as laborers to repair it.  
    The men were then organized into detachments of 100 POWs.  They were ordered to march.  Having heard the stories of the march out of Bataan from men who had escaped from it, they feared they would be treated the same way.  To their surprise, they were treated very well.  They marched down Dewey Boulevard to Bilibid Prison.  After a short stay, they were taken to Cabanatuan by truck.
    Louie was selected to go out on a work detail to Las Pinas on December 12, 1942.  The POWs built runways with picks and shovels.  At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men and than exercises.  After this came breakfast, which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M. 
    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
   Those men who became ill on the detail were sent to Bilibid.  At some point Louie was returned to Cabanatuan, where the medical records from the camp show that he was hospitalized in the camp's hospital on April 1, 1943.  Why he was hospitalized and when he was released were not recorded, but it is known that he had beriberi while a POW.  It was also at this time that his parents received a POW card.  On it he told them to continue to making sure the "allotment" was taken care of which he had arranged with them before going overseas.  Each month, his parents took $25.00 of his pay and used it to buy a war bond.
    In early October 1944, Louie's name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan.  The POWs rode the train to Manila and march to the Port Area of Manila.  There, they went to Pier 7.
    The POWs were scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru.  While the POWs were on the dock waiting to board their ship, the Hokusen Maru became ready to sail.  Since the entire POW detachment assigned to the ship had not arrived, the Japanese put Louie's POW detachment on the ship on October 1st.  The Arisan Maru, Louie's original ship, was later sunk by an American submarine on its way to Hong Kong.  Only nine POWs of 1803 on the ship survived the sinking.   

    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.  During this part of the trip, 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 Japanese decided that the surviving POWs on the ship were too ill to continue the voyage to Japan, so they were disembarked on November 8th.  Louie was taken to Inrin Temprary Camp which had been opened for them.  The POWs were given light work to do.
    In January 1945, the POWs were sent by train to Takao and boarded onto the Enoshima Maru and put in a hold with hemp as it cargo.  The POWs soon discovered that under the hemp were sacks of sugar and skids with canned tomatoes, so they helped themselves to the canned tomatoes.  The ship sailed on the 25th and safely made it to Moji, Japan, on the 30th.  When the POWs were disembarked, they were marched to a schoolhouse, but were not allowed to enter.  The Japanese made them strip of their clothes in the cold since they were infested with lice and sprayed them.  The next day, they formed 100 man detachments and marched to the train depot, where they boarded a train and taken to
Sendai Camp #3 which had been opened for them.  The POWs worked in lead and zinc mines.  He remained in the camp until the end of the war.

    Of his time in the camp, he said, "Cold? It was bitter cold.  We nearly froze to death."  When asked about heating facilities, he held out his two hands and said that was how much coal the POWs received once a day for two small stoves for 150 men.  "Most of the time however, we could smuggle coal in from the mines in our pockets and stored away in our clothing.  Of course we slept with all our clothes on."

    Louie returned to the Philippines for medical treatment and promoted to sergeant.  Boarding the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman, for San Francisco, arriving there on October 16, 1945.  During his time in San Francisco, he received treatment at Letterman General Hospital.  Of his return home, "They gave us a glorious welcome at San Francisco, and you do not know what it meant setting foot on U.S. soil again.   We had to wait a week or so at San Francisco until transportation was arranged.  Lt. Woodside, of Charlotte, was on the same train as me, and we talked a long while together on our trip across the continent." 
   After giving a newspaper interview at his parents' home, he suffered an attack of kidney cholic and was taken by military ambulance to Camp Croft, South Carolina, hospital.  He was discharged on March 16, 1946, married Lillian Clanton in 1948, and became the father of a daughter.  He worked as a printer to support his family. 
    Louie Webb passed away in Gastonia, North Carolina, on August 19, 1984.  The photo at the top of this page was taken after the war.


 

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