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.  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.  It did not take part in the maneuvers taking place there. 
    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 29 years old or older were released from federal service.  Louie volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to B Company.

    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Fort McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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 Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men 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 the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  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. 

    At Gumain River, 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.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.   The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
    The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over.

    On January 7, 1942, the Battle of Bataan had begun.  The company was assigned to guard a beach which was one of the few points that the Japanese could land troops.  The morning of  February 3rd, the tankers lived through a bombing and strafing by Japanese planes because one member of the company took a pot-shot at a Japanese reconnaissance plane.  Three members of the company were killed during the attack.   
    During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back.  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.
On April 9th, just before 7:00 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 Bolibid 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.  The POWs were treated severely and beaten on a regular basis.  At some point he was returned to Cabanatuan.  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.
    In early October 1944, Louis' 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 POWs remained in the ship's holds until the ship sailed on October 3, 1944, for Hong Kong.  During this portion of the trip, the convoy stopped at several ports in the Philippines.  It also stayed close to the coast in an attempt to avoid submarines.  The ships arrived at Hong Kong on October 11, 1944, and remained in the harbor until October 21st.  During this time, American planes bombed and strafed the harbor.
    The ships sailed again and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 24th.  The POWs remained on the ship until November 8th, when they were disembarked. 
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.  The ship sailed on the 25th and safely made it to Moji, Japan.  When the POWs were disembarked, they formed 100 man detachments and marched to the train depot.   They boarded a train and taken to
Sendai Camp #3 which had been opened for them.  The POWs worked mining lead and zinc.  He remained in the camp until the end of the war.     

    Louie returned to North Carolina andwas discharged on March 16, 1946.  He married Lillian Clanton in 1948 and became the father of a daughter.  He worked as a printer. 
    Louie Webb passed away in Gastonia, North Carolina, on August 19, 1984.


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