Weech

 


Pvt. Miles Elmer Weech


    Pvt. Miles E. Weech was born on July 5, 1915, in Hagerman, Idaho, to Joseph W. Weech  & Hester J. Miller-Weech.  He had five brothers and two sisters, but two of his brothers died as children, and bis mother died during the 1930s. 
    Miles was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 19, 1941, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  During his training he was sent tank school and qualified to be a tank crew member.  His specific job is not known.
    After basic training, Miles was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion.  The 753rd had been sent to Camp Polk from Fort Benning, Georgia, but did not take part in the maneuvers which were taking place in Louisiana.
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk instead of being returning to Ft. Knox.  The members of the battalion had no idea why they were being kept at the base.  They were finally informed that General George S. Patton had selected them for overseas duty.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal duty.  Replacements were taken from the 753rd Tank Battalion, and one of those replacements was Miles.  It is not known if he volunteered to join the battalion or if his name was pulled from a hat.  He was assigned to A Company.
    The company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals from the battalion's medical detachment.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island 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 KPThe 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. 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.      
    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.
    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 Field.  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. 
     On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  The tankers manned their tanks around the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat.  While guarding his half-track, Abel heard the sound of planes approaching Clark Field.  As he and the other men watched the sky, they felt good about the planes in the sky and the protection they were providing them.  It was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling did they realize that the planes were Japanese. 
    During the attack, the only weapons the tankers had that could be used against the planes were the .50 caliber machine guns on the tanks' turrets.  What amazed the tankers is that most of the planes did not attack them.  The few that did dropped their bombs 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.
    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would be close to a highway and railroad  and guard them against sabotage.  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.

    The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line 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.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  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.
    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    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.    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
    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.  It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.  After this the company returned to the command of the 192nd.
    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 troops 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 the tank, which had been relieved, 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. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations. 

    According to Able Ortega, a member of Miles' tank crew, on February 3, 1942, during the Battle of Anyasan Point, their tank had been disabled by enemy fire.  The tank crew was abandoning the tank.  Miles had just climbed out of the tank when he was shot in the stomach by a sniper.  Neil McCage - another member of the tank crew and a good friend of Miles - crabbed a Tommy-gun, aimed it at a tree, and fired at the trunk.  As he fired, he moved up the truck until he hit the tree's canopy.  The sniper fell and hung from the tree by the rope tied to his leg. 
    Miles was taken by his tank crew to Hospital #1 at Little Baguio.  According to U.S. Army records,  Pvt. Miles E. Weech died from his wounds on February 6, 1942, at Hospital #1, Little Baguio.  He was buried at Cabcaben Army Air Field, Cabcaban, Philippine Islands, in Plot B, Row 1, Grave 10.  
   
In the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion prepared by 1st Lt Jacques Merrifield of the 192nd.  Miles Weech's date of death is given as February 5, 1942, which was confirmed by the journal kept by Captain Fred Bruni of the 192nd.  His family learned of his death on February 24, 1942.
    After the war, the U.S. Army Remains Recovery team exhumed Miles' remains from the grave in 1946.  For whatever reason, the team stated the remains could not be positively identified.  Miles Weech was buried as an "Unknown" most likely at the Punch Bowl in Hawaii.  His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.  His family had a headstone placed at the Hagerman Cemetery in Hagerman, Idaho.


 

 





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