Widener

 


Pvt. Glenn E. Widener


    Pvt. Glenn E. Widener was born in October 1916 in Barnitz Township, Custer County, Oklahoma, to Charles Widener & Matilda M. James-Widener.  He had six sisters, four brothers, one half-brother, and lived on the family farm.  He attended school in Fairview, Oklahoma.  His father died in 1923, and his mother remarried and divorced.  Glenn moved to Clinton, Oklahoma, to work.
    Glenn was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  His exact job training is not known at this time.  Upon completing basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he became a member of A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion.  The 753rd Tank Battalion had been sent to Camp Polk from Fort Benning, Georgia.  When it arrived, maneuvers were taking place, but the battalion did not take part in them.  

    The 192nd Tank Battalion, was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from September 1st through 30th
, and performed exceptionally well.  After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.
    On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas.  They were told that this decision had been made by General George S. Patton.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  It was at that time that Glenn either volunteered or had his name drawn to join the 192nd.  He was reassigned to A Company.
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and 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.  Other 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.
During this p    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 Colonel Edward P. 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 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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two crew members remained with each tank or half-track at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  The crews were brought up to full strength around the perimeter of the airfield.  At 8:30 A.M., American planes took off to intercept any Japanese planes and filled the sky.  Sometime before noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and were lined up, in a straight line, near the pilots' mess hall.  The pilots went to lunch.
    During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat.  The tankers saw planes approaching the airfield from the north and counted 54 planes in formation.  As they 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.  
    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 slept under their tanks or half-tracks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one half years.  Those men not assigned to tanks or half-tracks slept in a dried latrine for safety.
    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would be close to a highway and railroad to protect 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 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.        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.  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.  The company returned to the command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
    While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops.  The morning of January 27th, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it.  That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn.  While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.  
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the duty of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coastline 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.

    On March 2nd or 3rd, during "The Battle of the Points," the tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line and were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another isolated pocket.
  The Japanese who were not killed were driven back into the sea.
    The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat.  The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten.  They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.   
    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.    
    The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks.  Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets.  The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
   
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles.  The first five miles of the march were uphill.  At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor.  They received little water and little food.  When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen.  In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom.  The surface of the trench was alive with maggots.  How long they remained in the bull pen is not known. 
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks.  They were marched to the train station and packed into small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese  packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall.  At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
   
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp and men literally died for a drink.  The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day.  The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead.  Often, when they returned to the cemetery the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
    To lower the death rate among the POWs the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan. 
Glenn being a sicker POWs remained behind at Camp O'Donnell.  According to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion written by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield of the battalion, Pvt. Glenn E. Widener died of dysentery at Camp O'Donnell on Thursday, June 18, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery in Section N, Row 7, Grave 2. 
    After the war, the remains of Pvt. Glenn E. Widener were positively identified and were reburied in Plot N, Row 5, Grave 71, at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila.  His parents also had a memorial headstone placed at Prairie Bell Cemetery in Dewey County, Oklahoma, in his memory. 


 

 

 

Return to A Company

Next