Wilmer

 

Sgt. Ivan O. Wilmer


    Sgt. Ivan O. Wilmer was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on December 5, 1901, to Clara Hubbard and Rudolph Webner.  After Rudolph's death, Clara married Forrest Dexter a newspaper man from Des Moines, Iowa.  This resulted in Ivan being raised at Angel Guardian Orphanage in Chicago.

    Returning to Wisconsin, Ivan would marry and divorced.  He was the father of three sons; Arthur, Billy and Charles, and resided at 935 Fourth Street in Beloit, Wisconsin.  He worked at road maintenance with the Public Works Program.  

    When the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard was called to federal duty in November 1940, Ivan found himself training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, as a member of A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  In January 1941, Ivan was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed with members of the four letter companies of the 192nd.  He was assigned to one of the three tanks of the company.
    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  HQ Company job was to maintain the tanks and to keep them running.  The company itself did not actively take part in the maneuvers.
    After the maneuvers, the battalion received orders to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft, Knox, as they had expected. 
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 married, or 29 years old, or older, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Ivan was given this opportunity but chose to remain with the tank company.  The men were  given leaves home to say goodbye to family and friends.

    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  Since the ships had a two day layover, the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam
but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.     

    Arriving at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water before sailing for Manila.  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 the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but he had only learned of their arrival days earlier.  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.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.  
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield.  All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks' machine guns, were useless against planes.  After the attack, the tankers saw the damage done to the airfield.  They remained at the airfield for a week before being sent north.
    The  battalion was sent to Lingayen Gulf,, on December 21st, were their job was to hold a position until the Filipino and American forces had established another defensive line.  They would then disengage and fall back.
    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 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.           
    Ivan survived the attack on Clark Field on December 8, 1941, and spent the next two months in military engagements with the Japanese.  In early 1942, Ivan was involved in the attempt to dislodge Japanese Marines who had been trapped behind the main line of defense on the Bataan Peninsula.  This action became known as "The Battle of the Pockets" 

    One day during the battle, Ivan found himself in the middle of a low-level Japanese air attack near Bambang, Limay, at KM 144.  To get out of the attack, he attempted to escape by running to his tank.  While he was running, he was struck by shrapnel and badly wounded.  He was taken to  Field Hospital #2 where he died on Tuesday, February 3, 1942, and was buried the cemetery at Cabcaben.  His family learned of his death on February 17, 1942.

    After the war, the remains of Sgt. Ivan O. Wilmer were returned to the United States.  He was buried on October 16, 1948, at the Rock Island National Cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois, in Plot D, Grave 27.



 

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