Capt. Walter Henry Write
| Capt. Walter H.
Write was born February 24, 1904, in Highbridge,
Wisconsin. He was the son of Charles &
Lottie Write, and grew up in Highbridge and attended
school there. During the 1910s, his family moved
to Beloit. He moved to Janesville and
married Jessie Rose Damrow on January 4, 1928.
They were the parents of two children, Janice and
Lloyd and lived at 535 North Walnut Street in
Janesville. For a living, Walter worked in a
feed store and sold animal feed to farmers.
After working in two other feed stores, he and a
partner opened their own feed store in Janesville.
Write enlisted in the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard on May 27, 1926. By March of the following year, he had been promoted to corporal. On February 21, 1928, he was promoted to sergeant. He rose to the rank of second lieutenant when he was commissioned an officer on June 19, 1934. On June 15, 1938, he was promoted to first lieutenant.
In 1939, Write was selected by the tank company to attend tank training school at Fort Benning, Georgia. He temporarily assumed command of the tank company on September 21, 1940, when its commanding officer was transferred to another unit. On November 2, 1940, he was promoted to captain, and appointed commander of the tank company. Later that month, on November 25, 1940, the tank company was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for a year of federal service as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
At Ft. Knox, Capt. Write was transferred to another company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. This was done so that he could help reorganize the company. He returned to A Company when the job was completed.
After almost a year of training at Ft. Knox, the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent on maneuvers in Louisiana. The members of the battalion had no idea that they had already been selected for training overseas. Upon hearing the news that the 192nd was going overseas, the men deemed to be "too old" were given the opportunity to be released from federal duty. Capt. Beacon Moore, commanding officer of the battalion, was one of those men released. Since Capt. Write had seniority, he was offered the command of the battalion, but he turned the command down so that he could stay with A Company.
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 Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Men were given leaves home to say goodbye to family and friends.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco. By ferry, they were taken 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. They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S 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 November 5th, 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. In October of 1941, Capt. Write and his company sailed for the Philippine Islands from San Francisco Bay.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Write heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and informed his men. To an extent, the news of the war was no surprise to the men. Days earlier they had been ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field. With the other companies of the battalion, they were to guard the airfield against Japanese paratroopers.
Sensing that an attack would come around noon, Capt. Write ordered his men to eat lunch early. They were with their tanks when the first Japanese planes appeared above Clark Field. The tankers were frustrated because there was very little they could do against the bombers with their weapons. After the attack, Write received orders to take his company to the barrio of Dau near a highway and railroad.
Around the middle of December, A Company was ordered north to Lingayen Gulf to engage the Japanese who were landing troops there. Capt. Write asked Dr. Alvin Poweleit to take care of his personal possessions. The reason he did this is that he had a feeling he was going to be killed.
On December 15th, Write sent a telegram home to his wife. He told her that all the men under his command were fine, except for Lt. Bartz, who was in the hospital after being wounded. This was the first news the people of Janesville had heard about their sons since the war had begun. Write would send several more messages home.
At Lingayen Gulf there was a narrow path leading from the gulf. The Japanese were expected to use this path to move troops south. The decision was made to use landmines against the Japanese to slow their advance.
Philippine Ordnance had put together some homemade landmines made of twelve sticks of dynamite wired together with a fuse to ignite it. The mines were delivered to A Company, near Urdanta, around December 23rd or 24th. Sgt. Owen Sandmire and another soldier were going to place the mines. None of the soldiers had been trained in placing landmines. Capt. Write went up to the men and told them, "Sergeant, get the men back. This mine doesn't look right and may go off." A short time later, one of the mines went off as he was placing it. The explosion blew off his arms, one of his legs, and blinded him.
Capt. Write was driven to an aid station, on the back of a tank, where he gave orders to his company to pull out at a given time. According to Jack Reed, of HQ Company, Write said to his men, "Be careful fellows. There isn't a damn thing out there worth giving up your life for." Write died of his wounds soon after Jack saw him.
The medics knew there was nothing they could do for Write, so they attempted to keep him comfortable. He also asked that when he died that red roses be placed on his grave. According to other members of the 192nd, his last words were, "You fellows take care of yourselves. And watch these little bastards, because there are a lot of them." Write died right after saying this. Since no roses could be found, Carl Nickols put native red flower on his grave.
Capt. Walter H. Write was the first U. S. Army Tank Officer to be Killed in Action. He died on Wednesday, December 24, 1941. For the members of A Company, his death made it a Black Christmas. The morale of the company was never the same after his death.
Since Capt. Walter H. Write's final resting place is unknown, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.