Pfc. Robert Lee Young
Pfc. Robert L. Young was born on November 30, 1914, to Thomas L. & Helen Young and grew up in Reading, Ohio, and on East South Street in Somerset, Ohio. After high school, he attended Findley College for three years and played basketball. He went to work with the Civilian Conservation Corps and Caterpillar tractor.
In February 5, 1941, Robert was inducted into the U. S. Army in Cleveland, Ohio. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he joined C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion to bring the company up to full strength. At the time, the army attempted to use men from the home states of each company. Since C Company originated as a Ohio National Guard Tank Company, men from Ohio were put into it. After training as a tank driver at Ft. Knox, he went on maneuvers with the battalion in Louisiana.
maneuvers on the side of a hill, Robert and the
rest of the battalion learned that they were being
sent overseas. Some men were released from
service due to their age, while others received
On December 8, 1941, Robert and the rest of C Company heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the use of paratroopers by the Japanese.
While having lunch, the tankers noticed planes approaching Clark Field. At first, the thought they were American, but when the bombs began to explode around them, they knew the planes were Japanese.
Robert was involved in numerous engagements against the Japanese. During one engagement, C Company successfully destroyed a platoon of Japanese tanks.
It was at the Battle of Anyasan Point, the tanks of three of the letter companies of the 192nd were assigned the duty of helping the Filipino army wipe out the Japanese Marines. The Japanese had launched an attack while the Filipinos and Americans were forming a new defensive line. The defenders were able to stop them resulting with troops being cutoff, in pockets, behind the American lines.
The tanks were used because the Japanese had dug in extremely well and could not be dislodged. Two methods were used to dislodge the Japanese.
One method had a tank carrying three soldiers on its back. Each soldier had a sack of hand grenades. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the soldiers each dropped a hand grenade into the foxholes. Since the hand grenades were from World War I, one out of three usually exploded.
The second method used to wipe out the Japanese was to have a tank park over a foxhole with one track directly over the foxhole. The driver would spin the tank in a circle, on one track, causing the tank to grind itself into the ground. At night, the tankers slept up wind from the tanks so they did not smell the rotting flesh in the tracks.
During this engagement Robert's tank was disabled when it hit a landmine causing the tank to throw a track. Sgt. Emerson Smith, Pvt. Sidney Rattner, Pvt. Vernon Deck and Robert were trapped inside their tank. A number of attempts to rescue the crew failed. According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, if the tank track was intact, they would have been able to escape.
There are two stories as to what happened next. In the first, the realizing that the tank could not be moved, the four crew members attempted to evacuate the tank. As they were climbing out of their tank, the Japanese threw grenades into the tank killing the crew.
The second story is that after the tank was disabled, the crew refused to surrender, so the Japanese began filling the tank with dirt they were digging out from under the tank to make foxholes. The Japanese planned to use the tank as cover. The three soldiers suffocated in the tank as it was filled with dirt.
This is the story that appears to be true. The tank was later recovered and turned over to empty the dirt out of it. Upon doing this, the bodies of the tank crew members were recovered and buried.
Pfc. Robert L. Young died when he suffocated inside his tank on Monday, February 2, 1942, near Agaloma. This date of death is given on the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion. Robert's headstone shows that he died on February 8th.
After the war, Robert's remains were returned to Somerset, Ohio, on October 12, 1948. He was buried on October 17, 1948, at Somerset Methodist Cemetery in Somerset.