S/Sgt. Donald McDonald Barden
S/Sgt Donald M. Barden was born in 1920 in Richland County, South
Carolina, to Clementina McDonald-Barden. Later, his mother married John A. Lemmons, which made him the
brother of three sisters, a step-sister, and a step-brother. He later resided in Richmond County, Georgia,
and worked in a shoe store.
On July 24, 1940, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. He did his basic training at Ft. Benning, but it is not known what tank school he attended. After completion of basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
In the late summer of 1941, the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place. After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to Camp Polk where it learned that it was being sent overseas. Since the battalion was made up of National Guard units, the members of the battalion 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service. Replacements for these men were sought from the 753rd. Donald volunteered, or had his name drawn, and was assigned to D Company.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived in San Francisco, California, were they taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they were inoculated and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment. Any man who needed some sort of minor medical treatment was held back 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. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. 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 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, 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 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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 with members of 17th Ordnance.
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. It was also at this time that the process was begun, but never finished, to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1, the tanks and half tracks were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield were the 194th was given the job or guarding the northern half of the airfield with the 192nd guarding the southern half. At all times, two members of each tank or half track crew remained with their vehicle and received their meals from food trucks.
At six in the morning on December 8, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort and were ordered to bring their platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Airfield. The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. The planes were lined up outside their mess hall in a straight line to make this job easier.
At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. As they watched, they saw "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese. Since most of their weapons were useless against planes, most took cover.
The battalion was ordered, on December 12, to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field near Malabacat. From there they were sent to the barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolus Road. On the 13th, they moved south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge and arrived at 6:00 A.M. It was on that day they received Bren gun carriers that were used to test ground to see if it could support the weight of the tanks.
They remained there until December 23, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken. On December 24, they were ordered to Agno River near Carmen and took positions along the south bank from west of Carmen to Highway 13. Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat for Christmas.
The tanks were ordered to withdraw the night of December 26/27 and a platoon of tanks - under the command of Lt. Harold Costigan - had to fight its way through a road block as it entered Carmen. The barrio had been occupied by the Japanese so the tanks went through with their guns firing. Somehow a thermite bomb was planted on one of the tanks and burnt its way through and fell on the ammunition tray. The crew evacuated the tank as the ammunition and gasoline began burning and were picked up by another tank.
A new defensive line was formed from Santa Ignacia through Gerona and Santo Tomas to San Jose. The tanks held the line from the 27th until the 29th. As D Company was withdrawing toward the line, the bridge they were suppose to use to cross a river had been bombed. The tank company commander had the tanks disabled and abandoned them. One tank commander, with his sidearm against the back of the head of this driver, found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge. The disabled tanks were repaired and later used by the Japanese.
On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge. Because of the orders, about half of the defenders withdrew. 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 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern Luzon forces could escape.
At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along the 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 tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
The night of January 7, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28, 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, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. Since D Company no longer had tanks, the crew members were used as replacements for men in the remaining tank companies of both battalions. The tanks held the a new defensive line at the Bamban River the night of December 29/30. The next night, the tanks held at the Calumpit Bridge with the order not to with draw until ordered to do so. It was at this time that the C Company rejoined the rest of the 194th.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except
the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut
in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent
At 6:30 in the evening, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. Once this was done, they resumed the trip north, but this time they were marched at a faster pace and were given few breaks. When they did receive a break, they had to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.
When they were north of Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march easier. At 2:00 A.M., they received an hour break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a bayonet. After the break, they were marched through Layac and Lurao. It was at this time that a heavy shower took place and many of the men opened their mouths in an attempt to get water.
The men were marched until 4:00 P.M., when they reached San Fernando.
Once there, they were herded into a bull pen, surrounded by barbwire, and put into groups of 200 men. One POW
from each group went to the cooking area which was next to the latrine, and received a box of rice that was divided
among the men. Water was given out in a similar manner with each group receiving a pottery jar of water
From Capas the POWs walked 8 kilometers, to Camp O'Donnell, arriving in the
camp on April 14, 1942. The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which
was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base. The Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April
1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and
refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them,
they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the
camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
It is known that Donald went out on a work detail to to Lipa, Batangas, in January
1943. On the detail, the POWs built runways at an Lipa Airfield with picks and shovels. It is not known how
long he was on the detail. From records kept at Bilibid Prison Donald apparently became ill and sent there
sometime in 1943, but it is not known how long he was hospitalized there. From the prison, he was sent to
work out on a detail at the Port Area of Manila. The POWs worked as stevedores on the docks loading and
Of this time, Graef said
, "As we moved through the tropical waters, the heat down in the steel-encased hell hole was
maddening. We were allowed three ounces of water per man every 24 hours. Quarts were needed under
these conditions, to keep a man from dehydrating.
, "The Japs told us that they'd be in Formosa the next day to pick up some cargo. They had to
make room on deck so they tossed a whole bunch of life preservers down into the hold. I held onto one but
didn't think anything about it."
It was about 4:00 P.M. on October 24, and ten POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in
the ship's holds and had fed about half the POWs. The waves were high since the ship had been through a
storm in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. Suddenly, bells and sirens sounded warning of
submarines. The POWs in the holds chanted for the submarine to sink the ship.
"But as darkness settled and our hopes for life flickered, we felt absolutely no
resentment for the Allied submarine that had sent the torpedo crashing in. We knew they could not tell who
was aboard the freighter, and as far as the Navy could have known the ship could have been carrying Jap
troops. The men were brave and none complained.
Since he was lost at sea, S/Sgt. Donald M. Barden's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.