|Tec 4 Frank Lester
T/4 Frank L. Beaver was born on October 31, 1918,
in Piqua, Ohio, and was the son of Frank C. Beaver & Stella M.
Clingon-Beaver. He grew up, with his three
sisters and four brothers, on a farm near
Washington, Ohio, and attended Houston High School
where he graduated valedictorian of his
class. After high school, he worked for the
Lear Company manufacturing radios.
Frank was inducted into the U.S. Army on February 1, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. He attended radio school and qualified as a radio operator. He was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion, most likely as a replacement, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to Headquarters Company. He was assigned to one of the company's three tanks as a radio operator.
In the August, 1941, Frank went home for on a short furlough. When he returned to Ft. Knox, the tank battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. Being assigned to headquarters meant that most of the soldiers worked behind the scenes and did not really participate in the maneuvers. In Frank's case, he most likely was a more active participant since he was assigned to a tank.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd was ordered to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as they had expected. On the side of a hill, the tankers learned they were bring sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service. They were replaced by men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
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.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date. Others were simply replaced.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and was ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Fort McDowell on Angel Island, where the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment. Those who had medical issues were replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. 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. President 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.
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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. King made that the tankers had their Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased so they would not rust during the trip to the Philippines. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
On Monday, December 1st the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against Japanese paratroopers. From this moment on, two members of each tank crew had to remain with their tanks at all times. The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes landed, to be refueled, parked in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, planes approached the airfield from the north and the tankers counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for weeks. It was during this time that Frank's parents received a telegram from him stating that he was okay. It was also at this time that the battalion was sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.
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, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
The battalion remained at Clark Field for two weeks until it received orders to the Lingayen Gulf area were the Japanese had landed. The battalion repeatedly dropped back as it fought the Japanese.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
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 and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
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 with half of the defenders withdrawing. 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.
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 7th, 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 25th. 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 25th, 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 26th/27th, 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 28th, 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.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
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.
The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
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 to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd. On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile. Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
On April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni told the men that they would surrender the next morning. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. He brought with him pineapple juice and food and the company had what he called their last meal. They remained in their bivouac for two days.
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ Company's encampment. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Frank's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese. Frank and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. At one point the POWs were ordered to sit. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.
Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs continued the march and received no water and little food. It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it. In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. They quickly realized they were sitting in human waste since the bull pen had previously been occupied.
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two were still alive. When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
At San Fernando, Frank was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car at Capas. From Capas, Frank walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp. To get a drink, men stood in line for days. Many died while waiting for a drink since the Japanese guard would shut off the water for no reason. Because of the death rate among the POWs many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves. The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep. Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth. The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.
The Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan to lower the death rate among the POWs and the healthier POWs were sent to the camp. Those who were going to die remained behind at Camp O'Donnell. Frank was sent to Cabanatuan where he became ill and was sent to the camp hospital on September 21, 1942, suffering from diphtheria. He remained in the hospital until October 20, 1942, when he was discharged.
It is known is that he was selected fora work detail at Las Pinas which left Cabanatuan on December 12, 1942. The POWs on the detail built a runway for the Japanese Navy which wanted to expand Nichols Airfield. The Japanese refused to use construction equipment and expected the POWs to remove the side of a hills with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows.
It appears that Frank became ill enough to be sent to Bilibid Prison for medical treatment. When it was believed he had recovered he was sent to Cabanatuan. There, he was readmitted to the hospital on Wednesday, February 17, 1943. No reason for why he was admitted was recorded, and no date of discharge was recorded.
In July 1944, a list of POWs was posted at Cabanatuan. At 8:00 P.M. on July 15th, trucks arrived at the camp. The POWs were boarded onto the trucks and taken to Bilibid Prison. The POWs arrived at Bilibid seven hours later to find that their dinner was rotten sweet potatoes. Since it was night, they had to eat in the dark. They remained at Bilibid until July 17th at 8:00 A.M. and walked to Pier 7 where they were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru. The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of the POWs were put into the read hold.
The ship was moved and remained outside the breakwater, at Manila, from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy. The POWs were fed rice and vegetables, twice a day, which were cooked together. They also received two canteen cups of water each day.
The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island at 2:00 P.M. It remained off the island overnight and sailed at 8:00 A.M. the next day as part of a convoy. The ships sailed north by northeast. On July 26th at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large fire off to the side of ship. The POWs could see the light through the hold which was not covered. It turned out that the one of the ships, the Otari Yama Maru had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack.
On July 28th, the ships arrived at Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M. The Nissyo Maru sailed at 7:00 P.M. and continued its northward trip all day and night of July 29th. On July 30th, the ship ran into a storm which finally passed on August 2nd. The POWs were issued clothing on August 3rd and arrived at Moji the night of August 3rd at about midnight. At 8:00 in the morning the next day, the POWs disembarked the ship. They were taken to a theater and were held in it all day. The Japanese organized them into detachments of 200 men and marched them to the train station.
Frank was taken by train to Fukuoka #4. The POWs in the camp were housed in a former YMCA building in the North-eastern section of the city of Moji, Kyushu, Japan. In August 1944, another building began being used as a mess hall and officers quarters. A third building became the camp hospital. The POWs in the camp worked as stevedores on the docks of Moji or at the train station. The company that used the POWs as stevedores, on the docks, was the Kanmon Stevedoring Company. In addition, the POWs worked in the warehouse district around the Sothohama Railway Station in Moji.
At some point Frank became ill. According to other POWs, the sick stayed in the POW barracks while being treated. Their daily ration of food was also cut. If they became sicker, they were moved to the Moji Military Hospital. Frank was became ill enough to be moved to the hospital.
What is known is Tec 4 Frank Beavers died of heart failure from complications of pneumonia on March 28, 1945, while a POW at the military hospital. His remains were taken to the city crematory at Moji where he was cremated and his ashes placed in an urn with those of 15 other POWs, one of whom was a member of the 192nd. The ashes were stored at a Buddhist temple that later burnt down. Next, the ashes were buried in mass grave above Honganji Temple in the City of Moji.
In May, 1945, Frank's parents received a POW postcard from him that was dated September 30, 1944. On the card, he said, "My health is good, hope you are the same. The climate is cooler here. Give my regards to all." When they received the car, his parents had no idea that he had been dead for two months.
On November 28, 1945, the family of T/4 Frank Beaver learned that he had died as a POW in a telegram from the U.S. Government. According to the military, the Japanese government was negligent in reporting his death. On December 9, 1945, Frank's family held a memorial service at the Houston Christian Church. They also had a military headstone placed at Forest Hill Cemetery in Piqua, Ohio.
After the war, the American Occupation Force had the Japanese beautify the grave. The ashes of the men, who died in the camp, are still buried there today.
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