T/5 Earl L.
Charles Jr., was born on July 21, 1917, to Earl L. Charles Sr. and Anna
Charles. With his two sisters he was raised in Troy, Cleveland,
and later Springfield, Ohio. He was known as "Bud" to his family
and friends. He was working as a sandblaster when he was inducted
into the U.S. Army on January 27, 1941, at Fort Hayes in Columbus,
Ohio. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and
was assigned to C Company.
After training in Kentucky for nearly a year,
Earl took part in maneuvers in Louisiana, from September 1 through
30. It was after these maneuvers that Earl learned that his
battalion was being sent overseas. He returned home to say his
goodbyes and returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana.
The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers.
They were kept at Camp Polk after the maneuvers without being given a
reason. According to members of the battalion, General George
Patton told them the news that they were going overseas. Men too
old to go overseas were released from federal service.
Replacements for these men came 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.
The company traveled west by train to San
Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island on the ferry the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. At
Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas
duty. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were
held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while
other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd 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. Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9, 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 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
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.
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
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.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the
Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1 to
guard against paratroopers. Two members of each tank crew remained
with their tank at all times. At six in the morning of December 8, the
officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the
fort. They were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor. All tank crew members were ordered to their tanks.
The 192nd had been assigned to the southern portion of the
airfield. The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled
with American planes.
At 8:30 that morning, American planes took to
the sky to protect the airfield. At noon, the planes landed, lines
up in a straight line outside the mess hall, and the pilots went to
lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the
airfield. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the
planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes
The tank battalion received orders on December
21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of
logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.
When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon,
from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the
area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to
cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to
get south of river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese
resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the
river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, 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 27.
The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas
near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south
of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over
the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over
At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a
three hour battle with the Japanese. The main Japanese line was
south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three
hours without knowing that they were there. While the troops
passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was
seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut
through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks
were discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on
the Japanese before they fell back to
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to
Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.
It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of
World War II against enemy
After this battle, C Company made its way
south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with
Japanese guns and other equipment. The tanks destroyed as much of
the Japanese equipment before they headed south.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent
out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The
patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans
that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the
railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river,
Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese
began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next
and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese
tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a
large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the
town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall
Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks
were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded
by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of
Baluiag . 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a
bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into
Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the
Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The
guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks
positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that
his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to
open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks
then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the
direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been
radioed and was
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the
Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.
The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village,
through buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was
ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the
company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be
blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank
Battalion could leap frog past it and than cover the 192nd's withdraw.
The 192nd was the last American unit to enter
Over the next several months, the battalion
fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle
warfare. 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. The Japanese
later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from
In early February, the Japanese attempted to
land troops behind the main battle line on Bataan. The troops were
quickly cut off and when they attempted to land reinforcements, they
were landed in the wrong place. The fight to wipe out these two
pockets became known as the Battle of the Points.
The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision
was made by Brigadier General Clinton A. Pierce that tanks were needed
to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He requested the
tanks from the Provisional Tank Group. On February 2, a platoon of
C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point where the Japanese had
landed troops. The tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M. He did a
quick reconnaissance of the area, and after meeting with the commanding
infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of the
Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire. The
progress was slow but steady until a Japanese .37 milometer gun was
spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks withdrew. It
turned out that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks
did not know this at the time. The decision was made to resume the
attack the next morning, so 45th Infantry dug in for the night.
The next day, the tank platoon did
reconnaissance before pulling into the front line. They repeated
the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gun fire. As they
moved forward, members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks.
The troops made progress all day long along the left side of the
line. The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps
which they had to avoid so they would not get hung up on them.
The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver.
Coordinating the attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision
was made by to bring in a radio car so that the tanks and infantry
could talk with each other.
On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the
radio car arrived. The tanks were assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4,
5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order.
Each tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and
infantry commanders. This was done so that the crews could
coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could
be ordered to where they were needed. The Japanese were pushed
back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night.
The attack resumed the next morning the next
morning and the Japanese were pushed to the cliff line where they hid
below the edge of the cliff out of view. It was at that time that
the tanks were released to returned to the 192nd.
C Company 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.
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. The second method was simple. The tank was
parked with one track across the foxhole. The driver spun
the tank on one track. The tank dug into the dirt until the
Japanese soldiers were dead.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on
April 3 against the defenders. 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.
On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through
the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan. It was the
evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further
resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy
enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In
addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000
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 9, 1942, he and the other tankers
received the news of the surrender. He destroyed his tank and made
his way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from
the southern tip of Bataan that Earl started what was known would be
come known as the death march.
Earl and the other POWs made their way north
out of Bataan to San Fernando. The POWs were given little water
and even less food. Those who fell were bayoneted or shot.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars that
could hold forty men or eight horses. Each car held 100 men.
Those who died remained standing until the living left the boxcars.
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
There was only one water faucet in the camp,
and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a
drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no
reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours
waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when
a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the
POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In
addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river
to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches
in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the
POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in
the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or
disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a
letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for
medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of
medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow
the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical
supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor
elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50
sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a
representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a
150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found
all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed
underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before
they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering
from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the
hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The
bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been
laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily
basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the
Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the
quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those
POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate among
the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally
acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of
100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, the were put in
steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs
disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked
rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan
which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and
was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail
that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was
that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being
executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed
that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces
of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or
corn. Since the POWs were underfed, many became ill and died of
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut
wood for the POW kitchens. Other POWs worked in rice
paddies. Each morning, as the POWs stood at attention and roll
call was taken, the Japanese guards hit them across their heads.
After arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their
tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their
heads. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given
to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the
mud and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces deeper into the
mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given,
medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the
camp even though they were searched when they returned.
The barracks used by the POWs were built to
hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each
one. There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on bamboo
strips. In addition no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was
provided which resulted in many becoming ill.
The camp hospital was made up of 30 barracks.
Zero ward got its name because it had been missed when the barracks
were being counted. The ward became the place were POWs were sent
to die. The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a
fence up around it and would not go near the building. Most of the
POWs who died there died because their bodies were too malnourished to
fight the diseases they had. After arriving in the camp, Earl came
down with cerebral malaria and was put in the camp hospital on June 22,
1942, and assigned to Barracks 13.
According to U. S. Army records, T/5 Earl L.
Charles Jr. died on Thursday, June 25, 1942, of dysentery and cerebral
malaria at Cabanatuan Prison Camp #1, Philippine Islands. His
approximate time of death was 6:00 AM., and he was buried in Grave 419,
Row 0, Plot 4, in the camp cemetery.
During the war, his mother died not knowing if
her son was dead or alive. His father, who had moved to Detroit,
officially learned he was a POW on June 23, 1943, and learned of Earl's
death on July 20, 1943.
After the war on September 23, 1948, his
remains were disinterred by the Remains Recovery Team, and T/5 Earl L.
Charles Jr. was moved to the new American Military Cemetery outside
Manila, Philippine Islands and was buried in Plot A, Row 15,