Pvt. Vernor Deck
| What is known about Pvt.
Vernor Deck is that he was born in 1915 to James
A. Deck & Melvina J. Pemberton-Deck.
With his five brothers and one sister he grew up
just outside of Jacksboro, Jack County, Texas, on
the family's farm. Like many others, he left
school after completing seventh grade.
Vernor was inducted into the army on March 21, 1941, at Dallas, Texas, after doing his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion. Vernor volunteered, or had his name drawn, to join the 192nd Tank Battalion at Camp Polk, Louisiana, and replaced a National Guardsman who was considered too old to go overseas. After joining the battalion, he was assigned to C Company as part of the tank crew of Sgt. Emerson P. Smith. Also assigned to his tank crew were Pvt. Sidney Rattner, and Pvt. Robert Young.
The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15, 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.
Over different train routes, the battalion was sent to San Francisco. Once there, they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. At the fort, they received physicals and inoculated against tropical diseases from the battalion's medical detachment. Those men with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion in the Philippines. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T.
Hugh L. Scott
for Hawaii as
part of a
at Honolulu on
2. The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the
one point, the
an island at
did so in
This for many
soldiers was a
sign that they
ships took on
same day for
and docked at
was the date
were taken by
bus to Ft.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1. At all times, two members of each tank crew had to remain with their tank. The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and ordered back to their tanks. When they looked up that morning, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.
in the afternoon, the tankers noticed planes
approaching the airfield. When bombs began
exploding around them, they knew the planes were
Japanese. Besides their .50 caliber
machine guns, they had few weapons to use
against the planes. Most took cover and
waited out the attack. After it ended,
they saw the destruction done by the bombs.
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 it crossed.
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 village.
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 waiting.
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 enemy
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 who had landed behind the main line of defense on Bataan.
During this engagement Vernon's tank was disabled when it hit a landmine causing the tank to throw a track. Vernor and the other members of his tank crew were trapped inside their tank. A number of attempts to rescue the crew failed.
There are two stories as to what happened next. In the first story, the four crew members realized that the tank could not be moved. They attempted to evacuate the tank, but as they were climbing out of the tank the Japanese threw grenades into the tank killing them.
The second story, which appears to be the accurate story, is that after the tank was disabled the crew refused to surrender. The Japanese knowing this began filling the tank with dirt that they were digging out from under the tank to make a bunker. The three soldiers trapped in the tank suffocated.
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.
Pvt. Vernor Deck died when he suffocated inside his tank on Monday, February 2, 1942, near Agaloma, Philippine Islands. After the war, his remains could not be positively identified, so he was buried as an "Unknown" at the new American cemetery. Since his final resting place is unknown, Pvt. Vernor Deck's name appears on Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.