T/5 Wesley Fancher was born in 1922 in
Janesville, Wisconsin, to George W. Fancher & Jeanette Richardson-Fancher. His family
resided at 529 Jefferson Street in Mason City, Illinois, but when his father died in the 1930s, he and his mother
returned to Janesville. He was the half-brother of Capt.
Walter Write the commanding officer of A Company, and he had a second half-brother, William
With his best friend
Laurence Grim he joined the Wisconsin National Guard while in high school. The tank
company was federalized in September 1940 during his senior year of high school which resulted him leaving
school. On November 25th, the company gathered at the armory in Janesville and departed for Fort Knox,
Kentucky, on November 28th.
It is not known what job Wesley qualified at while training at Ft. Knox, but he was promoted
to Tec 5. A soldier with the rank was referred to as corporal. During his time at the fort, he was
trained to use all the equipment of the battalion.
A typical day started at 6:15 A.M. with reveille, but most of the soldiers were already
up so they could wash, dress, and be on time for assembly. Breakfast was from 7 to 8 A.M. which was followed
buy calisthenics from 8 to 8:30. After this, the remainder of the morning dealt with .30 and .50 caliber
machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in military
At 11:30, the tankers got ready for lunch, which was from noon to 1:00 P.M., when they
went back to work by attending the various schools. At 4:30, the tankers day ended and retreat was at 5:00
P.M. followed by evening meal at 5:30. The day ended at 9:00 P.M. with lights out, but they did not have to
be in bed until 10:00 P.M. when taps was played.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana and took part in the maneuvers
from September 1 through 30. It was after the maneuvers that the tankers expected to return to Ft. Knox, but
instead they were sent to Camp Polk and not given a reason why they were there. It was on the side of a hill
that they learned that they were being sent overseas. Those 29 years or older were given the opportunity to
resign from federal service and replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
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.
The battalion's new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto flat
cars, on different trains. The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust. Over
different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given
physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the
island 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. 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 KPthey spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons,
and doing KP 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 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 Dateline. 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. During
this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting
the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the
smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.During this part of the voyage, smoke
from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its
engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the
unknown ship was from a friendly countr
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 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 P. King, who apologized that they had to
live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they
needed, and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark
Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were
assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the
end of the rows of tents.
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.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and
received their meals from food trucks.
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, or in a dried out latrine, since it was safer
than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.
On December 8, 1941, Wesley and the other members of A Company were told about the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The all the tankers were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field. As they
were eating lunch, the soldiers noticed planes approaching the airfield and had enough time to count 54 planes in
formation. At first they believed the planes were American until they saw bombs falling from the planes and
exploding on the runways.
On December 12, the company was ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would protect a road and
railroad against sabotage. On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers
lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south
of Agno River. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully
crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
Around December 21, the tanks from the 192nd were sent north to Lingayen Gulf. As they
approached, they could hear the sound of Japanese guns firing on the beaches where the Japanese were landing.
The tankers saw the horses, from the 26th U. S. Cavalry, of Filipino Scouts, without riders galloping past his
tank. The tankers never reached the landing area because they were ordered from the area.
On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the
company commander, Capt. Walter Write, Wesley's half-brother. After he was buried, the tankers made an
end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed. As they did this, they ran into
Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion dropped back down Route 5 and 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 were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held it until 5:30
in the morning on December 27.
The 192nd, and part of the 194th, fell back to form a new defensive line the night of
December 27 and 28. From there they fell back to the south bank of the BanBan River which they were suppose
to hold for as long as possible. The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29 serving
as a rear guard against the Japanese. The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28 and
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of
Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. On a road east of
Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a
noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As
they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the
tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line the
night of December 27 and 28. From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were
suppose to hold for as long as possible. The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29
serving as a rear guard against the Japanese. As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward
Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31st and January
1. Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep. It was
that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.
As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers. The tankers
created gaping holes in their ranks. To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a
smoke screen. Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line. When the
Japanese broke off the attack, they had lost about half their men.
On January 1, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern
Luzon forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese
force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's chief of staff
gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders should take orders. Gen. Wainwright was not
aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending
the bridges over the Pampanga River. 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 forces could escape.
From this time on, until the withdrawal into the Bataan Peninsula, the tankers would find
themselves sent to areas where the Japanese had broken through the Filipino and American lines. The tanks were used
repeatedly as a rearguard so that the infantry could withdraw from an engagement.
On January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces
From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could
It was also
in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half. It was not too
long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.
The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new
defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan. The night of January 7, the A Company
was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek. The engineers were ready to
blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait
until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks,
because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February 17-
to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was
stopped and pushed pack to the original line of defense. 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 each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in
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
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.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline,
against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the
back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they
got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do
this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would
pop and wound the men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank
Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a
time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the
pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to
eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began
to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were
cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on
them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had
been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and
looking out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many
had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines, he said
, "There are times when men must die."
The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and
aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the
volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to
the Japanese. It was at this time that Gen. King knowing that the situation was hopeless sent officers to
negotiate the surrender of Bataan. The reality was that only 25% of his troops were healthy enough to
fight. He believed that they would last one more day. In addition, 6,000 of his troops were
hospitalized from wounds or illness, and he had 40,000 civilians he was protecting whom he believed would be
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
The night of April 8, the tankers received the order
They circled their tanks, each crew fired a armored round into the engine of the tank in front of
their tank, opened the gasoline cocks, and dropped grenades into each tank to disable them. On April 9, 1942,
the soldiers became Prisoners of War at 7:00 A.M.
The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
Once there, they were
searched by the Japanese who took what they wanted
from the POWs. They were organized into detachments of 100 POWs and started the march out of
During the march, the POWs received little food or water. Those who could not keep
up were killed when they fell out of the formation. When the POWs reached San Fernando where they were herded
into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a pit which was suppose to be used as the toilet.
The top of pit moved on its own from the maggots.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form a detachment and marched the POWs to the train
station. The POWs were put in small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane.
The cars were known as "forty and eights" since each car could hold forty men or eight
horses. They packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those POWs who died remained standing
until the living left the cars at Capas since they could not fall to the floors. The surviving POWs walked
the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell. The camp 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.
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 use.
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
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.
It was while Wesley was a POW in the camp that he came down with dysentery.
According to the diary kept by 2nd Lt. Jacques Merrifield, T/5 Wesley B. Fancher died from dysentery on Sunday, May
23, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery. He was 19 years old.
After the war, the remains of T/5 Wesley B. Fancher were exhumed from the camp cemetery
and identified. At the request of his mother, he was reburied at the new American Cemetery at Manila in Plot
L, Row 11, Grave 108.