Fancher

 

 

 


Tec 5 Wesley Bernard Fancher
    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 Flesh.
    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 tactics.      
    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.  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 battalion traveled over different train routes 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.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. 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 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 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. 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. 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 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, they were greeted by Colonel 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 1st, 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 12th the company was ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would protect a road and railroad against sabotage.  On December 23rd and 24th, 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 21st, 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 23rd and 24th, 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 25th, 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 27th.

    The 192nd, and part of the 194th, fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th.  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 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.

    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 30th, 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 27th and 28th.  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 28th and 29th 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 1st.  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 1st, 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 2nd to 4th, 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.

om January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.    From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape. 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 7th, 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 destroyed.
    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 4, 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.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.

    The night of April 8th, the tankers received the order "crash."  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 Bataan. 
    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.
 
   Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base which the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp and men literally died for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs rose to as many as 55 deaths a day, and the burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. 
    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. 




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