Pvt. Frank W. Gyovai
| Pvt. Frank Gyovai was born on
February 15, 1920, in Sovereign, West Virginia, to
Stephen Gyovai & Ethel Pappi-Gyovai. His
parents were Hungarian immigrants. With his
four brothers and one sister, he resided in Boone
County, West Virginia, where his father worked as
a coal miner. He attended high school for
two years before he went to work as a coal
Frank was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 8, 1941. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and assigned to the 19th Ordnance Battalion. During this time he attended school and qualified as a tank mechanic.
Frank and the other members of 19th Ordnance trained on the tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion. During August 1941, Company A, 19th Ordnance Battalion was designated 17th Ordnance Company. In the late summer, his company received orders that they were being sent overseas. The company traveled west to San Francisco and arrived on September 5. They were taken to Angel Island on the ferry, the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, where they received inoculations for overseas duty. Men with medical conditions were replaced.
The company spent their time on the island removing the turrets of the tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion so they would fit in the ship's holds. They boarded the President Coolidge and the ship sailed on Monday, September 8th, at 9:00 P.M. The ship arrived Saturday, September 13th at 7:00 A.M. and the men were allowed ashore but had to return to ship before it sailed at 5:00 P.M. The ship took a southerly route and was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria and an unknown destroyer which were its escorts.
On several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon and the Astoria took off to intercept the unknown ship. Each time the ship was from a neutral country.
The ships crossed the International Date Line on Tuesday, September 16, and suddenly, it was Thursday, September 18. The morning of September 26th at 7:00 A.M., the ship entered Manila Bay. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. later that day, and 17th Ordnance, with the maintenance section of the 194th Tank Battalion, remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks of the 194th and reattach the turrets. The men took turns sleeping on the ship and completed the work by 7:00 A.M. the next day.
Arriving in the Philippine Islands on September 28, 17th Ordnance prepared itself to work on the tanks of the 1st Provisional Tank Group. With the arrival of the 192nd Tank Battalion in November 1941, the unit was officially activated.
The morning of December 8, the members of 17th Ordnance heard the news of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. The decision was made to move the company to a bamboo thicket away from the base which offered cover. After arriving at the thicket, they set up their machine shop trucks and other equipment. At noon they received orders to return to the base since no Japanese planes had been seen.
On December 8, 1941, Frank with his company watched the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield from Ft. Stotsenburg. For the next four months, the 17th Ordnance serviced the tanks and kept them running. Each day they saw Japanese planes fly overhead and lived through the bombings. During the Battle of Bataan, the company was headquartered in an abandoned ordnance depot building.
Frank was involved in the recovery of a tank of C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion that had been knocked out during the Battle of the Pockets. The crew of the tank had been suffocated by the Japanese who filled the tank with dirt. When the tank was at kilometer post 168, Frank went into the tank and removed the bodies of the crew.
The morning of April 9, 1942, Frank and his company received the news of the surrender of all Filipino and American forces on Bataan. Frank started the death march north to San Fernando, but during the march he made the decision to escape into the mountains of Bataan. He escaped into the jungle with Capt. Richard Kadel,
Pvt. Hayden Lawrence, Pfc. James Boyd, and Pfc. Robert Schletterer all of 17th Ordnance.
Shortly after escaping into the mountains the men came down with dysentery and malaria. One man, Lt. H. Clay Conner, was so ill that he was left behind by the other Americans. Frank refused to leave him and stayed with him and saved his life. Being that they could not care for themselves, they survived because of the generosity of the Filipino people.
During his time as a guerrilla, Frank worked with Lt. H. Clay Conner. The two men organized Force 155 and led guerilla resistance with the Filipino Negritto. Frank fought the Japanese as a guerrilla for three and a half years. In December 1943, he received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant. He became his guerrilla unit's supply officer. Part of his group's job was to save downed pilots and provide information on Japanese troop strength. In addition, Frank gathered supplies used by his guerrilla unit.
On January 29, 1945, Frank and his guerillas came out of the mountains to join up with U. S. troops. He met General Griswold of the 14th Corps and presented him with the American flag that had flown over his guerrilla headquarters.
Frank was made a captain because of his work as a guerilla. After he left the Philippines, he was sent to New Caledonia, and later returned home to Red Dragon, West Virginia, where a celebration was held in his honor. Upon his return home, Frank learned that his brother, Jimmie, was killed in a plane accident over Northern Ireland during the war. Frank remained in the Army until June 20, 1947.
His family later moved to Aurora, Illinois. Frank married Clara Bank and was the father of four children. One son attended West Point. Frank Gyovai died on December 21, 1984, in Aurora, Illinois, and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Aurora.
For his courage, Frank Gyovai was inducted into the U. S. Army Ordnance Hall of Fame.