Pvt. Charles Cleo Harmon
Pvt. Charles C. Harmon was one of twin sons born on August 5, 1916, on the family's farm
three miles east of Alfalfa, Oklahoma, to Arthur L. Harmon and Lola May Luper-Harmon. In addition to his
twin, he had two sisters and two more brothers. They were raised in Alfalfa, until the family moved to Loco,
Oklahoma. His mother passed away on January 1, 1923, when he was six, so he and his siblings lived with their
Charles father remarried and moved the family to Augusta, Kansas. Charles was unhappy, so he was sent to live with his uncle and aunt in Carnegie, Oklahoma. He went to work at Crain Ford as a car salesman. He was inducted in the U.S. Army in Oklahoma City, on March 20, 1941.
Charles was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. What exact training he received is not known. What is known is that he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, after completing basic training and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion had been sent to Camp Polk in the late summer, but did not take part maneuvers that were going on at the fort.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to remain at Camp Polk. The members of the battalion had no idea why they were remaining at the fort. It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent overseas. Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Once this was done, replacements were sought from the 753rd. Charles was one of the replacements. He was assigned to C Company.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water. 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, with a Japanese occupied island hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that night.
The next day, another squadron of planes w as sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way toward shore. Since radio communication with the Navy was poor, the boat escaped without being intercepted.
After loading their tanks - which came from the 753rd Tank Battalion - on flatcars, D Company boarded a train west for San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the tankers were given physicals, by the battalion's medical detachment, and those men 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. 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. They 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, the transport, 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 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 friendly country.
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 P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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 morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers learned of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. He and the other tankers were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.
Around 12:45 P.M., the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield. When bombs began exploding they knew the planes were Japanese. Although they did the best they could, the tankers did not have the right type of weapons to fight the planes.
Charles spent the next four months taking part in a delaying action against the Japanese. During the withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula, the tanks were often the last unit to disengage from the Japanese.
At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked. Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line on Bataan on a small peninsula. 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.
During the Battle of the Pockets the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back. According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades. When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
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.
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."
At 6:45 A.M. in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash." They destroyed their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them. When they did, they ordered the members of the company to make their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
In early September, his name appeared on a roster of POWs being
sent to Japan. The POWs were taken by truck to Manila. At Bilibid, they were given a physical and taken
to the Port Area for transport to Japan.
At one point, a guard took the boots away from the POWs during the win
ter and made them work barefooted on the trestle
in cold and wet weather. He also knocked the POWs down and kicked the
m. The result was that their feet were brui
sed and cut up from the coal.
Mary Ann passed away in May 1990, and Charles, in 2006, married Huiging Ying in China. She was known as Jean. Charles C. Harmon passed away on May 30, 2016, in Norman, Oklahoma, and was the last known surviving member of C Company.