Hepburn

Tec 4 Andrew Hepburn


    T/4 Andrew Hepburn was born July 25, 1918, in Northern Ireland to Samuel and Mary Hepburn.  With his two brothers, Jack & Sam, he was raised at 2411 West Oakton Street in Park Ridge, Illinois.  He graduated from Oakton Elementary School and Maine Township High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, in 1936, at the age of fifteen.  After high school, he worked in a department store as a stock boy.

    Andrew joined the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company with his high school friends, Jim Bashleben and Willard Von Bergen.  In September 1940, the draft act had been signed into law and all three men wanted to fulfill their one year of military service and get on with their lives.  He and his friends decided that joining the tank company was a good idea because riding in a tank sounded better than marching.

    In November of 1940, the tank company was federalized as Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion, and Andy went with the company to Fort Knox, Kentucky to train on November 28th.  He qualified as a member of a tank crew and was assigned to a tank as the assistant tank driver and machine gunner.
    The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers in the fall of 1941.   At one point, the red army, that the battalion was part of, broke through and were about to overrun the headquarters of General George Patton, the commander of the blue army, when the maneuvers were canceled.  But instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion was ordered to remain at Camp Polk.  None of the soldiers had any idea why they were being held there.

    On the side of a hill, they were informed that they being sent overseas.   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. 
It was at this time that Andy was given leave home and married. 

     Andy returned to Camp Polk.  His company was given new tanks and other equipment that had been used by the 753rd Tank Battalion.  After the companies were brought up to strength, with replacements for the men released from federal service, the battalion over different rail routes traveled to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, and were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals from the battalion's medical detachment, and those who had minor medical issues were held back 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 from San Francisco on Monday, October 27, for Hawaii.  For many, it would be the last time that they would ever see the United States.  The battalion arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2.  The soldiers were given leaves 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. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11, because 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 Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.

    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.   
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25, the tanks of the battalion 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 held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. 
The tank battalions , on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  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.
    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 exploded.
    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.

    When war came in with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Andy was stationed at Clark Field.  Ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battalion was guarding the perimeter of Clark Airfield against Japanese paratroopers.  At 12:45, 54 Japanese bombers approached from the north.   Bombs began exploding on the airfield destroying most of the American Army Air Corps. 
    Andy survived the Japanese bombing of Clark Field.  As a machine gunner in a tank crew, Andy took part in some of the first engagements of World War II involving American Armor personnel.   

    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.  The Japanese almost broke through, but when morning came, the tankers had held.  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.
    The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over.
   
During the Battle of the Points 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.
 
    The night of April 8, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  Within a hour, they circled their tanks to make it easier to destroy them.  Each tank fired an armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks.  Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
    Andy was one of men who attempted to reach Corrigedor.  The tankers found a boat that was getting ready to Corregidor, but they were told there was no room for them on the boat, Zenon Bardowski, another member of B Company, re-positioned his Tommy-gun to make it understood that they intended to make the trip.
    It is not known what duty Andy was given on Corregidor, but it is known that he became a Prisoner of War on May 6, 1942, when the island surrendered after the Japanese lunched a major offensive against it.  He and the other men remained on the island for two weeks in what was designated the Corregidor POW Camp.   This camp was on the beach of the island.
    When the Japanese did move the POWs, they were taken by barge to an area off Bataan where they were made to jump into the water and swim to shore.  Once on shore, the POWs spent time repairing a nearby pier that had been damaged by shells during the Battle of Bataan. 
    After the repairs were finished, the POW were ordered to form ranks.  They were told to march.  Having heard about the march from Bataan form men who had escaped it, they feared they were going to receive the same treatment.  To their surprise, they were marched at a reasonable pace and given breaks.  The POWs were marched up Dewey Boulevard in Manila to Bilibid Prison where they were held until transferred to Cabanatuan.

    Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.  The camp was actually three camps.  Camp One was opened for the POWs who were captured on Bataan.  Camp Two was two miles from Camp One and was closed because it did not have an adequate water supply.  It was later reopened and house Naval POWs.  Camp Three, which was six miles from Camp Two, was were the POWs from Corregidor, and those men captured on Bataan, who had been in the hospital, were sent.  Camps One and Three later were consolidated into one camp.
    To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp.  The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch.  It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.  The Japanese also had instituted the "Blood Brother" rule, which meant the five men to the left and right of an escaped POW would be executed.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.  Other POWs worked in rice paddies.  Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools.  As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.  While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard.     If a prisoner was late or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole placed behind the knees to cut circulation.  The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over.  Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
    The camp hospital was made up of 30 wards.  Zero ward had been missed when the wards were being counted so it was given the name of "Zero Ward."  The ward became the place were POWs who were going to die were sent.  The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a fence up around it and would not go near the building.  Inside the wards were two tiers of wooden bunks. Each POW had a six foot long, two foot wide space to lie in.  Those who were sickest were on the bottom bunk which had holes cut into it so that they could relieve themselves without leaving the bunk.

    A
t some point, during 1943, Andy went out on a work detail known as the Cabcaban Detail which also was referred to as the Bachrach Garage Detail.  The POWs on the detail repaired trucks and other equipment for the Japanese.
    It was while he was on this detail that he became ill.  It was reported he was developed a high fever, a cough, vomiting, and had chest pains.  On October 10, he was sent to U.S. Naval Hospital Unit at Bilibid Prison suffering from pneumonia and malaria and also running a fever of 103.4 degrees.

    The medical staff determined he was suffering from malaria, bronchial pneumonia, and malnutrition.    According to medical records, he was admitted on October 14, 1943, to the hospital.  On Monday, October 18, 1943, Andy died from what was officially reported as pulmonary tuberculosis at 9:00 AM.  Other records state he died from bronchial pneumonia.  It is known that he was buried in Row 4, Grave 13 in the POW cemetery at Bilibid.
    According to records, Andy's personal possessions were given to Captain N. Nogi the Japanese commanding officer of Bilibid  Prison.  Among his possessions were two photos, a wallet, two notebooks, a wedding ring, and a New Testament.

    During Christmas 1943, Andy's parents received a Christmas card from him.  It said:

 

"Dear Mother, Dad and Fam.,

   

    I hope this finds all of you in best of health.  I am doing fine and am in good health.  Give my love to Jean (his girlfriend) and family.  Regards to relatives and friends  Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. "

 

    Reading this card, his parents had no idea that their son had died in a Japanese POW Camp.  He had written it a year before they had received it.

    In 1949, his family requested that Andy's remains be returned to the United States from the Philippine Islands.  A wake for Andy was held in Park Ridge on April 22, 1949, and a funeral service the next day.  A honor guard was provided by the Park Ridge V.F.W. Post, and he was reburied at the Town of Maine Cemetery in Park Ridge, Illinois, on April 23, 1949.  Jim Bashleben, the only one of the three friends to survive the war, attended the funeral.


 

 


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