Tec 5 Ralph Kinley Hite
| T/5 Ralph K.
Hite was born on July 14, 1916, in Logan, Ohio, and
was the son of George E. Hite & Lillian M.
Bright-Hite. With his sister, he grew up at 590
East Front Street, in Logan, and graduated from Logan
High School in 1934. After high school, he
worked as a clerk in a grocery store.
On March 5, 1941, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. During his basic training he attended radio operators school and qualified as a tank radioman. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and was assigned to one of the half-tracks assigned to the company.
Ralph received a furlough home and arrived home on August 2nd and returned to Ft. Knox on August 9th. It was not too long after returning that the 192nd was sent to Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox as they had expected. On the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. According to members of the battalion, General George Patton had selected them for this duty. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service, and replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Many of the members of the battalion were given leave so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island were 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.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii, as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd, and the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. It was during this part of the voyage that smoke was seen on the horizon. According to members of the battalion, the escort cruiser revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and the ship shot off in the direction of the smoke to intercept the ship. It turned out that the ship was from a neutral country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. They sailed the next morning for Manila. It was at this time that the ships, one night, sailed passed an island in total blackout. The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked later the same day. After docking, the soldiers remained on board for three hours before they left the ship and taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort. The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload the battalion's tanks and half-tracks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward 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 what they needed, and that the had Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased so they wouldn't rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
The tanks were
ordered to the perimeter of the
Clark Field to guard against
Japanese paratroopers on Monday,
December 1st, to guard against
members of each tank and half-track crews
remained with their vehicles at all
times. The morning of December 8th, the battalion's
officers were informed of the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor and ordered to their units. Howard
was assigned to one of the half-tracks of HQ
Company, used for reconnaissance, which meant he
was at the perimeter of the airfield. Howard
can be seen in a half-track photo, that often
appears in books on the Battle of Bataan.
Later in the day, Ralph's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where the POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide and some were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
When the POWs were ordered to move again, by the Japanese, they had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march, Ralph received no water and little food. It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it. In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two were still alive. When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
The POWs were ordered to form 100 men detachments and marched to the train station. There, they were put into small wooden boxcars and taken to Capas. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars. From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
was an unfinished Filipino training base that the
Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War
camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as
many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was
only one working water faucet for the entire
camp. To get a drink, men stood in line for
days. Many died while waiting for a
drink. POWs went out on work details to get
out of the camp.