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 t he 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. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service, and replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 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.
Many of the members of the battalion were given leave so that they could say goodbye to family and friends from October 6 to 12, before returning to Camp Polk and traveling by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Cox e, to Angel Island were they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalion's medical detachment. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd 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. The ship 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, 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. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline. 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 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, which was a stew thrown into their mess kits, 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 paratroopers.
Two members of each tank and half-track crews remained with their vehicles at all times. The morning
December 8th, the battalion's officers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and ordered to their
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
, 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.
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.