King R.

 

Sgt. Ronald John King


    Sgt. Ronald J. King was the son of John & Berglioth King and was born on October 29, 1919, in Nebraska.  After his family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, he was raised at 331 North Franklin Street and attended both grade school and high school in Janesville.

    In 1938, Ronald joined the 32nd Division's Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville.  For him and the other National Guardsmen, much of the training consisted of drilling.

    In November of 1940, the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  On November 27, 1940, the company left Janesville for Fort Knox, Kentucky, by train.  Arriving at Ft. Knox, they found themselves housed in tents with stoves in them. 
    A typical day started at 6:15 A.M. with reveille, but most of the soldiers were already up so they could wash, dress, and be on time for assembly.  Breakfast was from 7 to 8 A.M. which was followed buy calisthenics from 8 to 8:30.  After this, the remainder of the morning dealt with .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in military tactics.
    At 11:30, the tankers got ready for lunch, which was from noon to 1:00 P.M., when they went back to work by attending the various schools.  At 4:30, the tankers day ended and retreat was at 5:00 P.M. followed by evening meal at 5:30.  The day ended at 9:00 P.M. with lights out, but they did not have to be in bed until 10:00 P.M. when taps was played.

    In January, 1941, Headquarters Company was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion.  It was at this time that Ronald was reassigned to the company.  The purpose of the company was to take care of the daily operations of the battalion and ensure that supplies are distributed to the letter companies.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30.  During the maneuvers the company made sure the tank companies had what they needed.  Ronald like the other men hoped that they would be released from federal duty upon completion of the maneuvers. Instead, they were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and on the side of a hill,  they heard the news that they were being sent overseas instead.  Ronald received a furlough home to say goodbye to his family and friends.

    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.
    The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.   Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 2nd 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. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  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. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly countr
    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 Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  The truth was he had not learned of their arrival until just days before the ship docked.  He made sure that the battalion had everything it needed and remained with them until every member had had Thanksgiving dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.

    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.

    Most of Ronald's time after arriving at  Ft. Stotsenburg was spent making sure the tankers had what they needed to prepare their new equipment for use.  The soldiers spent most of the time removing the cosmoline from the tanks guns which had been greased to prevent them from rusting at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    At six in the morning on December 8, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield.  Allmorning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks' machine guns, were useless against planes. 
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night the members of the company slept in a dry latrine that was near their bivouac since it was safer then their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night on a bed.  The next morning, they saw the bodies of the dead lying on the ground.  Pilots who had night duty lay dead in their tents.

    The  battalion was sent to Lingayen Gulf,, on December 21st, were their job was to hold a position until the Filipino and American forces had established another defensive line.  They would then disengage and fall back.
    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 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 March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3.  On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
   It was at this time 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 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 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."    
  
   
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."  
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.           

    HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.         

    As they prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
  
   Later in the day, the POWs were order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. 
Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit.  When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.      
    It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. 
The first five miles of the march was uphill.  They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell. 
    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell, an unfinished Filipino training base, which was pressed into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink of water.  The Japanese guard could and would turn off the faucet whenever he felt like it.  If a man wanted a drink, he would have to stand in place until it was turned back on again. 
   
The death rate in the camp began to climb.  As many as 55 POWs died each day.  For those assigned to the burial detail, the job was endless.  To bury a man, the POWs dug a shallow grave and held the body down with a pole.  This was done because the water table was high and the bodies floated in the graves.  The next day, when the burials continued, those on the detail found that wild dos had dug up the bodies or that the bodies were sitting up in their graves.  Seeing that something had to be done to lower the number of deaths, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan and sent the healthier POWs there.

   With most of the POWs, Ronald was sent to Cabanatuan #1 when it opened in May 1942.  It was ther that he became ill and admitted to the camp hospital on June 2, 1942 suffering from dysentery.  Medical records show he remained in the hospital the entire time he was a POW in the camp.

    Sgt. Ronald J. King died of dysentery and malaria on Monday, September 14, 1942.  He was buried in the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery.  After the war, his family requested that his remains be returned Janesville.  On October 22, 1949, Sgt. Ronald J. King was reburied in the military section at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville. 


 

 

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