Mason




Sgt. Raymond Phillip Mason
     Sgt. Raymond P. Mason was born in May 1917 and lived at 112 South 11th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois.  He and his sister were the children of Katherine and Harold Mason.  His mother would later marry, Carl Bergstrom, and Ray would have a half-sister and half-brother from this marriage.  Ray attended both Washington and Emerson Grade Schools, in Maywood, and was a member of the Proviso Township High School Class of 1935.  After high school, he worked as a desk clerk at John Ollier Engraving company in Maywood.

     Raymond enlisted in the Illinois National Guard and went with the Maywood Tank Company for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in November 1940, when the company was called to federal duty.  Before he left for Kentucky, he got engaged to Bernise Hengstler and planned to marry after his one year of service.  At Ft. Knox, his company was designated as B Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
    A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
    At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.   At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.  During this training, Ray became a tank commander.  

    In the late summer of 1941, Ray continued his training during maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30.  The battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, after the maneuvers, and learned that they were being sent overseas to the Philippine Islands.  Ray and the other members of the company were given leaves home to say goodbye to their families and friends.  Ray had planned to marry, Bernice Hengstler, but changed the wedding plans when he learned he was going overseas.

    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, 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 that a large radio transmitter. The island was hundred of miles away.  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 day.
    The and the next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks with came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion traveled over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island.  At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations.  Men found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  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.

    During their time on the island, Sgt. Jim Bashelben and Ray went into the tavern district of Honolulu that served military personnel.  As they were walking, Ray heard a song playing in one of the taverns.  He told Jim that it was his favorite song and that he wanted to listen to it.  Jim and Ray went into the bar so he could listen to it. 
    As they stood at the bar, Ray and Jim got into a conversation with two sailors.  The sailors began to tell them that they were receiving training in identifying aircraft.  The sailors stated that cardboard cut outs of planes were shown to them and that they had to identify if the plane was American or German.
    Ray and Bashleben asked the sailors why they weren't being trained to identify Japanese planes.  One of the sailors said to them that all the Japanese had were paper covered bi-planes left over from World War I.
    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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.   

    When the Japanese attack on Clark Field began, Ray and Jim Bashleben were in an half-track with Zenon Bardowski.  Bardowski and Bashleben were shooting 50 caliber machine guns at the Japanese Zeros.  Bashleben heard Ray say, "I guess these are those papered covered wooden propeller bi-planes the sailor in Hawaii was talking about!"

    The tank battalion received orders on December 21 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.

    Three weeks later, Ray and his tank were involved in an engagement with the Japanese at Tarlac.  The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. 
    While engaged in battle with the Japanese, Ray's tank was disabled when it hit a landmine and lost one of its tracks. Unable to move, Ray's tank was cut off from its support troops during the battle.  Ray and the other three members of his crew, Sgt. Walter Mahr and Pvts. Quincey Humphries, and LD Marrs, were ordered out of their tank by the Japanese.  When they got out of the tank, they expected to be taken prisoners.  Instead, they were ordered to run by the Japanese.  As they ran, all four men were machine gunned. 

     Sgt. Raymond P. Mason was killed on Monday, December 29, 1941, at the age of 24, while attempting to escape from the Japanese.  The other three members of the tank crew were wounded but made it into a sugarcane field and hid.  Two of the men were later captured by the Japanese, while the third was recovered by American forces.  According to U.S. Army records, Sgt. Raymond Mason was buried by the Japanese.

    Since his final resting place is unknown, Sgt. Raymond P. Mason's name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Cemetery outside of Manila.  He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Gold Star Citation.

    After the war, a member of Ray's tank crew, LD Marrs, who was from Texas, came to Maywood and told Ray's mother how Ray was killed.  It was this information about his death that was used to write his biography.     





 


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