Pvt. Jean Hardie McCone
| Pvt. Jean H.
McCone was born on August 25, 1916, in Oregon, and
was the son of Victor J. McCone & Selma
McCone. His father died when he was a child
and his mother married John Hopkins. With
his mother and brother, he moved to
Massachusetts. Like many others of the time,
he left school after completing grammar school.
Jean was living in Marquette County, Michigan, when he was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 20, 1941. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. During basic training, he was assigned to A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
Jean, like all the other members of the battalion, learned to operate all the equipment of the battalion. It is not known what he trained to do with the company.
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 13th, 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. Afterwards, retreat was at 5:50. 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 Paul's time at Ft. Knox, he qualified as a tank driver.
In late August, the battalion was informed it would take part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through 30th. During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained at Camp Polk. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. They were told that this decision had been made by General George S. Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco over different train routes, and was ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals. Those men who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Calvin Coolidge and sailed on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover. The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.
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.
When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila. 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 20th, 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 that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members, or half-track crew members, remained with each vehicle at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by Capt. Walter Write, and the tank crews were brought up to full strength. At 8:30 A.M, the American Army Air Corps filled the sky, in every direction, with planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. About 12:45, as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American and had enough time to count 54 planes in formation. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
A Company remained at Clark Field for about a week before it was ordered to the barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would be near a road and railroad and protect them from sabotage. For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.
On December 30th, east of Zaragoza, the tankers bivouacked for the night on both sides of a road. The posted sentries and most of the tankers attempted to get some sleep. The sentries heard noise down the road and woke the company. Every man grabbed a weapon or manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. As the last bicycle passed, the tankers opened fire with everything they had. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At Gumain River, the night of December 31st to the morning of January 1st, 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 were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
The morning of April 9, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks. Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets. At 7:00 A.M., they became Prisoners of War. The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill and difficult on sick men. At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. They received little water and little food. When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom. The surface of the trench was alive with maggots. How long they remained in the bull pen is not known.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base. There was one water faucet for the entire camp, and men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day. The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. Often, when they returned to the cemetery the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
The Japanese realized that they had to do something to lower the death rate among the POWs, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. It is not known if Jean went directly to the camp when it opened, or he was sent to the camp after returning from a work detail.
According to records kept at the camp by the medical staff. On Monday, October 12, 1942, at 2:30 A.M., Pvt. Jean H. McCone died from dysentery and was buried in the camp cemetery in Plot 3, Row 2, Grave 24.
After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team identified the remains of Pvt. Jean H. McCone. At his uncle's request, he was buried at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot L, Row 2, Grave 133.