Pfc. Vernon Maxwell Pendley
Pfc. Vernon M. Pendley was born on August 5, 1921, in Provo, Kentucky, to
Pearl C. Pendley & Laura Ann Pendley. He was raised on Provo Road, Provo County, Kentucky, with his four
sisters and three brothers. It is known that he completed high school.
Vernon was enlisted into the U.S. Army on June 20, 1940, in Oxford, Mississippi, and was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. The specific type of training he received is not known. At some point, he was assigned to HQ Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He may have joined the battalion from the 753rd Tank Battalion to replace a National Guardsman released from federal service.
The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers. After the maneuvers, The battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. The decision to send the battalion to the Philippines may have been made as early was August 15, 1941.
The reason the battalion was being sent overseas was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan to Mariveles, and when the squadron landed he reported what he had seen, but it was too late in the day to do anything. The next morning another squadron was sent to the area and found the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was in the area to intercept the boat. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations. The members of the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies. Men with minor medical conditions were held 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.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 11th. 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 P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had the grease put on them to prevent them from rusting at sea. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks. It was during this time that Vernon was reassigned to the Provisional Tank Group, but it is not known what his duties were.
At six in the morning, the officers of the two tank battalions were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to return to their platoons at the perimeter of Clark Airfield. The 192nd had been assigned to the southern portion of the airfield while the 194th Tank Battalion protected the northern portion of the airfield. The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
As a member of the Provisional Tank Group, Vernon remained in the bivouac of the the tank group. After the attack the tankers saw the carnage done by the Japanese planes. The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps. The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
Vernon most likely took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942. The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off. The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions. According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942. Japanese troops had been caught off behind the battle line. Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket. According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades. As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole. The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I, and one out of three exploded.
It was April 8, when the news of a possible surrender began to spread among the soldiers. Gen. Edward King facing the reality that only about 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight and most likely would last one more day. It was at this time that he decided to send his staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender since he wanted to avoid the slaughter of 6000 wounded and sick troops and 40000 civilians. At 10:30, these orders were given, "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."
Vernon, like many others, took the news to mean that he would be free from the constant shelling and air raids. At the time, the Provisional Tank Group's Headquarters was near Limay. The troops on Corregidor had no idea that the barrio was still in American hands and were shelling the area.
About midnight. the tankers were informed an order would be given for them to destroy their equipment. The Americans began blowing up the ammunition dumps so that the ordnance could not be used by the Japanese. The soldiers heard a loud thud and flames shot into the sky. At 6:45 A.M. on April 9, the order "crash" was given and the tankers destroyed their equipment.
At the time of the surrender, Vernon was working as a medic at General Hospital #2, Little Baguio. The medical staff remained at the hospital after the surrender. During the time there, the Japanese set up artillery between the hospital buildings to fire on Corregidor. The artillery on Corregidor returned fire resulting in the death of sick POWs.
At some point, Vernon was sent to Cabanatuan which had been a Filipino Army Base. The Japanese had sent the healthier POWs to the camp. Within weeks arriving at the camp, Vernon became ill. According to medical records kept at the camp, on June 13, 1942, he was admitted to the camp hospital with amoebic dysentery and remained in the hospital until he was discharged, but no date of discharge has been found.
It is not known if Vernon went out on any work details after arriving in the camp. At some point, he developed dysentery and sent to the camp hospital again. According to the diary of 2nd Lt. Jacques Merrifield, 192nd Tank Battalion, Pfc. Vernon M. Pendley died from dysentery on Sunday, December 19, 1942, at approximately 11:00 P.M., and was buried in the camp cemetery.
After the war, the remains of Pfc. Vernon M. Pendley were exhumed from the camp cemetery and reburied as those of an "unknown" at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila. His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.