Pvt. Clemath Peppers was born on November 5, 1917, in
Dallas County, Missouri, to Ernest Peppers & Lola May Palmer-Peppers. He had three
sisters and three brothers. He resided in Windyville, Missouri, and later Glenpool, Kansas. He worked in
the oil industry and was living in Oklahoma when he was drafted. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 20,
1941, in Oklahoma City.
Clemath was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. He attended tank school and
became a member of a tank crew. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the
753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia, in the late summer of
After the maneuvers, the battalion remained behind at Camp Polk. None of them had
any idea why they had not returned to Ft. Knox. The battalion members learned that they were being sent
overseas. Those 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.
At Camp Polk, Louisiana, the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion were informed that they
were going to remain at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the men had any idea why this was
being done. It was on the side of a hill that the members of the battalion learned they were being sent
overseas. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old were given the opportunity to resign from
federal service. Replacements for these men were sought from the 753rd. Clemath was one of the
replacements and was assigned to B Company.
After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements for the men
released from federal service, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and halftracks. The battalion
traveled over three different railroad routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco. From there, they were ferried,
U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. On the island, the soldiers were
inoculated and received physicals. Those who had minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin
the battalion at a later date.
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 9th, 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
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, which was stew thrown into their mess kits,
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 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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers
with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of
Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Two crew members
were ordered to remain with their tanks at all times. The morning of
December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark
Airfield. Early that morning, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor had reached the Philippines. The tankers were ordered to the
perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. As
they sat on their tanks, they watched American planes fill the sky. At
noon, every plane landed.
The tankers were eating lunch when they saw 54
planes approaching the airfield from the north. As they watched the
planes, they saw what looked like raindrops falling from the planes.
When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were
Japanese. Most of the tankers could do nothing but watch since their
weapons were not meant to fight 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, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer
than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night
in a bed. They lived through two more attacks on December 10 and 13.
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, where the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was
destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese
resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang
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.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at
San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On December 31/January 1, the tanks were
stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's
chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge. The defenders were
attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw
toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces
defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew. 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 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan
so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and
using smoke as cover. This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the
Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6/7 the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding
its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the
192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the
engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter
Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and
members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After
daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald
Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop
Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this
position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to
bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of
the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the
Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the
East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had
maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were
reduced to three tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required
maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their
400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen.
"Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further
delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach
of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the
salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with
accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with
the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine
Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column
of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could
withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until
the night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac
Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they
were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get
around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the
beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast,
while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the
tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which
was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all
night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted
by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on
and off shore.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at
Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and
half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used
against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The company also took part in the
Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February 17
- to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped
behind the main defensive line after a Japanese
offensive was stopped and pushed pack to the original
line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket
one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.
Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank
exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful
that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by
one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese,
two methods were used. The first was to have
three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the
tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole,
the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the
foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one
out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to
kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track
over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track
power resulting with the tank spinning around and
grinding its way down into the foxhole. The
tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
While the tanks were doing
this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of
gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese
attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into
the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks
on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the
Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks
would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The
tankers did not like to do this because of what it did
to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit
the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside
the tank. It was for their performance during
this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive
one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews
was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one
at a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next
tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit
the pocket before it would enter. This was
repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were
What made this job so hard was
that the Japanese dug "spider holes" among
the roots the trees. Because of this situation,
the Americans could not get a good shot at the
The tankers, from A, B, and C
Companies, were able to clear the pockets. But
before this was done, one C Company tank which had gone
beyond the American perimeter was disabled and the tank
just sat there. When the sun came up the next
day, the tank was still sitting there. During the
night, its crew was buried alive, inside the tank, by
the Japanese. When the Japanese had been wiped
out, the tank was turned upside down to remove the dirt
and recover the bodies of the crew. The tank was
put back into use.
At the same time the
company took part in the Battle of the Points on the
west coast of Bataan. The Japanese landed troops
but ended up trapped. One was the
Lapay-Longoskawayan points from January 23 to 29, the
Quinawan-Aglaloma points from January 22 to February 8,
and the Sililam-Anyasan points from January 27 to
February 13. The defenders successfully
eliminated the points by driving their tanks along the
Japanese defensive line and firing their machine
guns. The 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
followed the tanks eliminating any resistance and
driving the Japanese Marines over the edge of the
cliffs where they hid in caves. The tanks fired
into the caves killing or forcing them out of them into
B Company was assigned to
guard one of the few beaches on Bataan, near Limay,
where the Japanese could land land troops.
The morning of February 3, 1942, an attempt was made by a Sgt. Walter Cigoi to end the daily
flyovers of Recon Joe.
The tankers had been up all night and were attempting to get
Cigoi pulled his half-track out from under the jungle canopy, onto the
beach, and started shooting
at the reconnaissance plane. His attempt to shoot down the plane failed. As a
result of his decision, the Japanese now had a good idea where the tankers were located. Twenty
minutes later, four
Japanese dive bombers flew to the location and pasted the tanks and half-tracks.
According to Frank Goldstein, the falling bombs exploded upon
contact with the tree canopy high above
the tanks and half-tracks. This situation resulted in shrapnel flying in every
direction. Goldstein stated that Peppers had been
sleeping on the back of his tank when the attack started. After the attack, the
tankers found Pepper
s dead on his tank. Goldstein believed that Peppers never knew what hit him
nd stated that the tankers took the bodies of Clemath and Richard Graff, who also died in the
attack, and buried them at the cemetery at Cabcaben Army Airfield.
After the war, the Army Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of Pvt.
Clemath S. Peppers. At the request of his family, the remains were returned home and buried at the Peppers
Cemetery, Jasper Township, Dallas County, Missouri, in April 1949