Pvt. Sidney Milton Rattner
What is known about Pvt. Sidney M. Rattner is that he was born in 1914 in Chicago, Illinois, to Ben & Dora Rattner. With his two sisters and a brother, he grew up at 3115 West Ainslie Street in Chicago and attended one year of college. At some point in the late 1930s, Sidney moved to Texas. He was living in Houston, Texas, working as a tobacco salesman, when he was inducted into the U.S. Army.
Pvt. Sidney M. Rattner volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion. He was assigned
to C Company to bring the company up to full strength after the maneuvers in Louisiana in 1941. The
battalion was informed that they were going overseas and all National Guardsmen 29 years old, or older, were
allowed to resign from federal service. Before joining the 192nd, Sidney had been a member of the 753rd
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers. Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times. On December 8, 1941, Sidney and the rest of C Company heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the use of paratroopers by the Japanese.
While having lunch, the tankers noticed planes approaching Clark
Field. At first, the thought they were American, but when the bombs began to explode around them, they
knew the planes were Japanese. The tankers spent the next few months slowing the Japanese conquest of the
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that C Company's tanks won the first tank battle victory of World War II against enemy tanks. After the battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, the commanding officer of C Company sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, the company set up it's defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge. Lt. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag . 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
Kennady's platoon held it's fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
The tankers withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group. When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown. Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river. Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice. This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops.
The tanks were spaced about 100 yards apart. The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them. The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire.
Lighting the rice stacks, the Americans opened up with small fire. They then used their .37 mm guns. The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.
The tank company was next sent to the barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire. From a Filipino lieutenant, Gentry learned where the guns were and attacked. Before the Japanese withdrew, the tankers had knocked out three of the guns.
After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until all the troops were across. The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the Japanese up for a few days. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.
In addition to serving as a rear guard, the tankers burnt everything that was being left behind. They burnt warehouses, banks, and businesses that would help the Japanese.
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line on
Bataan on a small peninsula. The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land
reinforcements, they were landed in the wrong place. The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known
as the Battle of the Points.
During some of the actions against the Japanese, the Japanese sent soldiers, carrying
gasoline cans, against the tanks. The Japanese would attempt to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into
the vents on the back of the tanks and set them on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun them before
they got to the tanks, the crew of another tank would shoot them as they stood on the tanks. The tankers
did not like to do this because of what it did to the crews inside the tanks.
The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets, but before they did Emerson's tank went beyond the perimeter of the area cleared. In an attempt to stop the tanks, the Japanese planted disk shaped land mines. The mines had little to no effect on the tanks and all returned to their respective bases safely. Emerson's tank hit a mine which caused it to throw a track and disabled the tank. Sidney, Pvt. Robert Young, Pvt. Vernor Deck, and Sgt. Emerson Smith were trapped inside their tank. A number of attempts to rescue the crew failed. The next morning, the tank was still sitting where it had be disabled.
There are two stories as to what happened next. In the first, the realizing that the tank could not be moved, the four crew members attempted to evacuate the tank. As they were climbing out the Japanese threw grenades into the tank killing the crew.
The second story is that after the tank was disabled, the crew refused to surrender, so the Japanese began filling the tank with dirt they were digging out from under the tank to use it as a bunker. The four soldiers suffocated in the tank when it filled with dirt the Japanese were dropping into it through the view slits for the driver and assistant driver. The tank was later recovered and turned over to empty the dirt out of it. Upon doing this, the bodies of the tank crew members were recovered and buried.
Pvt. Sidney M. Rattner died when he suffocated inside his tank on Monday, February 2, 1942, near Agaloma. After the war, his remains were recovered. But since the remains could not be positively identified, he was buried at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila as an "Unknown." According to U.S. Army records, Sidney Rattner's date of death was February 8, 1942.