2nd Lt. William Woodgate Read
2nd Lt. William W. Read was the son of Arthur D. Read & Ethel F. Woodgate-Read of West Monroe,
Louisiana. He was born on February 8, 1920, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had two sisters and two brothers
and was known as "Bill" to his family and friends.
When he was a child, Bill's family moved to Louisiana. There, he graduated, with honors, from Bolton High School in Alexandria, Louisiana, in 1936. While in high school, he participated in debate, tennis, and the National Honor Society. It also appears that he joined the Louisiana National Guard around this time. After high school, he attended the University of Idaho where he chose to major in forestry which was the area his father worked in professionally.
While in college, Bill, was a member of Phi Eta Sigma a honorary fraternity. He received this honor for achieving a grade point average of 5.5 or higher. He was also a member of Xi Sigma Pi an honorary forestry fraternity, the Associated Foresters, and a member of the staff of the Idaho Forester. He was also a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and the ROTC program at the university.
Bill graduated college, with honors, in June 1941. After graduation, he attended the Louisiana National Guard's Officers Candidates School in the summer of 1941 and was commissioned a second lieutenant on July 18, 1941. Upon completion of the camp, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned as a tank platoon commander in A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion.
In October 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk after taking part in the Louisiana maneuvers. After officers were released from service, due to age, and others were promoted to fill these vacancies, Bill volunteered to join the battalion and assigned to A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, as a tank platoon commander. The company had a number of officer vacancies created with the release of National Guardsmen 29 years old and older.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, 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 which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. 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 to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, the battalion was ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. The members of the 192nd received inoculations and physicals from the battalion's medical detachment. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date, while 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. They 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 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 Date Line. 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.
During this part of the trip, Bill attempted to raise the morale of the soldiers by providing them with information on the Philippines. He had taken the time to learn as much as he could about the islands and their people and would hold his information lectures on deck. For many of the soldiers, these sessions were appreciated since they were often seasick and the sessions relieved their boredom.
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 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 that they 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.
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.
The morning of December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the field, and the 192nd guarded the southern half of the field. At all times, two members of each tank crew remained with the tanks and half-tracks and received their meals from food trucks.
On December 8, the officers reported to the battalion's radio room and heard the news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. All tank and half-track crew members were ordered to the airfield. When the tankers heard the news many believed that it was the start of the maneuvers that were expecting to participate in with the 194th Tank Battalion.
As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks, at 8:30 that morning, planes took off and filled the skies. At noon, every plane landed to be refueled and were parked in a straight line in front of the mess hall, and the pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were eating lunch, at their vehicles, when they noticed planes approaching from the north. They had enough time to count that there were 54 planes in the formation. At first, they watched what was described as "raindrops" fall from the planes. It was only when the runways began exploding that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. Since they had no weapons to fight planes, they could do little more than watch.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and 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.
A few days later on December 29, east of Concepcion, A Company had bivouacked along both
sides of a road. Night had fallen when the tankers heard a commotion from down the road. The tankers
grabbed their tommy-guns and waited in silence. As they watched a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their
Bill's tank platoon served as the rear guard and knocked out Japanese tanks that were following the them. The next morning, December 30th, Bill's tank platoon was again serving as a rear guard and was in a dry rice paddy when it came under enemy fire by Japanese mortars. Bill was riding in a tank when one of the enemy rounds hit one of its tracks knocking it out. After escaping the tank, Bill stood in front of the it and attempted to free the crew. A second round hit the tank, directly below where he was standing blowing off his legs at the knees and leaving him mortally wounded. The other members of his crew carried Bill from the tank and laid him under a bridge. Bill would not allow himself to be evacuated since their were other wounded soldiers. He insisted that these men be taken first.
Pvt. Jack Bruce went for help, but when he did not return quickly, Pvt. Eugene Greenfield went to find help in an attempt to save Bill's life. Staying with Bill was Pvt. Ray Underwood. As Bill lay dying, Underwood cradled him in his arms.
While Underwood sat with Bill, the Japanese overran the area. When Underwood was captured, he was sitting on the ground holding Bill in his arms as he died. Another version of the story states that after he and Underwood were captured, a Japanese officer killed him with his sword. Underwood would later receive a commendation for his actions while he was a Prisoner of War.
On Tuesday, December 30, 1941, 2nd Lt. William A. Read died of his wounds, under a bridge, during the Battle of the Luzon. In April 1942, he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. His family did not learn of his death until 1st Sgt. Dale Lawton, who had been liberated at Cabanatuan, visited them, in 1945, and told them of the events leading to William's death. In 1947, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, for gallantry, and posthumously promoted to first lieutenant.
After the war, the remains of 1st Lt. William W. Read were returned to the United States and were buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on February 7, 1950, with his parents in attendance. He was buried in Section 34, Site 4703.
There is one last story involving 1st Lt. William W. Read. After the men who had fought in the Philippines had been liberated at the end of the war, they sailed for home. One of the nurses caring for them on the hospital ship repeatedly approached, the former POWs, and asked them if anyone had known a Lt. William W. Read. Sgt. Owen Sandmire, of A Company, heard from the other men that a nurse was asking about Read, so he went looking for her.
When Sandmire found her, the nurse explained that she was Lt. William Read's fiancé, and that they had intended to marry when he came home. Sandmire told the nurse the details of Lt. William W. Read's death.