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. He was
known as "Bill" to his family and friends.
When he was a child, Bill's family moved to Louisiana. There, he attended and graduated, with honors, from Bolton High School in Alexandria, Louisiana, in 1936. He applied to the University of Idaho and was accepted. He chose to major in forestry which was the area his father worked in.
While in college, Bill, during his first year of college, 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 ROTC Camp in Washington State during the summer of 1941. In September 1941, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The company had a number of officer vacancies created with the release of National Guardsmen 29 years old and older. He was made a tank platoon commander.
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 Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Men were given leaves home to say goodbye to family and friends.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco. By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they received inoculations and physicals. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island. They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island. On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam. At one point, the ships passed an island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th. They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King. The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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. He would hold his information lectures on deck. For many of the soldiers, these sessions were appreciated since they were often seasick and they relieved their boredom.
Arriving in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day, 1941, the soldiers were sent to Fort Stotsenburg. The battalion spent the next two weeks preparing for maneuvers, but the expected maneuvers never took place.
On December 8, 1941, Bill lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. The attack took place just ten hours after Pearl Harbor the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
That morning, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, every plane landed and were parked in a straight line in front of the mess hall. After landing, the pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were eating lunch when they noticed planes approaching from the
north. They had enough time to count that
there were 54 planes. 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. After the attack, they
were witnesses to the carnage that had been
A few days later on December 29th, 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 squadron road into their bivouac.
The tankers opened fire. According to members of the company, the battle was one of gun fire flashes, screams, and confusion. When A Company ceased fire, they had wiped out the entire bicycle and Bill's tank was serving as a rear guard when it came under enemy fire by Japanese mortars. One of the enemy battalion. In addition, they had wiped out Japanese tanks that were following the battalion.
The next morning, Bill's tank was serving as a rear guard, in a dry rice paddy, when it came under enemy fire by Japanese mortars. One of the enemy rounds hit his half-track knocking it out. After escaping the half-track, Bill stood in front of the half-track and attempted to free his tank crew from the cab. A second round hit the half-track, 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 half-track 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. Underwood would later receive a commendation for his actions while he was a Prisoner of War.
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 Bill died.
On Tuesday, December 30, 1941, 2nd Lt. William A. Read died of his wounds, under a bridge, during the Battle of the Luzon. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star, for gallantry, in 1947. He also was posthumously promoted to first lieutenant.
After the war, the remains of 1st Lt. William W. Read were returned to the United States. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on February 7, 1950.
There is one last story involving Lt. William Read. After the men who had fought in the Philippines had been liberated, 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 Read. Sgt. Owen Sandmire, of A Company, heard from the other men that a nurse was asking about Read. He went looking for her.
When Sandmire found her, the nurse explained that she was William Read's fiance and that they had intended to marry when he came home. Sandmire told the nurse the details of Lt. William Read's death.