Cpl. Gilbert A. Ryman
Cpl. Gilbert A. Ryman was born in 1914 in Greenwood Township, Vernon County, Wisconsin, to Ralph C. Ryman
& Minnie Graham-Ryman. With his three sisters and step-brother, he was raised at 412 North Terrace Street,
Janesville, Wisconsin, and worked as a weaver in the Rock River Woolen Mills. At some point, he joined the
Wisconsin National Guard.
On November 28, 1940, the tank company was sent to Fort Knox for training as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. It was there that Gilbert learned the necessary skills of a company clerk and became one of the clerks for A Company. It was his job to distribute the company's mail each day. While training there, he became engaged to Devota Buggs the sister of Wayne Buggs of A Company.
Almost a year after arriving in Kentucky, his battalion, the 192nd Tank Battalion, was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30. During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15, 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.
On September 1, 1941, the company rode a train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, on September 5, and were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe , to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. It was there the soldiers received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment. Those men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion. Other men were simply replaced.
The soldiers spent three days preparing their equipment and the equipment of the 194th Tank Battalion for shipment to the Philippine Islands. The turrets of the tanks were removed and the tank's serial number was sprayed on each one so that it could be reattached to the right tank.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. 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 spent much of time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KThey arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ships sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. While at sea, the ship was joined by the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge and the heavy cruiser the U.S.S. Louisville , which was the two transports escort. 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 smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship from 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 20th, 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 Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and 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.
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.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. At all times two members of each tank and half-track crew had to remain with their vehicles. The men received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. The tank and half-track crews were brought up to full strength at their positions around the airfield. At 8:30 A.M., American planes took off and filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and were lined up in a straight line, near the pilots' mess hall. The pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at around 12:45. Many of the tankers counted 54 planes. The planes approached the airfield and watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes. When the raindrops began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
Being a clerk, Gilbert was in the battalion's bivouac during the attack and took cover in a dried up latrine. After the attack, 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 in the dried up latrine since it was safer than sleeping in tents.. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.
The next day, company members, not assigned to tanks or half-tracks, walked around and saw the bodies of the dead laying everywhere. Some were pilots who had been caught asleep in their tents during the first attack, because they had flown night missions. Others were pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes.
The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12, so it could guard a highway and railroad against sabotage. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River as they made their way toward Lingayen Gulf.
On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, when the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
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 were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
At Gumain River, the night of December 31 to the morning of January 1, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three tanks.
On January 1, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. 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. It was also in January 1942, their food rations were cut in half. It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.
On January 5, while attached to the 194th Tank Battalion, A Company withdrew from the line. Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield received orders to launch a counter-attack against the Japanese on a tail picked by Provisional Tank Group command. Bloomfield, while attempting to attack, radioed the tank group that the trail did not exist.
It was evening and the tankers believed they were in a relatively safe place near Lubao along a dried up creek bed. Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep. Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gun shot at about 1:50 A.M. The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had lunched a major offensive across an open field wearing white shirts which made them easy targets. There was a great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 3:00 A.M., when the Japanese broke off the attack. Within days of this action, the company returned to the command of the 192nd.
The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan. The night of January 7, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek. The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed. The next day the tanks received maintenance. It was the first rest that the two tank battalions had since December 24.
While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops. The morning of January 27, a new battle line had been formed and all units were supposedly beyond it. That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were should have withdrawn. While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.
On January 28, the tank battalions 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. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
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 relieved.
At the same time, the tanks were also used to clear out the Japanese in what was called "The Battle of the Points." The Japanese had attempted to land troops behind the main defensive line and ended up with troops trapped on two different points on the peninsula.
The Japanese Marines were driven to the cliffs and hid in the caves below the cliff lines. They used the caves for protection and would climb down the cliffs to enter them or leave them. The tankers fired into the caves repeatedly until the Japanese were dead or came out of the caves.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
The last bivouac area that Gilbert was in was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looked out on the China Sea. The tankers knew that there was no help on the way. On a half-track's radio they had listened to Secretary of War Harry R. Stimson. When asked about the Philippines, he said , "There are times when men must die." The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.
The Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan on April 7. The tanks were pulled out of their position along the west side of the line and ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line. Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order : "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."
The tankers dest r oyed their tanks and waited to the y were ordered to mo ve. W hen the J apanese did make contact, they ordered the POWs to make their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill which was hard on underfed sick men. At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. They received little water and little food during the march. When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom. The surface of the trench was alive with maggots. How long they remained in the bull pen is not known.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. From there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When the POWs arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.
To get out of the camp, Gilbert volunteered to go out on the Camp Olivas Work Detail. The POWs on the detail recovered scrap metal for the Japanese. The POWs tied the disable vehicles together behind an operating vehicle and drove the disabled vehicles to San Fernando, where they were taken to Manila and sent to Japan as scrap metal. The POWs tied vehicles together with rope to a lead vehicle that was operational. Then, a POW got into each vehicle and steered it as it was towed to San Fernando.
It was while Gilbert was on this detail that he became ill and sent to Pampanga Provisional Hospital. According to medical records kept by the staff of the hospital, Cpl. Gilbert A. Ryman died on Saturday, July 25, 1942. There is conflicting information on the cause of death. Some sources indicate he died from dysentery, while other sources indicate that he died from Yellow Jaundice.
After his death. Cpl. Gilbert A. Ryman were buried at the Camp Olivas Cemetery. After the war, his remains were disinterred and reburied at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila, where he was buried in Plot E, Row 3, Grave 1.