Siebert

 

Pvt. Harry Virgil Sibert Jr.


    Pvt. Harry V. Sibert Jr. was born in October 25, 1920, in Los Angeles, California, to Harry V. Sibert Sr. & Agusta G. McWilliams-Sibert.  With his sister and a brother, he grew up in Glendale and Van Nuys, Cailfornia.  To distinguish himself from his father, he used Virgil as his first name. 
    According to his enlistment records, Harry later resided in Multnomah County, Oregon.  It is believed that he lived in Portland. Before he left California, he had enlisted in the California National Guard.  He joined the regular army on September 16, 1940, and was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington.  At some point, he was assigned to C Company, 194th Tank Battalion.  The company had been a California National Guard Tank Company from Salinas.
   He was assigned to the tank crew of Sgt. Glen Borkaw.

    
    On August 15, 1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippine Islands because of an event that happened during the summer.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  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, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next morning, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    In September 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands.  Arriving, by train, at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, they were taken by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.  Those men found with medical conditions were replaced.
    The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8th at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands.  To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13th at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
    After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was its escort.  During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke.  Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
    The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several hours later.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field.  The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
    The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed.  They were met by  General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they needed.  On November 15th, they moved into their barracks.
    On December 1st, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field.  Their job was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers.  The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived in November guarded the southern half.  Two crew men remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, the battalion was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Just hours early, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.  As the tankers guarded the airfield, they watched American planes flying in every direction.  At noon the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch.  It was 12:45, and as the tankers watched, a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
    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.
    The night of the 12th/13th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge.  Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they finally arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13th.
    It was at this time that C Company was ordered to support forces in southern Luzon.  The company proceeded through Manila.  Since they had no air cover, most of their movements were at night.  As they moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares being shot into the air.  They arrived at the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time their attempting to catch 5th columnists.

    The tanks were ordered by a major to proceed,  without reconnaissance, down a narrow trail.  Since the area was mountainous, the tanks had a hard time maneuvering.  As they went down the trail, the tanks attempted to keep their spacing so that the driver of each tank could each see the tank in front of him.  At one point in the trail, the tankers found that the trail made a sharp turn. Harry's tank was one of the last three tanks to make the turn.   

    As Needham's tank made the turn, it was hit by a shell fired by a Japanese anti-tank gun.  The shell killed Lt. Needham  and Pvt. Bales instantly.  The tank went off the road and into a ditch.  When the surviving crew members attempted to leave the tank, they were machine gunned.

   Sgt. Emil Morello's tank was the second tank in the column.  As it came around the corner, his driver realized he could not see the lead tank.  He sped up in an attempt to find the tank which resulted in the Japanese gun missing it when it fired on the tank.

   Harry's tank and the fourth tank were also hit by enemy fire before the gun was knocked out by Sgt. Emil Morello's tank.  Harry and Brokaw were wounded when their tank was hit while Pvt. Jim McLeod was killed.

    It is believed that the crew of the third tank rescued Brokaw, Morello and Harry.   The tank crew took the two wounded men to a hospital in Manila.  It is known that the hospital in Manila where Morello had been left was captured by the Japanese and that Morello became a Prisoner of War.  It is unknown if Harry was also captured by the Japanese on the same day.

    What is known is that Pvt. Harry V. Sibert died on Thursday, January 22, 1942.  According to U. S. Army records, he was Killed in Action and was reported as Missing in Action.  At this time, the whereabouts of Pvt. Harry V. Siebert's remains are unknown.  His appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila. 


 


 

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