Pvt. Garold M. Stephen
| Pvt. Garold M.
Stephen was born on February 3, 1918, to
Milton E. Stephen and Anna R. Jeffers-Stephen in
Belmont County, Ohio, and grew up with his seven
sisters and five brothers in Seneca Township,
Monroe County, Ohio. Like many others of the
time, he completed grade school and went to work
on the family's farm.
On January 29, 1941, Garold was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. What specific training he received is not known, but it is known that it was during basic training that he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The reason for this was the company had been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company from Port Clinton, and the Army filled-out the all the companies with men from their home states.
In the late summer, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. The battalion was part of the Red Army which was "fighting" General George S. Patton's Blue Army. At one point, the 192nd broke through the Red Army's defenses and was on its way to capturing Patton's command post when the maneuvers were cancelled.
After the maneuvers ended, the 192nd Tank Battalion was informed it was remaining behind at the fort instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side of a hill that the members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours most of the tankers knew they were going to the Philippines.
Members of the 192nd who were 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service. Replacements for the National Guardsman released from federal service came from the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to the base. The battalion also received the 753rd's tanks and half-tracks.
Over different train routes that companies of the battalion made their way to San Francisco, California. Also arriving with them were their "new" M3 Tanks. The tanks were new to the battalion but came from the 753rd. Once in San Francisco, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island. There they received physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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.
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 the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were
American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad. For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.
The company took part in the Battle of the Pockets. The Japanese had lunched an offensive and were pushed back to the original battle line. Two pockets of Japanese soldiers were trapped behind the line. The tanks were sent in to the pockets to wipe them out. One platoon of tanks would relieve another platoon. The tanks would do this one at a time.
The tanks used two strategies to do this. In the first, the tanks would go over a foxhole. Three Filipino soldiers were sitting on the back of the tanks. Each man had a bag of hand grenades. As the tank was passing over the foxhole, the three soldiers would drop hand grenades into the foxhole.
The second method was to park a tank over a foxhole. The driver would then spun the tank, in a circle, on one track until it ground itself into the ground wiping out the Japanese. The tankers slept upwind from the tanks so they didn't have to smell the rotting flesh.
At about 6:45 in the morning, the tankers received the order "crash." The tankers circle their tanks and fired an armor piecing round into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks in the tanks and dropped grenades into the tanks. When they finished they waited to see what would happen to them.
When the Japanese made contact, C Company was ordered to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once there, they were searched and the Japanese took what they wanted from the Americans. It was from Mariveles that the company started what has become known as the death march.
Garold made his way north to San Fernando. Most of the Americans were sick from disease and weak from fighting on quarter rations. What made the situation worse was that the first five miles out of Mariveles were uphill.
At one point, the soldiers ran past Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor. The American artillery returned fire. Food was scarce and water was even scarcer. Men who got water at the artesian wells that flowed across the road were shot or bayoneted.
When Garold's company arrived at San Fernando, they were put into a bull pin. In one corner of it, was a slit trench that was to be used as a latrine. The surface of the trench moved because it was covered with maggots.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. They were marched to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars known as forty and eights. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From there, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp. Upon arrival in the camp, the POWs were lectured that they were not prisoners but captives and would be treated as captives. There was one water faucet for the entire camp which meant literally died for a drink. Due to the lack of medicine, disease ran wild in the camp. The burial detail constantly worked to bury the dead.
According to records kept by the camp medical staff, Pvt. Garold M. Stephen was admitted to the camp hospital where he died on Sunday, May 24, 1942, from malaria. He was buried in the camp cemetery in Section I, Row 4, Grave 9.
After the war, the remains of Pvt. Garold M. Stephen were positively identified by the U.S. Remains Recovery Team. At the request of his parents, his remains were returned to Barnesville, Ohio, and he was reburied at Barnesville Catholic Cemetery.