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 Blue Army's defenses and was on its way to capturing Patton's command post when the maneuvers were cancelled.
After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas. Men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service and replaced by men from the 753rd Tank Battalion. Most of the remaining soldiers were given leaves home to say their goodbyes.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf 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 that a large radio transmitter. The island was hundred of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island. At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations. Men found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd 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. The ship 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, another transport, 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 Dateline. 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.
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 Gen. Edward P. 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 - which was "slumgullion" a stew which was slung into their mess kits - before he went to have his own. Some men didn't even get this. Ironically, November 20 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 miles to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino training base that was pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.
When they 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. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to 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. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.
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 and 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.