Strobel_H

 

Sgt. Herbert F. Strobel


    Sgt. Herbert F. Strobel was born on November 14, 1916, to John F. Strobel & Elizabeth Nelson-Strobel.  He was from Mankato Township, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, where he lived on a farm with his three brothers and two sisters. He delivered milk for a living.  He joined the Minnesota National Guard in Brainerd, Minnesota, with his brother, John, in September 1939.  

    When Herbert's National Guard unit was called to federal service, it became A Company, 194th Tank Battalion.  His company traveled by train to Fort Lewis, Washington where they trained for the next six months.

    On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the Philippines 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, another squadron was sent to the area and found that 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 battalion, minus B Company, traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California. From there, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, they were ferried to  Fort McDowell on Angel Island and given physicals and inoculated.  Men who had medical conditions were held back and 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, and an unknown destroyer that were its escorts.  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 ships crossed the International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16, 1941, and the date became Thursday, September 18, 1941.  They entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on Friday, September 26, 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.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The rest of the battalion was transported to Ft. Stotsenburg where they were assigned to tents along the main road to the fort since their barracks were unfinished.  They would move into their barracks on November 15th.

    After arriving in the Philippines Herb wrote a letter home.  In it he said:


    "We finally got to the Philippine Islands and am going to let you know it.  We had quite a trip over.  Would have had a good time if not in the army.
    We stopped in Hawaii for ten hours and saw a lot of these islands which I think are better than the Philippines.  We are stationed 65 miles from Manila.  I didn't know people lived so crudely as they do here.  Natives are very poor and many of them live in grass shacks.
    Our money is worth twice as much over here.  Once can get a native to do all his work for hardly anything.  I and two others got a ride in a pony cart for two miles for only five centroos (2 1/2 c our money) People are awfully dirty over here.
    We were on the boat for 20 days and I got very tired but not seasick.  We have a full quota of tanks and men.  My address is: Sgt. H. Strobel, 194th tank battalion, Care Superintendent of Army Transport Service, Ft. Mason, Ca."

    For the next two months, the tankers drilled and went out on took part in training.  One of the major accomplishments was installing radios in the tanks.  To do this, the machine gun on the left side of the tank had to be removed.  The opening was covered with a piece of tank track welded over the opening for the gun.
    During the first week of December 1941, the 194th and the 192nd tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard the airfield.  At all times, two tank crew members remained with their tanks.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, at 8:30, the planes of the the Army Air Corps took off and filled the sky.  At noon the planes landed to be refueled, line up in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch in the mess hall.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Danny lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.
    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.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.  They lived through two more attacks on December 10th.  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.
    The battalion received 15 Bren Gun carriers on the 15th, and gave some to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts.  They used the carriers to test the ground to see if it was solid enough to support tanks.  They next were ordered to support the 71st Division in the area of Rosario on the 22nd, but the division's commanding officer ordered them out of the area, since he believed they would interfere with operations.
    The night of the 22nd/23rd, the battalions were operating north of the Agno River when it they found that the bridge they were suppose to use had been bombed.  On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed.  The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the tanks of the 192nd holding the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, and the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.

     On Saturday, December 26th, the tanks were parked awaiting orders on the south bank of the Agno River.  It was about 2:45 in the afternoon when mortar shells began landing around the tanks on the right flank.  The tanks were  shuttling back and forth to make it difficult for the Japanese to find the range.  Herbert was standing in the turret of his tank attempting to get it in a new position when one shell exploded in the treetops above his tank.  Herbert did not have a chance to close the turret hatch and was hit by shrapnel.  He fell into the tank.

    Lt. Col. Ernest Miller approached the tank and opened the the driver's hatch beneath the turret and Herbert's body fell out past the driver who also had been wounded in the foot.  Miller noted that Herbert's body was mangled from the shrapnel.   Herbert was removed from the tank by his crew and other members of A Company.   A truck approached, carrying wounded, and Herbert and the tank driver was put on it, but he died on the way to the hospital at 3:00 P.M.  Miller commented that when he looked at Herbert, he knew that Herbert would never deliver milk again.  

    Sgt. Herbert F. Strobel was buried at a Catholic cemetery with only a sheet as his burial shroud.  His parents learned of his death on January 12, 1942, in a telegram.  On May 3, 1942, at the First Methodist Church in Brainerd, his parents held a memorial service for Herbert which was opened to the entire town.
    After the war, he was buried in Plot N,  Row 9,  Grave 17, at the American Military Cemetery at Manila. 
After the war, Herb's boyhood friend, Wallace McKay, visited his grave with his wife.  As he stood in front of the grave he opened a small bottle and sprinkled Minnesota soil on the grave.



 



 

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