Sgt. Kenneth Eugene Thompson


    Sgt. Kenneth E. Thompson was born on September 24, 1915, to Lloyd & Anna Thompson in Plymouth, Ohio.  He grew up in Graytown, Ohio, and resided in Oak Harbor, Ohio.  He was the brother of Gertrude Collins the wife of Capt. Harold Collins of C Company.

    Ken joined the Ohio National Guard's Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Port Clinton.  On November 25, 1940, the tank company was federalized as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. 

    Ken traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky where he trained for nearly a year.  During his training. he rose in rank to sergeant.  He also became a tank commander.  From September 1 through 30, the battalion took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.   Afterwards they were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.

    On the side of a hill that the members of the 192nd learned they were being sent overseas. Those men 29 years old, or older, were given the chance to resign from federal service.  Many of the remaining men received leaves home to say their goodbyes.
    The decision for this move - which had been made in August 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.
    The companies of the battalion traveled by train, over different train routes, to San Francisco, California, where they were taken by ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell, on Angel Island, and received inoculations and physicals from the battalion's medical detachment.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was 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 Date Line.  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 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.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, C Company learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Four hours later, the Japanese bombed Clark Field.  Ken and the other tankers had been stationed around the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers.  During the attack, all the tankers could do was watch.

    On December 21, C Company was sent north to Lingayen Gulf in support of B Company. Ken spent the next four months fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.  During this time, he broke his nose while in a tank.
    On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They 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 held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.      
    At Cebu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Santa Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.            
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       
    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
     On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.       

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
    By the afternoon, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in a rice field on the north end of the barrio.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.  Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag
2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.       
    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.          
    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan. 
    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions, on January 28, 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.  

    In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line on Bataan on a small peninsula.  The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land reinforcements, they were landed in the wrong place.  The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known as the Battle of the Points.
    The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision was made by Brigadier General Clinton A. Pierce that tanks were needed to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts.  He requested the tanks from the Provisional Tank Group.
    On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point where the Japanese had landed troops.  The tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M.  He did a quick reconnaissance of the area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of the Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire.  The progress was slow but steady until a Japanese .37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks withdrew.  It turned out that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at the time.  The decision was made to resume the attack the next morning, so 45th Infantry dug in for the night.
    The next day, the tank platoon did reconnaissance before pulling into the front line.  They repeated the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gun fire.  As they moved forward, members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks.  The troops made progress all day long along the left side of the line.  The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they had to avoid so they would not get hung up on them.  The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver.  Coordinating the attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made by to bring in a radio car so that the tanks and infantry could talk with each other.
    On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived.  The tanks were assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order.  Each tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and infantry commanders.  This was done so that the crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could be ordered to where they were needed.  The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night.
    The attack resumed the next morning the next morning and the Japanese were pushed to the cliff line where they hid below the edge of the cliff out of view.  It was at that time that the tanks were released to returned to the 192nd.  
    C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  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.
    During some of the actions against the Japanese, the Japanese sent soldiers, carrying gasoline cans, against the tanks.  The Japanese would attempt to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks and set them on fire.  If the tankers could not machine gun them before they got to the tanks, the crew of another tank would shoot them as they stood on the tanks.  The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crews inside the tanks.
    Since the tanks were riveted, when the turrets were hit by machine gun fire, the rivets would pop and ricochet inside the tanks.  The rivets sparked when when they hit the sides of the crew compartment.  This situation was made worse by the loud sound of bullets from machine guns hitting the tank.  The biggest danger from the rivets was  the possibility that one could hit one of the tankers in the eye.
    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.     

    The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets.  But before this was done, one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter, was disabled and the tank just sat there.  When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there.  During the night, its crew was buried alive, inside the tank, by the Japanese who threw dirt into its vents.  When the Japanese had been wiped out, the tank was turned upside down to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew.  The tank was put back into use.  During this time, the tankers had few if any breaks from the fighting.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor, which he declined.
    On April 3, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were 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.
    The evening of April 8, 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."

    On April 9, 1942, Ken became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He and the other members of the company remained in their bivouac for two days until ordered to Mariveles.  It was from this town at the southern tip of Bataan that Ken started what became known as the death march.

    During the march, Ken helped his brother-in-law, Capt. Harold Collins, who was suffering from heat stroke.  Capt. Henry Stickney, a member of the Corps of Engineers, also helped Ken carry Capt. Collins.  

    Ken made his way north to San Fernando. There, they were packed into small wooden boxcars and transported to Capas.  The POWs who died during the trip remained standing since they could not fall to the floor.  It was only when the living POWs got out of the cars that the dead fell to the floor.

    The first camp Ken was held in was Camp O'Donnell.  The camp was so bad that as many as 50 POWs died each day.  To get out of the camp, Ken was selected for a work detail to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed as the Americans had retreated. The American officer in charge of the detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd.

    It was while Ken was on this detail that he hurt his leg while working. A piece of metal hit his leg gashing it.  Ken soon developed an infection in the wound.  The Japanese doctors wanted to amputate his leg above the knee, but Col. Ted Wickord and the Japanese commanding officer, who had lived in Detroit for 19 years, prevented this from being done.  Ken's leg was saved.  The one result was that he had a blood clot in his chest.  

    When the detail ended, Ken was sent to Cabanatuan.  During his time in the camp, he remembered that they ate snake, dogs and monkeys.  According to medical records kept at the camp, Ken was hospitalized on April 4, 1943.  The records do not indicate why he was hospitalized or when he was discharged.  How long he remained in the camp is unknown. 

    Ken was next sent to Bilibid Prison outside Manila. The POWs in the prison, including Ken, made pills from plaster that they would sell to the Japanese guards.  The guards would take the pills in an attempt to cure their social diseases.

    Ken remained in the Philippines until July 1944 with Capt. Harold Collins.  His last meal with Capt. Collins was a can of corned beef from which they made a stew by adding hogweed and water.

    On July 2nd, Ken was taken to the Port Area of Manila, where he was boarded onto the Noto Maru.  The ship sailed on July 4th, but returned to Manila.  It sailed a second time on July 16th.  According to Ken, the entire trip took 62 days for the ship to reach Moji, Japan.  During the trip six POWs died.

    From Moji, Ken was taken to Fukuoka #5, which was known as Omine Machi.  In the camp with Ken was John Short from Port Clinton.  The POWs in the camp worked loading coal on coal cars in a mine that had been condemned as unsafe before the war.  If the Japanese believed the POWs were not working hard enough, they were beaten.
    The camp guards stole items from Red Cross packages and withheld the packages from July 1, 1944, to September 2, 1945.  The Japanese intentionally opened packages and mixed up contents so that the ranking Allied officer would not know how much should be in each package.  They also took much of the food in the packages which meant what they received was not sufficient to have any nutritional value.  When the boxes were given to the POWs, they often contained less than what had been sent.  In addition, when Red Cross packages arrived, they were withheld from POWs from three to seven months after arriving.

    While Ken was at Omine Machi, he narrowly escaped being killed for violating a camp rule.  The POWs had received Red Cross packages, and Ken lit a cigarette in a restricted barracks.  A Japanese guard caught him and could have killed him.  Ken offered the guard a cigarette.  The guard took the cigarette, smiled and let Ken go.  A couple of days later, this same guard killed another POW who he caught smoking in a restricted barrack.

    In September 1945, Ken was liberated from Omine Machi and weighed 118 pounds.   He was taken to the Wakayama, Japan, and transported on the U.S.S. Sanctuary to the Philippines.  After receiving medical treatment, he was transported on the U.S.S. Marine Shark arriving at Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945.  He was sent to Madigan General Hospital at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
    Charles returned to Graytown and his family on March 2, 1946.
  He was given a 104 day furlough and finally discharged, from the army, on June 11, 1946.  After the war, he worked as a salesman.  He married Lucille A. Snider on February 1, 1947, and lived in Sandusky, Ohio.
    In April 1967, Ken, Joseph Hrupcho, John Minier, and their wives returned to Bataan.  During the visit, the men walked one mile of the road that they had walked so many years earlier as POWs.  They also took part in other activities to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the march.

    Kenneth E. Thompson passed away on May 31, 1972, in Port Clinton, Ohio, and was buried at Riverview Cemetery, Port Clinton, Ohio.


 

 

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