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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 2, 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.
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
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.
Kenneth returned home and 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.
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
At some point, Ken was diagnosed with throat cancer
which was a direct result of his having been a POW. In 1969, when
he was recalling his days as a POW, he said. "Twenty-two men died over there I'm thankful I'm here today and in good health." On May 23, a week before he gave the interviewed, he had been told he was clear of cancer.
Kenneth E. Thompson passed away on May 31, 1972, in Port Clinton, Ohio, and
was buried at Riverview Cemetery, Port Clinton, Ohio.