Sgt. Ivan O. Wilmer was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on December 5, 1901, to Clara Hubbard
and Rudolph Webner. After Rudolph's death, Clara married Forrest Dexter a newspaper man from Des
Moines, Iowa, and moved there. This resulted in Ivan, his two brothers, and sister, being raised at Angel
Guardian Orphanage in Chicago.
Returning to Wisconsin, Ivan married and divorced. He was the father of three sons;
Arthur, Billy and Charles, and resided at 935 Fourth Street in Beloit, Wisconsin. He worked at road
maintenance with the Public Works Program.
When the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard was called to federal duty in November 1940, Ivan
found himself training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, as a member of A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. In January
1941, Ivan was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed with members of the four letter companies
of the 192nd. He was assigned to one of the three tanks of the company.
A typical day started at 6:15 A.M. with reveille, but most of the soldiers were already
up so they could wash, dress, and be on time for assembly. Breakfast was from 7 to 8 A.M. which was
followed buy calisthenics from 8 to 8:30. After this, the remainder of the morning dealt with .30 and .50
caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in
At 11:30, the tankers got ready for lunch, which was from noon to 1:00 P.M., when they
went back to work by attending the various schools. At 4:30, the tankers day ended and retreat was at 5:00
P.M. followed by evening meal at 5:30. The day ended at 9:00 P.M. with lights out, but they did not have to
be in bed until 10:00 P.M. when taps was played.
In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers
from September 1 through 30. HQ Company job was to maintain the tanks and to keep them running. The
company itself did not actively take part in the maneuvers.
After the maneuvers, the battalion received orders to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
instead of returning to Ft, Knox, as they had expected.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. They were
told that this decision had been made by General George S. Patton. Those members of the battalion who were
married, or 29 years old, or older, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Ivan was
given this opportunity but chose to remain with the tank company. The men were given furloughs home
to say goodbye to family and friends.
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 battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San
Francisco and were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the
battalion's medical detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S. A. T. 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 t
he 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
and, another transport, the
S. S. 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.
During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was
escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the
direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from 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, who apologized that the men had to
live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but he had only learned of their arrival days
earlier. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to
have his own dinner.
Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be
released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field
Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned
to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of
the rows of tents.
On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded
the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their
vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
At six in the morning on December 8, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio
room at the fort. They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of
airfield. All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be
refueled and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes
approached the airfield from the north. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the
planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks'
machine guns, were useless against planes. After the attack, the tankers saw the damage done to the
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 the members of the company slept in a dry latrine that was near their bivouac
since it was safer then their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night on a bed.
The next morning, they saw the bodies of the dead lying on the ground. Pilots who had night duty lay dead
in their tents.
battalion was sent to Lingayen Gulf,, on December 21, were their job was to hold a position until the Filipino
and American forces had established another defensive line. They would then disengage and fall back.
HQ Company's job was to keep the tanks running and supplied.
At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the
river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they easy to see since they were wearing white
t-shirts. It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they
attacked. Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes. The tankers
were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks. In early 1942, Ivan was involved in at attempt to
dislodge the Japanese Marines who had been trapped behind the main line of defensive on the Bataan Peninsula
known as the Battle of the Pockets.
One day during the battle, Ivan found himself in the middle of a low-level Japanese air
attack near Bambang, Limay, at KM 144. To get out of the attack, he attempted to escape by running to his
tank. While he was running, he was struck by shrapnel and badly wounded. He was taken to
Field Hospital #2 where he died on Tuesday, February 3, 1942, and was buried the cemetery at Cabcaben.
His family learned of his death on February 17, 1942.
After the war, the remains of Sgt. Ivan O. Wilmer were returned to the United States in
October 1948. After a wake, he was buried on October 16, 1948, at the Rock Island National Cemetery in
Rock Island, Illinois, in Plot D, Grave 27.