| 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. This resulted in Ivan being raised at
Angel Guardian Orphanage in Chicago.
Returning to Wisconsin, Ivan would marry 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
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
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 military tactics.
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
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
was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh
L. Scott and sailed on Monday,
October 27th. 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 2nd and had a two day layover,
so the soldiers were given shore leave so
they could see the island.
November 5th, 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. Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to
bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11th. During the night,
while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Date Line. On Saturday,
November 15th, 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.
arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th,
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 20th,
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 20th 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
On Monday, December 1st, 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
At six in the morning
on December 8th, 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.
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
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 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.
was sent to Lingayen Gulf,, on December 21st,
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.
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,
After the war, the remains of Sgt. Ivan O.
Wilmer were returned to the United States.
He was buried on October 16, 1948, at the Rock
Island National Cemetery in Rock Island,
Illinois, in Plot D, Grave 27.