Pvt. Eduardo Rodrigues Aguero was born in DeWitt County, Texas, on October 14, 1914. His father’s name was Atanasio Aguero. What is known is that he was living with his mother’s parents, Francisco and Ygnes Flores in DeWitt County, Texas, 1920. When he registered for the draft on November 9, 1940, he was picking cotton in DeWitt County but gave his home as Littlefield, Texas. Like many of the time, he never completed grade school. He married Margarita Jimenez in Stinton, Texas, and was the father of a son. To support his family, he worked as a butcher.
Eduardo was drafted into the U.S. Army on March 20, 1941, at Fort Sam Huston, Texas. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for basic training. What armor school he attended is not known. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk. Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion had been sent to the fort but did not take part in the maneuvers that were going on there.
After the maneuvers had ended, the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk. The battalion was informed it was being sent overseas. National Guardsmen 29 years old or older, or men who were married, were allowed to resign from federal service. Eduardo volunteered, or had his name drawn, to replace one of these Guardsmen and was assigned to D Company. The 192nd was also given the 753rd’s M3 tanks to replace their M2 tanks.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying lower than the others, 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 flagged buoys that lined up – in a straight line – for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island hundreds of miles away, with a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day – when a when planes were sent to the area – the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between the planes and the Navy was poor, nothing was done to intercept the boat. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion was sent west, over four different train routes to San Francisco, California. Arriving in San Francisco, the battalion was ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion’s medical detachment. Some men were held back at the island, for minor medical reasons, 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. They 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, the transport, 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 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline. It was also about this time that the convoy stopped at Wake Island to drop off B-17 ground personnel.
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, but two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters carrying scrap metal to Japan.
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 Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner – a stew thrown into their mess kits – 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 ragged World War I tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. They 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.
The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
After arriving in the Philippines, the process was begun to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion, which had left for the Philippines minus one company. B Company of the battalion was sent to Alaska while the remaining companies, of the battalion, were sent to the Philippines. The medical clerk for the192nd spent weeks organizing records to be handed over to the 194th, but the transfer was never finished.
On December 1, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. The 194th, with D Company, was assigned northern part of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern half. Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the tank crews were aware that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. They were ordered to the airfield. This time it was not a maneuver. Eduardo and the other soldiers sat on their tanks and watched the sky which was filled with American planes. At some point three of the four tank crew members from each tank were allowed to go to a food truck to get meals. While they were at the trucks, the men still sitting on their tanks saw planes approaching. No one was alarmed by this since they did not believe that the Japanese would attack. 54 planes were counted by the tankers. It was only when bombs began exploding that they realized they were wrong.
After the attack, D Company was ordered to Mabalac on the Delores Road. They remained there until December 10. They were next sent to Calumpit to look for paratroopers. While there, they guarded a huge bridge against saboteurs.
On December 13, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken. When they passed through Manila, they saw the damage done to the city by Japanese planes.
Christmas Day for Eduardo and the other tankers spent the day in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled and strafed.
At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company of the 194th were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
The night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek and entered Bataan. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan. At this time, the food rations were cut in half.
General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time: “Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at the visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay.”
A composite tank company was created, on January 8, under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa. Its job was to keep the north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been formed. The Japanese never launched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed. The tanks withdrew after they began receiving artillery fire.
The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda Road. While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month. The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance. It was also at this time that tank platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon. This was done so that D Company, 192nd, would have tanks.
The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda’s forces, which were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw. Attempting to do this two tanks were knocked out by landmines planted by ordnance but recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was destroyed. The mission was abandoned the next day. Gen. Segunda’s forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st Infantry’s command post. On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26 with four self-propelled mounts. At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that a large Japanese force was coming down the road. When they appeared the tanks opened fire on them. At 10:30, the Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men. This action prevented the new line of defense from being breached.
On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that the Japanese couldn’t land troops. The 194th guarded the coastline against Japanese landings from Limay to Cabcaban. During the day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy. At night they were pulled out onto the beaches. The battalion’s half-tracks had the job of patrolling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols.
For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been fought to a standstill. On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them. While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area. Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point-blank range. He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew’s fire. The Japanese were wiped out. On March 21, the last major battle was fought by the tanks.
Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese launched a major offensive on April 4. The tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance. On the 6th, four tanks were sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry, Philippine Scouts. One tank was knocked out from anti-tank fire at the junctions of Trails 6 & 8, and the other tanks withdrew. On April 8, the 194th was fighting on the East Coast Road at Cabcaban.
It was at this time that Gen. King knowing that the situation was hopeless sent officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan. The tanks were instructed that they would hear the order “crash” on their radios, or that it would be given to them verbally.
When the order was given, the tankers circled their tanks, fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of their tank, and opened up the gasoline cocks in the crew compartments. They dropped hand grenades into each crew compartment setting the tanks on fire. Later in the war, the Japanese dragged the tanks out of the jungle to send to Japan as scrap metal.
Eduardo made it to the beach where he joined other soldiers attempting to reach Corregidor. The soldiers found a boat, but its engine would not turn over. Some of the other soldiers who were also tankers and got the engine running. At gunpoint that night, they convinced the boat’s captain to take them to Corregidor.
As the boat approached the island, they signaled with a flashlight. Finally, they received a response, also by flashlight, and told how to get through the minefield that surrounded the island. Once on the island, they were fed and given new clothes.
On Corregidor, Eduardo was assigned to beach defenses. According to military records, on May 6, the Japanese launched an all-out attack on Corregidor. It was during this attack that Private Eduardo R. Aguero was killed defending the island from invasion on May 6, 1942. After the island was surrendered, he and the other men killed were buried.
After the war, the remains, of Pvt. Eduardo R. Aguero, could not be positively identified and were buried as an “unknown” at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila. His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing, as a member of the 194th Tank Battalion, at the cemetery.