Anderson, PFC Crate D.

PFC Crate Davis Anderson was born on August 26, 1921, in Yellow Creek, North Carolina, to Edmund Anderson and Zena Hall-Anderson, and with his sister, he grew up in Yellow Creek. When he was eight, his mother died. After completing eighth grade he left school and went to work as a farmhand. Crate enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 20, 1940, at Fort McPherson, North Carolina, and was sent to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for basic training.

During week 1, the soldiers did infantry drilling; week 2, manual arms and marching to music; week 3, machine gun training; week 4, was pistol usage; week 5, M1 rifle firing; week 6, was training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes; week 7, 8, 9, and 10 was spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for weapons, and the cleaning of weapons.  It is known that he qualified as a tank mechanic. After completing basic training, 

The 192nd Tank Battalion which was made up of federalized National Guard light tank companies had taken part in maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of 1941. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where it received orders for overseas duty. Men who were married with dependents, 29 years old or older, or whose enlistments in the National Guard were almost over, were allowed to resign from federal service. These men were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion who volunteered or had their names drawn from a hat. It is known Crate was not a member of the 753rd and he may have been transferred from the 3rd Armor Division which also was at Camp Polk, but there is no evidence of this.

There are at least two stories on the decision to send tank battalions overseas, but the decision appeared to have been made well before the maneuvers in 1941. According to the first story, the decision 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 Taiwan which 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 covering the buoys – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and the 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. This was the story Col. Ernest Miller told in his book, “Bataan Uncensored.”

Many of the National Guard members of the 192nd believed that the reason they were selected to be sent overseas was that they had performed well on the maneuvers. The story was that they were personally selected by General George S. Patton – who had commanded their tanks and the tanks of the 191st Tank Battalion during the maneuvers as the First Tank Group – to go overseas. Although Patton did praise the tank battalions for their performance during the maneuvers, there is no evidence that he had anything to do with the battalion being sent overseas.

The fact was that the 192nd was part of the First Tank Group which was headquartered at Ft. Knox and operational by June 1941. Available information shows that the tank group had been selected to be sent to the Philippines early in 1941. Besides the 192nd, the group was made up of the 70th and 191st Tank Battalions – the 191st had been a National Guard medium tank battalion while the 70th was a Regular Army medium tank battalion – at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The 193rd was at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and the 194th was at Ft. Lewis, Washington. The 192nd, 193rd, and 194th had been National Guard light tank battalions. It is known that the military presence in the Philippines was being built up at the time and that the entire tank group had been scheduled to be sent to the Philippines.

On August 13, 1941, Congress voted to extend federalized National Guard units’ time in the regular Army by 18 months. On August 14, the 194th received its orders to go overseas. The buoys being spotted by the pilot may have sped up the transfer of the tank battalions to the Philippines with only the 192nd and 194th reaching the islands, but it was not the reason for the battalions going to the Philippines. It is also known that the 193rd Tank Battalion was on its way to the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was attacked and the battalion was held there. It is known one of the two medium tank battalions – most likely the 191st – had received orders for the Philippines and was on standby, but the orders were canceled on December 10 because the war with Japan had started. Some documents from the time show the name of the Provisional Tank Group in the Philippines as the First Provisional Tank Group.

When the battalion arrived in San Francisco, they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment. Men found to have minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced. It is known that the 757th Tank Battalion was stationed at Ft. Ord, California, so Crate may have been sent to Angel Island as a replacement from there. At this time, Crate may have become a member of the 192nd and was assigned to D Company. 

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 four-day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Thursday, November 6, 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 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships 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, 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. One thing that was different about their arrival was that instead of a band and a welcoming committee waiting at the pier to tell them to enjoy their stay in the Philippines and see as much of the island as they could, a party came aboard the ship – carrying guns – and told the soldiers, “Draw your firearms immediately; we’re under alert. We expect a war with Japan at any moment. Your destination is Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Field.”  At 3:00 P.M., as the enlisted men left the ship, a Marine was checking off their names. When someone said his name, the Marine responded with, “Hello sucker.” 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 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 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. 

While the companies of the 192nd pitched ragged World War I tents to live in, D Company was scheduled to be transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion so when they arrived at the fort, it is believed they may have moved into their finished barracks.

The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool,”  meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon.

At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore coveralls to work on the tanks. The tankers followed the example of the 194th Tank Battalion and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms everywhere; including going to the PX.

For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, and badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups. 

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 the 192nd spent weeks organizing records to be handed over to the 194th.

It is known that during this time the battalion went on at least two practice reconnaissance missions under the guidance of the 194th. It traveled to Baguio on one maneuver and to the Lingayen Gulf on the other maneuver. Gen. Weaver, the tank group commander, was able to get ammunition from the post’s ordnance department on the 30th, but the tank group could not get time at one of the firing ranges.

When the general warning of a possible Japanese attack was sent to overseas commands on November 27, the Philippine command did not receive it. The reason why this happened is not known and several reasons for this can be given. It is known that the tanks took part in an alert that was scheduled for November 30. What was learned during this alert was that moving the tanks to their assigned positions at night would be a disaster. In particular, the 194th’s position below Lookout Hill was among drums of 100-octane fuel and the entire bomb reserve for the airfield. The battalion’s position remained below Lookout Hill but was moved to the area between the airfield’s two runways.

On December 1, the tankers were ordered to their positions at Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and were fed from food trucks. It was the men manning the radios in the 192nd’s communication tent who were the first to learn of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 8. Major Ted Wickord, the battalion’s commanding officer, Col. James Weaver, and Major Ernest Miller, the CO of the 194th Tank Battalion, read the messages of the attack. Miller left the tent and informed his officers of the attack. He also ordered his officers to have the half-tracks join the tanks at Clark Field. Their job was to engage Japanese paratroopers. HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac.

All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, as the tankers ate lunch, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American until they saw what appeared to be “raindrops” fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. 

The bombers were quickly followed by Japanese fighters that sounded like angry bees to the tankers as they strafed the airfield. The tankers watched as American pilots attempted to get their planes off the ground. As they roared down the runway, Japanese fighters strafed the planes causing them to swerve, crash, and burn. Those that did get airborne were barely off the ground when they were hit. The planes exploded and crashed to the ground tumbling down the runways. The Japanese planes were as low as 50 feet above the ground and the pilots would lean out of the cockpits so they could more accurately pick out targets to straf. The tankers said they saw the pilots’ scarfs flapping in the wind and that a man with a shotgun could bring a plane down. 

During the attack, American pilots attempted to get their planes off the ground. As they roared down the runway, Japanese fighters strafed the planes causing them to swerve, crash, and burn. Those that did get airborne were barely off the ground when they were hit. The planes exploded and crashed to the ground tumbling down the runways. (It should be noted that the attack on Pearl Harbor happened at 1:55 A.M. on December 8 in the Philippines, so the attack on Clark Field was almost 11 hours later.) 89 of the planes that had been sitting along the runway at Clark Field were destroyed, and there were approximately 236 casualties. That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their barracks. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.

One of the results of the attack was that the transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was never completed. The company fought with the 194th but retained its designation of being part of the 192nd and appeared on the battalion’s daily reports, and after the war, it was listed on the battalion’s unit citations. 

The 194th, with D Company, was moved, the night of the 12th, to an area south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M. On December 13, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers from Clark Field to do reconnaissance and to guard beaches. On the 15th, the battalion received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts. These were used to test the ground to see if it could support tanks.

The tank battalions were sent to the area around the Lingayen Gulf. The company was near a mountain, so many of the tankers climbed to the top. On the mountain, they found troops, ammunition, and guns but the soldiers were just sitting there watching the Japanese ships in the gulf. They had received orders not to fire. The tankers walked down the mountain and waited. They received orders to drop back from the mountain and let the Japanese occupy it. They watched as the Japanese brought their equipment to the top of the mountain. The Americans finally received orders to launch a counterattack which failed.

On December 22, the companies were operating north of the Agno River and after the main bridge was bombed, on December 24, it made an end run to get south of the river and not be trapped by the Japanese. The tanks held the south bank of the river from west of Carmen to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road with the 192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug northeast of San Quintin. Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas on, both day and night, all the tankers did was cover retreats of different infantry units.

On December 26, D Company was covering a withdrawal at the Agno River. The tankers were ordered to hold the line with 25 tanks and half-tracks. Holding the line, the tanks came under a barrage from Japanese artillery. According to Kenneth Hourigan, one shell exploded near where he and others were standing and knocked them off their feet. When they came to their senses they found that Crate was wounded. Hourigan stated he put Crate on his tank and the crew attempted to get him to an aid station. While doing this, the tank ran into a car full of Filipinos who promised to get Crate first aid, so they turned Crate over to the Filipinos. Whether or not this was done is not known. Hourigan stated that he saw the car pass his tank a couple of times. He didn’t know it at the time, but the bridges that the company was between had been destroyed. Hourigan stated that he never knew what happened to Crate.

PFC Crate D. Anderson was reported Missing in Action and was reported to have died on Friday, December 26, 1941. It is not known where he was buried, but it may have been in a local cemetery. After the war in 1948, his remains were positively identified and returned to the United States at the request of his family.

PFC Crate D. Anderson’s remains were returned to the United States on January 13, 1949, on the U.S.A.T. Jack J. Pendleton. On February 6, 1949, PFC. Crate D. Anderson was buried at Upper Yellow Creek Cemetery in Graham County, North Carolina.

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