PFC Harold George Fanning was the son of Patrick J. Fanning and Lulu J. Mullin-Fanning. He was born on December 16, 1916, in Milton, Wisconsin, and was the sixth of couple’s eight children. He had four brothers and three sisters.
As a child, he grew up on a farm located on Rural Route One in Milton and attended Milton Grade School, but it is not known if he went to high school. It is known that he worked on neighboring farms before his tank company was federalized.
According to his family, Harold’s parents left Milton to visit his older brother in Niagara Falls, New York, in June 1940. While they were gone, Harold enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Tank Company in Janesville at the age of twenty. It was their belief he did this so that his parents would not forbid him from enlisting.
On November 25, 1940, the members of the 32nd Tank Company were federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. His parents drove him to the train station in Janesville where he joined the other members of the tank company who were being sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for training on November 27.
In January 1941, Harold was reassigned to Headquarters Company when the company was formed. During his training, Harold qualified to drive the equipment assigned to the battalion, but it is not known what his specific duties were. 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 played.
In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30. After the maneuvers, the members of the battalion were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, they were informed that they were being sent overseas. Harold received a ten-day pass home to say goodbye to his 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 a Japanese occupied island which was hundreds 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.
During Harold’s visit home, he visited with friends. For his family, the time went by much too quickly. The evening he left for Camp Polk, Louisiana, there was an ice storm and it was extremely cold. His entire family accompanied him to the train station and there were a great many tears. His family did not know it at the time, but it would be the last time that they would ever see him.
At Camp Polk, Harold and the other members of the battalion loaded their equipment onto flatcars. This included new M3A1 tanks – the tanks were at least new to the battalion – that had been transferred to the battalion from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and was ferried. on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they were 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 boarded 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.
It is known that Harold, Sgt. Lewis Wallisch and a third friend called Will went shopping in Honolulu while they were in port. They also went to two movies and ate. After doing this on their way back to the ship, they stopped in a park, laid on the grass, and looked at the night sky.
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 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 troop 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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
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 the 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.
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 HQ company slept in a dry latrine since it was safer than the tents. They had no idea they had spent their last night sleeping on a bed.
For the next four months, Harold with the rest of the battalion fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. During this time, Harold was assigned to 1st Lt. Emmett Gibson as his driver. Gibson’s job was to relay orders to the tanks when necessary.
One evening, Harold and Lt. Gibson left Angeles for San Fernando. The two would take turns driving. Harold drove during the day, while Gibson drove at night. On the way, they gave a ride to a pregnant Filipino woman who was attempting to locate her husband. This resulted in them going to Santa Anna. There, Harold and Lt. Gibson took pity on the friends of the woman because they had nothing to eat. Not too far from the barrio, they met Capt. Fred Bruni – commanding officer of HQ Company, 192nd – from Janesville, Wisconsin. Capt. Bruni gave them food for the family.
After returning to Santa Anna with the food, Harold, Lt. Gibson, and the young woman left the barrio for San Fernando during a drenching rainstorm. It was evening and it got dark very quickly. The storm made the night even darker. Since there was always the possibility of attack by Japanese planes, the two soldiers drove with only blackout headlights which gave off very little light.
As Harold and Lt. Gibson approached a bridge, about five kilometers outside of San Fernando, a bus filled with Filipino soldiers loomed up out of the dark in front of them. Since both vehicles were driving with blackout lights, neither driver could see the other until the last minute.
There was not enough room for both vehicles on the bridge so Gibson slammed on the jeep’s breaks. Since the bridge was wet, the jeep skidded and slammed into the bus. Lt. Gibson’s left leg was crushed on impact. The Filipino woman with them also suffered a broken leg. Harold flew out of the jeep. Only Harold came out of the accident with minor injuries. The three were taken to San Fernando to a temporary hospital. Lt. Gibson would later be evacuated from Bataan to Australia on the last transport out of the Philippines. Harold was released from the hospital and returned to his duties. It is not known what happened to the Filipina.
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.
The Japanese launched an all-out attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company’s offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that 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 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 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 destroy 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 accomplished.”
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ’s commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.
During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company’s trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, “Our last supper.”
On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company’s encampment. Donald was now a Prisoner of War. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans. They remained along the sides of the road for hours.
Later in the day, HQ Company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. Outside the barrio, they were herded onto an airfield. They were left there for several hours. As they sat and watched, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form across from them. The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad. Many believed it was the end of the line for them.
As the POWs watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out and spoken the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. As he pulled away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs were ordered to move and were taken to a schoolyard. There they were ordered to sit again. Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces. The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire. Shells began landing around them and men attempted to take cover, but there was no place for them to hide. Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit. When the barrage ended, three of the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.
It was from the schoolyard that the POWs began what became known as the march. They made their way from Mariveles to San Fernando. During the march, he saw men who had fallen shot and bayoneted where they fell. At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Those who died in the cars did not fall down until the prisoners exited the cars at Capas. They walked the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell.
Camp O’Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Philippine Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150-bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthy enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick but could walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, they were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Pangatian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp. The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.
Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. The POWs worked on the camp farms from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them. Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. The result was many became ill.
Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads. In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs bought or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 buildings. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as “Zero Ward,” which got its name because it had been missed when the buildings were counted. The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two-foot-wide by six-foot-long area to lie in. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.
According to records kept by the hospital staff a the camp, Harold was admitted to “Zero Ward” on June 18, 1942, with dysentery and assigned to Building 14. It was there that Pfc. Harold George Fanning died of dysentery on Tuesday, September 1, 1942, at approximately 10 A.M.
Pfc. Harold G. Fanning was originally buried in the Cabanatuan Cemetery in Plot 2, Row 18, Grave 2302. After the war, Pfc. Harold G. Fanning’s remains were identified and reburied at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila in Plot D, Row 6, Grave 216.