Pvt. Charles Arthur Heuel was born on October 14, 1921, to Christian Heuel and Frances Smolik-Heuel. He was the youngest of ten children. He grew up in Chicago at 4516 North Christiana Avenue. While he was a teenager, his father passed away, so he was sent to live with his sister, Marie, and her husband at 4606 North Marmora Avenue. He graduated from Washington High School in Chicago in 1940.
On April 7, 1941, Charles joined the U. S. Army. In January 1941, the newly created Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion took men from all the letter companies of the battalion, because he was from Illinois, Charles was assigned to B Company. The reason this was done was that the army filled the vacated positions in the battalion with men from the home states of each of the tank companies. Since B Company was originally an Illinois National Guard Company, Charles was assigned to the company. During his training, Charles qualified as a tank driver.
After training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Charles took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30. Upon completion of the maneuvers, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, the members of the battalion that they were going to be sent overseas. Many of the members of the battalion received leave home to say their goodbyes.
The decision for this move too build up American forces in the Philippines was made at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. 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, hundreds of miles away, with a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed that evening, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Over different train routes, the companies of the battalion traveled west by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California. Arriving there, they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. There, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty by the battalion’s medical detachment. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while 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. 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.
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.
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 King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner – which was a stew thrown into their mess kits – before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The first week of December 1941, the tankers were ordered to Clark Field to assigned locations. At all times, two members of each tank crew or half-track crew had to remain with their tank or half-track.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Those crew members not with their tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. As the tankers sat in their tanks, the sky above them was filled with American planes. At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch.
Food trucks were sent to the area and members of the tank crews went to get lunch for the members of their crews. As they stood in line, they spotted planes approaching the airfield from the north. They had enough time to count 53 planes in the formation. When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
B Company remained at Clark Field until it was ordered, on December 21, to move toward the Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops. From then on, the tankers fought a slow withdrawing action toward Bataan.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going used to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
The tankers fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December was at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able to find a crossing over the river. It was at this time that he wrote a letter home.
During the withdrawal into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leapfrog past it and then cover the 192nd’s withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan’s east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
On the morning of February 3, 1942, after being up all night guarding the east coast of Bataan, Charles and the other members of B Company were attempting to get some sleep. At this time, a Japanese reconnaissance plane appeared overhead attempting to locate the American tanks. Sgt. Walter Cigoi, who was tired of this daily event, attempted to shoot down the plane but failed. As a result of his attempt, he revealed their position under the jungle canopy. About twenty minutes later, Japanese dive bombers appeared over B Company’s position and bombed them.
Since the tree canopy was extremely thick, the Japanese bombs exploded in the treetops above the tanks. After the attack, T/4 Frank Goldstein found Charles halfway under the front of a tank. When Goldstein pulled Charles from under the tank, he was badly torn up, with at least ten wounds, from shrapnel. It appeared that he had been hit while attempting to crawl under the tank to escape the exploding bombs.
Pvt. Charles A. Heuel was Killed in Action on Tuesday, February 3, 1942. He was 19 years old. Goldstein felt guilt over the death of Charles because he had promised Charles’s sister, Marie, that he would watch out for him. His family received word of his death on February 10, 1942.
“The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son, CHARLES A HUEL, was killed in action in defense of his country in the Philippine Islands Feb 3. Letter Follows.
Emory S. Adams
The Adjutant General of the Army
His family held a Memorial Mass for Charles at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Chicago on February 20, 1942.
Since Pvt. Charles A. Heuel’s final resting place is unknown, his name appears on Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. It is very likely that after the war that the remains of Charles could not be identified, and that he was buried in a grave as an unknown.