Martella, Pvt. Walter V.

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Martella

Pvt. Walter Victor Martella
Born: 5 July 1920 – Monterey County, California
Parents: Domenico Martella & Piarina Moro-Martella
Siblings: 1 sister
Hometown: Stockton, California
– 210 Lincoln Avenue – Salinas, California
– living with sister and brother-in-law
Enlisted: California National Guard
Inducted:
– U.S. Army
– 10 February 1941 – Salinas Army Airfield
Unit:
– C Company, 194th Tank Battalion
Stationed:
– Fort Lewis, Washington
– described as constantly raining during the winter
– many men ended up in the camp hospital with colds
– Typical Day – after they arrived at Ft. Lewis
– 6:00 A.M. – first call
– 6:30 A.M. – Breakfast
– During this time the soldiers made their cots, policed the grounds around the barracks, swept the floors of their barracks, and performed other duties.
– 7:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. – drill
– 11:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. – mess
– 1:00 P.M. – 4:30 P.M. – drill
– 5:00 P.M. – retreat
– 5:30 P.M. – mess
– men were free after this
– a canteen was located near their barracks and was visited often
– the movie theater on the base that they visited.
– The theater where the tanks were kept was not finished, but when it was, the tankers only had to cross the road to their tanks.
– Saturdays the men had off, and many rode a bus 15 miles northeast to Tacoma which was the largest town nearest to the base
– Sundays, many of the men went to church and services were held at different times for the different denominations
Training:
– the battalion went on long reconnaissance with trucks and tanks
– drove all over reservation following maps and learned from observation what the land surrounding the fort looked like
– the purpose was to collect tank data which they would use later
– often had to live off the land
– 30 April 1941 – battalion went on an all-day march
– ate dinner in woods brought to them by the cooks in trucks
– march was two hours one way and covered about 10 miles total
– stopped in an abandoned apple orchard in bloom
– Motorcycles:
– first motorcycles arrived in May 1941
– all battalion members had to learn to ride them
– in early May 1941, the battalion, except men who had been drafted, went on its first overnight bivouac
– the new men did not have shelter halves
– left around noon and returned around noon the next day
Specialized Training:
– some members of the battalion received specific training
– many went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for training in tank maintenance, radio operation, and other specific jobs
– those men who remained at Ft. Lewis often found themselves policing the base collecting garbage and distributing coal for the base during the week
– the battalion did most of its tank training on weekends

Note: The decision for this move – which had been made on August 15, 1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky – 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.

Overseas Duty:
– rode the train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– Arrived: 7:30 A.M. – 6 September 1941
– ferried on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island
– given physicals and inoculated by battalion’s medical detachment
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe a replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
– 27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents upon arriving
– 15 November 1941 – moved into barracks
– the barracks walls were open and screened three feet from the bottom of the wall to the floor
– above that, the walls were woven bamboo that allowed the air to pass through
Work Day:
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– washing facilities seemed to be limited with the lucky man being able to wash by a faucet with running water
– 6:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. 
– Noon – lunch
– 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. – worked
– on the base, the soldiers were not expected to work in the heat
– the tankers worked until 4:30 P.M.
– the afternoon was described as “recreation in the motor pool”
– 5:10 – dinner
Recreation:
– the soldiers spent their free time bowling and going to the movies,
– they also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around
– on Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming
– they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– they also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits
– the country was described as being beautiful
Uniforms:
– the battalion wore coveralls to do the work on the tanks
– the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms while working
– they continued to wear coveralls in their barracks area to do their work
– if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms; including going to the PX
Alert:
– 1 December 1941 – tanks ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field
– their job was to protect the airfield from enemy paratroopers
– two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times
– 194th guard north end of the airfield and the 192nd Tank Battalion guarded the south end of the airfield
– meals served by food trucks to men with the tanks
– those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at the command post
– Battle of Luzon
– 8 December 1941
– Clark Field
– 194th guarded northern portion of the airfield
– 12:45 P.M. Japanese bombers bomb airfield
– followed by Zeros which strafed
– watched the attack from inside his tank
– 10 December 1941
– 194th was sent to Mabalcat
– 12 December 1941
– C Company was sent to southern Luzon and put under the command of Brigadier General Albert M. Jones
– To avoid Japanese planes, the company tried to cover the distance at night.
– They were successful and going 40 miles during the night but had to make a run for it during the day.
– They successfully reached Muntinlupa and made it to Tagatay Ridge on December 14.
– The tanks remained at Tagatay until December 24
– During this time, they did reconnaissance and hunted for fifth columnists who would signal planes with mirrors during the day near ammunition dumps
   resulting in the dumps being bombed and shelled.
– At night, the fifth columnists shot off flares near the ammunition dumps.
– The activity ended, when the company shot up native huts suspected as being used by the fifth columnists.
– At 2:00 A.M. on December 24, the Japanese landed 7,000 troops at Lamon Bay. – – The Japanese began advancing in the direction of Lucban.
– The company took a position to aid the 1st Infantry Regiment, Philippine Army, that was fighting the Japanese. 
– One platoon of five tanks – on December 26 – was ordered to advance down a trail in an area where the Japanese were known to be.
– A major ordered the tanks to advance even though no reconnaissance had been done.
– The trail made a sharp turn, and when the tanks made the turn, the first was knocked out by a Japanese anti-tank gun killing the platoon commander and
   the driver of the tank.
– The other two crewmen escaped into the jungle. The remaining four tanks were also knocked out by enemy fire resulting in two more men being killed.
– From this point on the tanks fell back toward Bataan and were serving as the rear guard for Gen. Jones’ troops when they withdrew past Manila.
– C Company at one point saw 100 to 150 trucks belonging to the Philippine Army pass warehouses full of food and other supplies.
– It was at this time that the 192nd Tank Battalion and A Company, 194th Tank Battalion were fighting to keep the roads open so that the troops
   withdrawing from southern Luzon would not be cut off.
– 1 January 1942
– The southern Luzon force with C Company serving as its rearguard crossed the Calumpit Bridge
– After the company crossed the bridge was destroyed. the tanks went through San Fernando and formed roadblocks to keep the junction of Routes 3 and
   7 open.
– Also on January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders of the northern force who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down
   Route 5.
– The orders came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff and told the units holding open the bridges to withdraw.
– General Wainwright – who was in command – was unaware of the orders.
– Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and half of the
   defenders had withdrawn.
– When Gen Wainwright became aware of what was going on, he countermanded the orders.
– Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted
   allowing the southern forces – including C Company – to escape. 
– 2 January 1942
– both tank battalions ordered to withdraw to Lyac Junction
– the 194th withdrew there on Highway 7.
– 5 January 1942 – C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-Porac Line and moved into position between Sexmoan and
   Lubao.
– At 1:50 A.M., the Japanese attempted to infiltrate their line in bright moonlight which made them easy to see.
– It also helped that the Japanese wore white shirts which reflected the moonlight.
– The tanks opened fire and in an attempt to cover their advance, the Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them.
– It was 3:00 A.M. when the Japanese broke off the engagement having suffered 50% casualties.
– When the company withdrew, the barrio of Lubao was in flames.
– 6 January 1942
– Night battle near Remedios
– Wounded: half-track took a direct hit by enemy fire
– report on tank group stated Martella was wounded shielding Capt. Fred Moffit from shrapnel
– William Hennessy also hit by a shell and lost his foot
– hospitalized: Limay Hospital #2
Died:
– Limay Hospital #2 – Bataan, Philippine Islands
– Friday – 9 January 1942 – gaseous gangrene
Buried:
– American Military Cemetery – Manila, Philippine Islands
– Plot D Row 5 Grave 38
Post-humorously awarded the Silver Star

 

Martella

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