Cpl George Morton McCarhty Jr. was born on April 24, 1923, to George M. McCarthy Sr. and Gertrude Elizabeth McCarthy in Janesville, Wisconsin. As a child, he grew up at 600 St. Mary’s Avenue and 801 Thomas Street. He attended grade school and high school in Janesville.
When George was a child, he wanted to be a soldier which led him to join the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville. He was seventeen when he enlisted.
In the autumn of 1940, the 32nd Tank Company was called to federal service as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. A three-man detail was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, a few days earlier. Another detachment of 23 soldiers left the armory at 7:00 A.M. on November 27th. It is known that the roads were ice-covered so the trip was slow which resulted in one truck hitting a civilian’s car. No other information is available about the incident. The road conditions improved the further south the convoy went. The soldiers spent the night at an armory in Danville, Illinois, before heading south to Ft. Knox arriving there sometime the next afternoon.
The next day, November 28th, between 4:00 and 5:00 P.M., the main detachment of soldiers that marched from the armory to the Milwaukee Road train station in Janesville where they boarded special cars that had been added to the Marquette to Chicago train. One was a flatcar with the company’s two tanks on it. At some point, the train cars were uncoupled from the train and switched onto the Chicago & Northwestern line that went into Maywood, Illinois. There, the members of B Company boarded the train and their equipment – including their two tanks – was loaded onto the train. In Chicago, the train cars were switched onto the Illinois Central Railroad and taken to Ft. Knox arriving around 8:00 A.M. When they arrived, trucks were waiting at the station to take them to the fort. Their first housing were six men tents since their barracks were not finished. The battalion had a total of eight tanks.
After arriving, they spent the first six weeks in primary 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; weeks 7, 8, and 9 were 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 was one of the soldiers from Janesville who went home for Christmas. The soldiers left Ft. Knox at about 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, December 21st- by chartered bus – and arrived in Janesville at about 3:00 A.M. on Sunday, December 22nd. They remained in Janesville until the afternoon of Christmas Day when they boarded the chartered bus for the return trip to Ft. Knox.
1st Sgt. Dale Lawton – on December 26th – was given the job of picking men to be transferred from the company to the soon to be formed HQ Company. Men were picked for the company because they had special training. Many of these men received promotions and because of their rating received higher pay.
A Company moved into its barracks in December 1941. The men assigned to the HQ Company still lived with the A Company since their barracks were unfinished. 25 men lived on each floor of the barracks. The bunks were set up along the walls and alternated so that the head of one bunk was next to the foot of another bunk allowing for more bunks to be placed in the least amount of space allowing for 50 men to sleep on each floor. The first sergeant, staff sergeant, and master sergeant had their own rooms. There was also a supply room, an orderly room – where the cooks could sleep during the day – and a clubroom.
The one problem they had was that the barracks had four, two-way speakers in it. One speaker was in the main room of each floor of the barracks, one was in the first sergeant’s office, and one was in the Capt. Walter Write’s office. Since by flipping a switch the speaker became a microphone, the men watched what they said. The men assigned to HQ Company moved into their own barracks by February. The guardsmen were housed away from the regular army troops in the newly built barracks. Newspapers from the time state that the barracks were air-conditioned. Although the barracks were finished, A Company shared D Company’s mess hall until the company’s mess hall opened.
The area outside the barracks was described as muddy and dusty most of the time. An attempt was made to improve the situation with the building of walkways and roads around the barracks.
A typical day for the soldiers started at 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics from 8:00 to 8:30. Afterward, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics. At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. The classes lasted for 13 weeks.
At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After they ate they stood in line to wash their mess kits since they had no mess hall. At first, A Company’s meals were served in D Company’s mess hall until heir mess hall was finished in December. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
It was also at this time that all the battalion had 16 operational tanks and the first men from selective service were assigned to the company. On January 10th, these men took their first tank ride and all of them had the chance to drive the tanks. They would permanently join the company in March 1941.
During their free time during the week, the men could go to one of the three movie theaters on the outpost. They also sat around and talked. As the weather got warmer, the men tried to play baseball as often as possible in the evenings. At 9:00 P.M., when lights went out, most went to sleep. On weekends, men with passes frequently went to Louisville which was 35 miles north of the fort, while others went to Elizabethtown sixteen miles south of the fort. Those men still on the base used the dayroom to read since it was open until 11:00 P.M.
Capt Walter Write, during February, commanded a composite tank company made of men from all the companies of the battalion. The company left Ft. Knox on a problematic move at 9:00 A.M. The company consisted of three motorcycles, two scout cars, sixteen tanks, one ambulance, and supply, fuel and kitchen trucks. The route was difficult and chosen so that the men could become acquainted with their equipment. They also had to watch out for simulated enemy planes. Bridges were avoided whenever it was possible to ford the water.
At noon, the column stopped for a short rest and a lunch that did not materialize. A guide had failed to stay at one of the crossings until the kitchen truck arrived there, so instead of turning into the woods, the truck went straight. After the break, Capt. Write ordered the men back to Ft. Knox without having been fed.
In late March 1941, the entire battalion was moved to new barracks at Wilson Road and Seventh Avenue at Ft. Knox. The barracks had bathing and washing facilities in them and a day room. The new kitchens had larger gas ranges, automatic gas heaters, large pantries, and mess halls. One reason for this move was the men from selective service were permanently joining the battalion.
At 7:00 A.M. on Monday, June 16th, the battalion was broken into four detachments for a three-day tactical road march. The most important part of this march was to train the soldiers in loading, unloading, and setting up the battalion’s administrative camps. It also prepared them for the Louisiana maneuvers which they were scheduled to take part in during September.
The battalion traveled with 20 tanks, 20 motorcycles, 7 armored scout cars, 5 jeeps, 12 beeps (later called jeeps), 20 large 2½ ton trucks (these carried the battalion’s garages for vehicle repair), 5, 1½ ton trucks (which were the battalion’s kitchens), and 1 ambulance. The battalion traveled through Bardstown and Springfield before arriving at Harrodsburg at 2:30 P.M. where they set up their bivouac at the fairgrounds. The next morning, they moved to Herrington Lake east of Danville, where the men swam, boated and fished. The battalion returned to Ft. Knox on Wednesday, June 18th through Lebanon, New Haven and Hodgenville, Kentucky.
In September 1941, the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers. According to members of the battalion, they were members of the Red Army which fought the Blue Army under the command of General George S. Patton. One day the battalion broke through the Blue Army’s defenses and were on their way to capturing Gen. Patton’s headquarters when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled.
It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for the Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service and were replaced by men of the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion also received the tanks of the 753rd.
The company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and was ferried to Ft. McDowell, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many of the tankers suffered from seasickness. Once they recovered they spent their time breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd 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 9th, 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 Date Line.
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 army 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. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.
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 that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. The fact was he had only learned about their arrival days earlier. He made sure they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons, which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance, while preparing to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
Shortly after arriving in the Philippines, George was reassigned to the Provost Marshal’s Office. He would remain with this unit during the Battle of Bataan. While with the Provost Marshall, he rose in rank to corporal.
George recalled that on December 8, 1941, he was at the Provost Marshall’s Office at Clark Field when someone said, “Come outside and see the Navy, they’re here to help us.” Someone pointed out that the planes were Navy planes; unfortunately, they belonged to the wrong Navy. George watched as the Japanese planes came in and did their job. He remembered thinking to himself that they were good at what they were doing.
Major Claude A. Thorp received permission from General MacArthur to take a group of Americans to slip through Japanese lines and organize resistance against the Japanese. Having met Thorp at Clark Field, George volunteered to go with him. George entered the jungle with 24 other Americans to organize guerrilla resistance against the Japanese. The soldiers made their way into the Zambales Mountains of western Luzon. It took the men over a month to reach Mt. Pinatubo which was near Ft. Stotsenburg. The mountain became the guerrillas’ headquarters.
As a guerrilla, George was assigned to the staff of Lt. H. O. Conner Jr. His immediate supervisor was Sgt. Alfred D. Bruce. His guerrilla group worked in the area of Mount Pinatubo.
Their primary job was to gather information on the Japanese; not to engage the enemy. How the information they gathered got back to the allies was something he never could figure out. It is known that right after the surrender of Bataan, his guerrilla group was successful at recovering large amounts of guns and ammunition from Bataan.
Not too long after becoming a guerilla, George lost all of his clothing. While he was bathing someone stole his entire uniform which resulted in him dressing like the natives.
The guerrillas also benefited from the help of the Filipino people. When the Japanese approached, the Filipinos would blow horns that made a deep “pooh” sound. When they heard this, George and the other guerillas took off into the jungle.
The Japanese at first sent small patrols into the jungle to catch the guerrillas and quickly learned that this was unwise. Whenever they did this, the patrol would disappear and never be heard from again.
Next, the Japanese sent out large groups of soldiers that the guerrillas referred to as manhunts. These large groups of soldiers had one purpose and that was to hunt down the guerillas. Since there were more soldiers than guerrillas, all the guerillas could do was hide. When it began to get dark, the Japanese would withdraw to a safer area so that they would not be attacked.
The Japanese also would use their air force to attack known guerrilla areas. The planes would dive and strafe the guerrillas hoping that they would wound them. To protect themselves against the Japanese attempting to surprise them, the guerrillas would rig bamboo as alarms. When the Japanese tripped the traps, the bamboo plants would bang against each other giving the guerrillas enough time to escape.
While he was a guerrilla, George was wounded five times. Having suffered leg wounds from shrapnel, George used iodine to prevent infection, and when that ran out, he would clean the wounds with red peppers. The pepper would keep flies from landing on the wounds and laying maggots in them.
George spent three years fighting the Japanese as a guerrilla. The guerrillas worked in teams of three, in which one man had an automatic weapon and the two others had rifles. During this struggle, the guerillas blew up Japanese ammunition dumps, attacked truck convoys traveling through the jungle, and harassed the Japanese in any manner possible. The guerrillas re-supplied themselves with materials they stole from the Japanese. But, according to George, there also was a great deal of ammunition just lying around on Bataan. To keep it dry, the men placed the ammunition in watertight gin bottles.
At one point, George was captured by Communist Filipino guerrillas, but the communists allowed George to keep his weapons because their commander had heard of his deeds against the Japanese. In a gunfight, George managed to escape and return to his guerrilla organization. During his fight to escape, he shot the communist commander and believed he had killed him. He would learn, 18 years later, that he had not killed the man.
As guerrillas, George and the other Americans lived with a Filipino tribe. The chief of the tribe took a liking to George and treated him extremely well. George even lived in the chief’s hut. It was during this time that another of the Americans violated a tribal law. The chief had the man beheaded, which was one of the worse things that George witnessed during the war.
George and the other guerrillas slept during the day and attacked the Japanese at night. One of their favorite targets were Japanese truck convoys.
On a couple of occasions, George came close to being captured. He once was in a hut, in a barrio, when a Japanese patrol appeared. Behind the hut was a river so George was trapped. When the Japanese entered the barrio, they would open fire on anyone who ran. Somehow, he was never discovered by the Japanese while he was in the hut.
In another incident, George had to hide in a chicken coop while the Japanese were on the road in front of it. As he hid, George was eaten alive by mites which were a bigger bother to him than the Japanese.
The diet of the guerrillas was better than that of the Americans who became Prisoners Of War. George grew his own food and became an expert on 22 types of bananas and plantains. He and the other guerrillas also ate fish, papaya, mangoes, corn, and rice. In spite of this, he always felt hungry. His weight fell from 179 pounds to 136, as he grew from six feet to six feet three inches.
George remained a guerrilla until American forces landed on Luzon in late 1944. It should also be noted that during George’s time as a guerrilla, he was repeatedly promoted. When he made contact with American forces, his guerrilla rank was Lieutenant Colonel.
When George came out of the jungle and made contact with American forces, he was wearing a pair of pants made from a gunny sack. Of the 24 men that George entered the jungle within March 1942, only three came out alive with him. The rest had been killed or executed by the Japanese during the war.
On February 1, 1945, George wrote his first letter home in three years. When it arrived in Janesville, it was forwarded to his parents who had moved to Evansville, Wisconsin. George’s parents received their first news that he had survived the war. Up to that time, his family believed he was dead. In the letter he wrote:
Dear Mom and Dad:
I am writing a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and safe. I reported to our troops yesterday and I think it was one of the greatest times in my life. I wish I was there to tell you about it.
It was three years of hell and I got a lot to tell. Hope to be home soon. I am now in the hospital and all the fellows here are sure swell but that’s America.
George returned home to his parents new home on March 8, 1945, on the U.S.S. General A. E. Anderson. One of the most difficult parts of his returning home was that his dog, Rags, did not know him.
George married Myrtle Alberta Hatfield, and together they would become the parents of five children. He remained in the military enlisting for thirteen months in the Navy before rejoining the Army. He served in China, Japan, and several European countries, but was stationed at Ft. Knox for the majority of his military career as a tank crew instructor. He retired from the Army, as a Master Sergeant in 1963, while at Ft. Hood, Texas. After he retired, he returned to Janesville.
George never talked in great detail about his experiences as a guerilla. But, for his actions, while a guerilla, George received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star.
George McCarthy passed away on February 1, 2003, a few months after the death of his wife. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville.