M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald was born on April 15, 1905, in Hampton, Ontario, Canada, and was the son of Florence M. Anderson. It is known that he had three half-brothers and five sisters. At some point, his family resided in Racine, Wisconsin, before his mother returned to Canada.
After finishing his schooling, Osborne took a job at the local General Motors plant in Janesville where he worked as a machinist. He resided at 210 West Laurel Avenue in Janesville and joined the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Tank Company headquartered in an armory in Janesville. During his years with the tank company, he served as the chief mechanic for the company.
Osborne’s mother passed away before he was called to federal service in the fall of 1940. On November 27, the company left for Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and a year of federal service. His tank company was now A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion and assigned to duty at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
In January 1941, Headquarter Company was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion. It was at this time that Osborne was transferred to the company. With this transfer, he was put in charge of tank maintenance. It was his job to make sure that the tanks, trucks, jeeps, and motorcycles ran.
The one thing that Osborne, and the other members A Company who had been selected to join HQ Company, were known for was their love of beer. On Saturday night, they would buy at least one case of beer and drink it. During these gatherings, Osborne would often tell stories. Many were stories from famous books. Members of the company stated that he never told the same story twice during their entire time at Ft. Knox.
After taking part in maneuvers in Louisiana, from September 1 through 30, Osborne learned, with the other members of the 192nd, that the tank battalion was being sent overseas. Being almost forty years old, Osborne was given the chance to resign from federal service, but he chose to go overseas with the 192nd.
The decision for this move – which had been made during 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.
Osborne was given a furlough home to take care of business and say goodbye to family and friends. He no sooner had he gotten home, when he received a telegram ordering him back to Camp Polk. He thought it was a joke being played on him by members of the company. It wasn’t.
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 Ft. Mc Dowell on 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 or 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 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, 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, but the fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. After making sure the battalion members had Thanksgiving dinner – a stew thrown into their mess kits – King left 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.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Osborne lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Since they had no weapons to use against planes, the members of the company took cover during the attack. After the attack, they saw the damage done to the base.
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 the company slept in a dry latrine that was near their bivouac since it was safer then their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night on a bed. The next morning, they saw the bodies of the dead lying on the ground. Pilots who had night duty lay dead in their tents.
During the Battle of the Philippines, Osborne and the other members of HQ Company attempted to make sure that the letter companies received the necessary repairs to keep the tanks running that to fight the Japanese. On a couple of occasions, this meant going into a combat area to recover a disabled tank.
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.”
On April 9, 1942, Osborne became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. He and the other soldiers of HQ Company stayed in their bivouac for two days before they received orders from the Japanese to move.
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.
HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit. As they sat and watched, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off. The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Outside of Mariveles, the POWs were directed to a field and told to sit. After several hours they were ordered to move. They moved to a field near a school and ordered to sit again. It was at this time that the Japanese recruited POWs to repair trucks.
Since he had experience working on cars and trucks, Osborne was assigned to the work detail at Mariveles to repair trucks. It was while he was working on this detail that M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald suffered a heart attack on Saturday, April 11, 1942, and was taken to the U.S. Naval Station at Mariveles where he died.
According to information provided by the military during the war, after his death, M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald was buried in the Naval Section of the cemetery at Mariveles.
At the end of May or in early June, his mother received this message from the War Department:
“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald who according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“We deeply regret that it is impossible for us to give you more information. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the war department. Conceivably, the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly of other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese government has indicated its intentions of conforming to the terms of the Geneva convention with respects to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the war department cannot give you positive information.
“The war department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as ‘missing in action’ from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is hoped that the Japanese government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At this time you will be notified by this office in the event his name (Osborne McDonald) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”
In July 1942, the family received a second letter. The following is an excerpt from it.
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald had not been reported as a casualty. The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, until definite information to the contrary is received. “Efforts to secure prisoner of war lists from the Philippines have not been successful to this date due to the lack of communication and the fact that the Japanese Government has not yet given permission for the Swiss representative and the International Red Cross delegates to make visits to prisoner of war camps in the islands. When the lists of prisoners are received, we will clear the name of your son and send you any additional information that we may have.”
When his mother received the messages, she had no idea that her son was already dead.
His mother, on December 2, 1945, received his Medal of Valor at a ceremony at the First Baptist Church in Janesville. It is not known at this time why he was awarded the medal.
After the war, M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald’s remains were returned to Racine during October 1949. He was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Racine, Wisconsin, on October 19, 1949, in the veteran’s plot.