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Olson, Cpl. Edward M.

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Cpl. Edward Martin Olson
Born: 17 September 1918 – Sagola Township, Dickinson County, Michigan
Parents: Edd Olson & Ester Johnson-Olson
Nickname: Ed
Brother: 1 brother, 1 sister
Gerald Olson – 17th Ordnance
Home: Sagola Township, Dickinson County, Michigan
Occupation: pulp handler – lumber camp
Enlisted: 11 January 1941 – Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana
Unit:
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox
– taught how to maintain 57 vehicles in use by the Army
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Weeks 7, 8, 9: Time was 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
– Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– Company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
– 17th Ordnance Company
– 17 August 1941 – the company created from A Company of 19th Ordnance
– received orders for overseas duty the same day
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:
– traveled by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– Arrived: Thursday, 5 September 1941
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: San Francisco, California – Monday – 8 September 1941
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M.
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– soldiers were given shore leave for the day
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M.
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– the date became Thursday – 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – Friday – 26 September 1941
– Disembarked:
– 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– reattached turrets to tanks
– worked in shifts
– slept on the ship that night
– finished attaching turrets at 9:00 A.M. the next day
– rode a bus to Ft. Stotsenburg
– serviced tanks of Provisional Tank Group
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– 8 December 1942 – lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field
– the company went to a bamboo thicket where they could disperse vehicles and set up its bivouac
– set up machine shop trucks, half-tracks, and trucks
– received orders to return to Ft. Stotsenburg
– 12:45 P.M. – Japanese attacked
– Japanese wipe out Army Air Corps
– dead and wounded were everywhere
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– repaired tanks under combat conditions
– converted shells into anti-personnel shells
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 17th Ordnance worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd & 194th Tank Battalions running
– the company was headquartered in ordnance depot building which was empty
– repaired tanks damaged by Japanese or tank crews
– 8 April 1942
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.”
– 10:30 P.M. – Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000 civilians
– less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
– he estimated they could hold out one more day
– sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– serviced tanks of the 192nd & 194th Tank Battalion
– the company was headquartered in an abandoned ordnance depot building
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– men received word of the surrender from Capt. Richard Kadel
– prepared a meal with all their remaining food
– moved to a pass and waited for the Japanese
– while there, they were strafed and bombed by Japanese planes
– 10 April 1942
– Japanese made contact and ordered the POWs to move
– Death March
– started the march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan with his brother, Jerry, and Pfc. Paul Head
– at some point on the march, Ed could no longer go on and fell to the ground
– Jerry and Paul Head could not stop to help him or they would be killed
– Jerry switched canteens with Ed so that he had water
– Jerry never saw Ed again
Died:
– Wednesday – 15 April 1942 – on the death march
– bayoneted
Memorial:
– Tablets of the Missing – American Military Cemetery – Manila, Philippine Islands

 

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