2nd Lt. William H. Slicer Jr. was born on January 22, 1918, to William H. Slicer Sr. and Alfhild Bie-Slicer in Chicago. With his three sisters, he grew up at 503 South 52nd Avenue in Bellwood, Illinois. He attended Proviso Township High School in Maywood and was a member of the Class of 1937.
While in high school, William was involved in dramatics. His fellow classmates remembered him as a serious, courteous person, willing to help someone at any time. William was married to Dorothy and the father of two children. They resided at 148 South Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. He worked as a clerk in a factory office.
William joined the Illinois National Guard on November 12, 1935, as a private. During his time in the National Guard, he rose in rank to sergeant to staff sergeant. On November 19, 1940, he resigned from the National Guard as an enlisted man and reenlisted on November 25, 1940, as a 2nd Lieutenant. On the same date, the company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. By train, the company went for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
During his time at Ft. Knox, William took a course in tank maintenance. It was also at this time that he became the company’s mess officer.
In the late summer of 1941, William took part in the Louisiana maneuvers from September 1 through 30. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected. On the side of a hill, the soldiers were told they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, they had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Men 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island n the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. 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 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 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, while two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters hauling scrap metal to Japan.
It was during the voyage that William awoke one morning to find that he had been transferred to Headquarters Company and now the Liaison Officer. The battalion arrived in the Philippines just two weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
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. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner – which consisted of stew thrown into their mess kits – before he left to have his own dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the ragged World War I 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.
The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise from the engines as they flew over was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance. Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the reconnaissance plane pilots reported that Japanese transports were milling around in a large circle in the South China Sea.
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times. On the morning of December 8, 1941, just hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 19nd received word of the attack. As they sat in their tanks, they saw American planes fill the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the airfield was bombed by the Japanese wiping out the Army Air Corps.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
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 at the river in the Bayambang Province.
William was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on December 24. There are two stories about how he was injured. In both cases, Maj. Ted Wickord was extremely angry with him and believed it was intentional. In one story, his leg was broken when a chain broke while the maintenance crew was attempting to pull a truck. He had been warned he was standing too close to the chain and when it broke it hit him in his leg. He was taken to a hospital in Manila.
The second story was that he had taken a motorcycle, without permission, and went to Manila. Coming back, he was drunk and got into an accident breaking his leg.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, asked if there were any ships available in the harbor and was told there were two. One was a lumber schooner that was not fit for the open sea. The other, the S.S. Mactan, had been used for inter-island travel for years and had been condemned. MacArthur ordered that the Mactan be made ready, and within two days it had been painted white, by Filipino workers, and red crosses were painted on its sides.
On December 31, 1941, the patients were informed that the Japanese had agreed to allow a ship to leave Manila with the wounded. William and other patients were moved to the docks to be put on the S.S. Mactan. The ship was only about 2000 tons and was infested with copra beetles, red ants, and cockroaches. The patients were placed on mattresses on the deck of the ship because there was no room for them below deck.
At ten o’clock at night, the ship sailed and zig-zagged its way through the harbor to avoid mines. As it left Manila, the patients could see and hear the explosions of gasoline storage tanks and ammunition dumps being dynamited by American troops.
The patients had not been told about their destination so when the silhouette of Corregidor loomed out of the darkness they believed this was their destination. When the island began to fade into the darkness, the patients knew for the first time that they were being sent to Australia.
The ship headed south, in Japanese controlled waters, and the wounded expected that any time it would be hit by a torpedo. On January 7, it arrived at Makassar, East Dutch Indies, and a Dutch pilot came aboard to dock the ship. While there, a plane was spotted and air raid sirens and alarms sounded. It turned out that the plane was from a friendly country. The men on the ship learned later that the pier where they were docked was mined and almost blown up while the ship was docked to it.
The ship’s crew and medical staff attempted to get supplies but were unsuccessful. On January 11th, the ship sailed and again took a southerly route. At this point, the freshwater was shut off and water and food were rationed. Two days later, on the 13th, the ship arrived at Darwin, Australia, and again attempted to get supplies. As it turned out, Darwin was rationing what it had and could not spare any supplies for the ship.
On January 14, the ship sailed again. The next day, whistles and alarms began blowing on the ship. The soldiers learned that there was a fire in the engine room and were issued life jackets. As it turned out the waters they were in were infested with sharks. The ship’s crew put out the fire but one engine room crew member was badly burned.
The ship ran into a typhoon on January 16 and rode it out. Two days later, the men heard that a Japanese radio broadcast had been intercepted that claimed the S.S. Mactan had been sunk at sea resulting in the deaths of all on board. The ship arrives at Townsville, Australia, on the 20th and seven bags of cement were brought aboard. It turned out it was used on the ships haul to waterproof it. The next day, food, water, clean linens, and medicine were brought aboard.
On January 19, his wife Dorothy received a telegram that he had been killed in action on December 19, 1941, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. It is not known when she received word that he was alive and had been evacuated to Australia.
The ship sailed on the 23rd and arrived at Brisbane, Australia, the next day. While there, the men drank mild and were fed. It sailed on the 25th For Sydney, finally arriving there on January 27. The wounded and sick were told that a new hospital, 113th Australian General Hospital, had opened ten miles from Sydney and they would be transported there.
After recuperating in Australia, William remained in Australia as a member of General MacArthur’s staff. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in February 1942. The reason this was done was that he was the only American officer who knew about the tactics the Japanese used against tanks.
Later, on December 19, 1942, he was promoted to the rank of Captain and saw more action against the Japanese on New Guinea. While on New Guinea in September of 1944, he was given two options. The first was that he had earned enough points to return to Chicago to see his wife, Dorothy, and his children, Carol and Billy.
The second option William was given was to return with General Douglas MacArthur to the Philippine Islands. He had no time to waste and made his decision immediately and returned to the Philippines as a member of the G-3 Section of the 41st Division.
In a letter to his wife, he told her that he longed to see her and his children, but he also knew that the Philippines were about to be invaded by American Forces. In the letter, he said that he wanted to be there when Gen. MacArthur returned to the Philippine Islands.
When the invasion of the Philippine Islands came, William was with the American Forces as they landed on Luzon. He returned to the Philippine Islands as the commander of a transport unit of 1000 men.
William was discharged from the army on March 30, 1946. He returned to Maywood and his wife and children. He would later become the father of twin sons. He took a job with the Chicago & North Western Railroad. He also returned to the Illinois National Guard and became the commanding officer of the 33rd Division’s Heavy Tank Company which was headquartered in the same armory B Company called home. The men under his command viewed him as being very goal-oriented.
In 1958, William moved to Washburn, Wisconsin, where his family owned land. He worked as an explosive expert for 14 years and then at the Memorial Medical Center in Ashland, Wisconsin. William died on September 24, 1999, and after a memorial service at Messiah Lutheran Church, in Washburn, he was buried at Washburn Cemetery in Block 12, Lot 36, Site 1.
It should be noted that fathered another son, Pierre, while he was stationed in Australia. In 2001, his children became aware of their half-brother and have since developed strong ties with him.