Wilson, PFC Frank T.

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PFC Frank Thomas Wilson
Born: 25 October 1908 – Oklahoma
Mother: James P. Wilson & Alice B. Porter-Wilson 
Siblings: 1 brother 
Home: Mailbox 35, U.S. Highway 101 – Salinas, California 
Married: Eileen Gosney-Wilson 
Occupation: worked in the family’s landscaping business 
Enlisted: California National Guard 
– 2 June 1940 
– U.S. Army 
– 10 February 1941 – Salinas Army Airfield 
– Fort Lewis, Washington
– C Company, 194th Tank Battalion
– 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
– later the members of the battalion received specific training
– many went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for training in tank maintenance, radio operation, and other specific jobs
– member of tank company of Pvt. Marshall Thorp, Sgt. Victor Gosney, Pvt. David Jaramillo
– tank driver
Note: On August 15, 1941, 17th Ordnance received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. 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, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
– 4 September 1941 –
– the battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
– Arrived: 7:30 A.M. – 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
– 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 an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– Tuesday – 16 August 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– date changed to – Thursday – 18 August 1941
– 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, Philippine Islands
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– 1 December 1941
– tanks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
– 194th guarded north end of airfield with 192nd guarding south portion
– two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with vehicle at all times
– meals served by food trucks
– those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at command post
– 8 December 1941
– Wilson recalled the food truck had arrived and the soldiers were eating
– watched planes approach the airfield from the north
– they thought the planes were Navy planes until bombs fell and they were strafed
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– Clark Field – lived through attack on airfield
– after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 12 December 1941
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived 6:00 A.M.
– C Company ordered to Southern Luzon
– 15 December 1941
– C Company holding Tagaytay Bridge – South Luzon
– spent most of time chasing down Fifth Columnists
– 24 December 1941
– company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
– bivouacked near San Paolo
-25 December 1941
– sent to assist in operations around Lucena, Pagbilao, and Lucban
– 26/27 December 1941
– defended in Southern Luzon near Lucban
– supported Philippine Army
– 29/30 December 1941
– new line at Bamban River established
– tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
– 30 December 1941
– covered withdraw of Philippine Divisions
– it was around this time that the company rejoined the battalion
– 2 January 1942
– both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
– 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
– 5 January 1942
– rejoined rest of 194th at Guagua
– took position on the road between Sexmoan and Lubao with five SPMs
– ambushed a Japanese force of 750 to 800 attempting to cut the highway
– Japanese lost half their force
– Labao was burning when tanks left area
– 6 January1942
– Remedios new defensive line established along dry creek bed
– 1:50 A.M. – Japanese attempted to infiltrate line
– bright moon made them easy to see
– tanks opened up on them
– Japanese laid down smoke which blew back into them
– 3:00 A.M.
– Japanese broke off attack
– 6/7 January 1942 – tank battalions withdraw across bridge at Culis Creek at night
– 194th withdraw across bridge covered by 192nd
– bridge destroyed after 192nd crossed bridge
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– January 1942
– tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
– 8 January 1942
– composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
– their job was to keep the East Road open north of Hermosa and prevent the
Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been formed
– remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
– tanks also needed overdue maintenance
– 17th Ordnance
– all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
– three per tank platoon
– sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw
– tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
– mission abandoned
– Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– forward position with little alert time
– 13 January 1942
– mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
– returned to battalion
– 16 January 1942 – Bagac
– sent to open Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could move south
– at the Moron Road and Road Junction 59 the tanks moved forward knocking out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks were lost to landmines but towed out
– mission abandoned
– Segunda’s forces escaped along beach losing its heavy equipment
– 20 January 1942
-west of Bani Bani Road – tanks were sent to save the 31st Infantry command post
– 24 January 1942
– tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
– landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
– 26 January 1942
– battalion holding a position a kilometer north of Pilar-Bagac Road
– four SPMs with the battalion
– 9:45 A.M. – warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
– when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
– estimated they lost 500 of 1800 men
– 10:30 A.M. – Japanese withdrew from area
– prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
– 28 January 1942
– 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
– guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: “Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay.”
– March 1942
– two tanks were bogged down in mud
– the tankers were working to get them out
– Japanese Regiment entered the area
– Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range
– Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
– wiped out Japanese regiment
– gasoline rations cut to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks
– Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that one platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor
– Wainwright rejected idea
– at some point Frank was sent to the hospital
– 7 April 1942
– Hospital #2 – Cabcaben, Bataan
– had malaria
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Bataan surrendered
– Cabcaben POW Camp
– in hospital when Bataan was surrendered
– 19 May 1942 – name listed on roster of POWs in camp
– POWs used as a human shield by Japanese
– Japanese had set up artillery next to hospital
– fired on Ft. Drum and Corregidor
– islands returned fire but attempted to stay away from hospital area
– POWs were still hit by shrapnel
– Wilson said, “I got off luckier than most of the boys.”
– man in bed next to him was wounded by shrapnel
– Gen. Johnathan Wainwright gave order for American forts to stop firing
– Bilibid Prison
– sent to prison from Cabcaban
– hospitalized because he had beriberi
– nearly lost his sight
– spent a year and half at the prison
– Cabanatuan
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in attempt to lower death rate
– Camp 2: two miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
– June 1944
– Frank sent to Camp #3
– Corregidor POWs were in better shape
– POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
– Camp Administration:
– the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
– Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
– Japanese beat them for days
– executed them
– Barracks:
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– no showers
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in
their shins with their hobnailed boots because they didn’t like the way the POWs lined up
– Work Details:
– Two main details
– the farm and airfield
– farm detail
– POWs cleared land and grew camotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
– Japanese took what was grown
– occasionally the Japanese let the POWs have the green tops from the potatoes or radishes
– Frank worked on this detail
– caught stealing a potato
– guard broke his arm and forced him to stand at attention the rest of day with his hands above his head until work was
completed for the day
– Guards:
– Big Speedo – spoke little English
– in charge of detail
– fair in treatment of POWs
– spoke little English
– to get POWs to work faster said, “speedo”
– Little Speedo
– also used “speedo” when he wanted POWs to work faster
– fair in treatment of POWs
– Smiley
– always smiling
– could not be trusted
– meanest of guards
– Airfield Detail:
– Japanese built an airfield for fighters
– POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
– at first moved dirt in wheelbarrows
– later pushed mining cars
– Guards:
– Air Raid
– in charge
– usually fair but unpredictable
– had to watch him
– Donald Duck
– always talking
– sounded like the cartoon character
– unpredictable – beat POWs
– POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
– at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
– POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– worked 6 days a week
– had Sunday off
– Other Details:
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– Meals:
– 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– rice was main staple, few vegetables or fruits
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given name because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– with his brother-in-law, Victor Gosney, when he died
– at that time, Frank was married to Gosney’s sister
– Propaganda Broadcasts:
– 13 December 1943
– Provost Marshall General sent this message to his wife:

“I am well and uninjured. Do not worry. Hope that you and the folks are well. Tell dad to celebrate for both of us on his birthday. Take good care of the folks. Say hello to all my friends. Wish you all the happiness and luck in the world. Write to me in care of the Red Cross. Love to all–Frank.”
– 20 June 1944
– Provost Marshall General sent this message to his wife:

“I am well and doing all right. Received your box and was sure glad to get it. I have not received a letter from you but received one from mom and dad. Also received one from Jean and Maude. Tell them I was glad to hear from them. Hope you will write often. Please write me and tell me if you are getting your allotment. Take care of yourself honey. I hope to be with you soon. Tell mother and dad hello for me. I hope dad is getting all the work he wants to do and please tell mother to keep up her gardening. My regards to all of the friends. If you can send a package, send a Schick injector razor and blades, please. Food and tobacco would also be appreciated around.”

– POW Post Card
– 17 January 1945
– card dated: 29 April 1944

“Received your letters, and was glad to hear from you. Hoping receive more mail from you. Hope you both well. Give my love to Jean. Tell her write. Would sure like to hear from her. Hope she is well and comes to see you often.”
– 1945 – POWs who remained in camp were considered “too ill” to be sent to Japan
– Burial Detail:
– POWs worked in teams of four men to bury dead
– carried as many as six dead POWs in slings to cemetery
– buried in graves that contained 16 to 20 bodies
– of life in the camp he said, “There was nothing to do but wait for the return of the Yanks. I knew something would happen.”
– Japanese guards in towers would take aim on a POW below for the fun of it and kill the man . Of this, he said, “There was nothing we could do about it.”
– He recalled that after the Americans landed on Luzon, the Japanese told them that they were no longer prisoners. “But they added, ‘If one of you goes outside the walls he will be shot.'”
– 31 January 1945 – U.S. Army Rangers
– left behind a roster of the 194th that he had promised to try to get out of the camp
– the roster was recovered and is now in the National Archives in Washington D.C.
– After he was liberated he spoke to NBC Radio, he said, “The chow is swell. This bully beef and hash spuds taste like chicken and dumplings compared to the Japanese ‘breakfast of champions’.”
– He also said, to NBC, the POWs made wooden shoes, wooden musical instruments, wooden spoons, forks, and the Japanese were impressed with their ingenuity, “The Japanese commander said that if he didn’t watch us, we’d make a train out of wood and ride it to freedom.”
– 28 February 1945
– sent message home: “Everything O.K. Home soon. Tell mother and dad. Love all.”
– Letterman General Hospital – San Francisco, California
– March 1945
– hospitalized with pneumonia
– 1 April 1945 – returned to Salinas
– after he returned home, he was given a roster of C Company
– he looked at it and said, “There were so many I haven’t seen since Bataan–it’s hard to remember all of them.”
– when asked how he had learned Japanese, he said, “Those men just learned. You can learn most anything at the point of a bayonet.”
Married: Glenna R. Row – 19 November 1950
Children: 2 step-sons
Occupation: Pacific Gas & Electric
– Repairman
Died: 25 April 1957
– never recovered from his time as a POW
– complications from war-related illnesses
Buried: Garden of Memories – Salinas, California



Wilson, PFC Frank T. 1 - Bataan Project