2nd Lt. Edward Garfield Winger was born February 4, 1921, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Bernhardt Winger & Grace Wilber-Winger. In 1924, his mother filed for and divorced his father who had moved to California. It is known that his mother married Roy Perry and his mother, Ed, and his brother, Richard, moved to 119 South 6th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois. From his mother’s second marriage, he became the half-brother of Esther and Marshall Perry. He graduated from Proviso Township High School on May 26, 1939.
In 1937, while he was still in high school, Ed joined the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Tank Company. After high school, he worked as a clerk for the Northern Illinois Public Service Company. In October 1940, he re-enlisted in the tank company as it prepared for federal duty. During his time in the company, he rose in rank and was a staff sergeant when the company was federalized. On November 28, the company arrived at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
Upon arrival there, the company was designated Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion and the soldiers started training. A typical day for the soldiers started in 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.
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 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.
Ed was trained as a tank driver. It was while the company was at Ft. Knox that Ed wrote a series of articles for The Maywood Herald about the training. These articles were very popular in Maywood.
In January 1941, HQ Company was created and men from the four letter companies were transferred to the company. Ed was one of those men who joined the company. In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30. HQ Company supplied the tanks and half-tracks with supplies and fuel. They also did maintenance work on the vehicles but did not actively take part in the maneuvers.
After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas. Men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service. Most of the remaining soldiers were given leaves home to say their goodbyes.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf 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 that a large radio transmitter. The island was hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks with came from the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion traveled over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island. At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations. Men found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin 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 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, while two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters hauling scrap metal to Japan.
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 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times. On December 8, the tankers had received word of the Japanese Pearl Harbor. As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. They lined the planes up in a straight line in front of the mess hall. At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st 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.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
The tankers fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27 and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able to find a crossing over the river.
During the withdrawal into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leapfrog past it and then cover the 192nd’s withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan’s east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
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.”
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets – from January 23 to February 17 – to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed back to the original line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank going around in a circle dragging the unpowered track and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
What made this job so hard was that the Japanese dug “spider holes” among the roots of the trees. Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the Japanese.
In the area north of Trails #5 and #7, in the Gayaegayan Region on the West Coast Sector of Bataan, Ed led his tanks against the Japanese on terrain not favorable for tanks. During this attack on what was known as the Tuol Pocket, his tanks knocked out several enemy machine guns and enabled friendly infantry to advance.
It was during this battle, that the Japanese used flamethrowers on Ed’s tanks. This was the first time the Japanese used flamethrowers in World War II. Ed’s crew was temporarily blinded and his tank ended up wedged between two trees. Ed and his crew managed to escape. His tank would later be recovered by B Company.
Making his way toward Filipino-American lines, Ed was shot by a Filipino Scout in his stomach and legs. The Scout mistook him as a German military advisor. At that time, a rumor was circulating, among the Filipino troops, that the Germans were providing the Japanese with observers. The Filipino Scout assumed that the soldier approaching him was German because he had blond hair.
After Ed was shot, Cpl. John Massimino carried Edward for three days in an attempt to get him to an aid station. By the time Ed reached the aid station, gangrene had developed in his wounds.
As Ed lay on the operating table, he asked Dr. Alvin Poweleit not to amputate his legs. He also asked the doctor to give his possessions to his girlfriend if he died. Edward died during surgery at the aid station. According to Dr. Poweleit, 2nd Lt. Edward G. Winger died on February 5, 1942, while 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield has his date of death as February 7 on the final report on the 192nd. His date of death on Army records is officially listed as February 9, 1942, which is the date that appears on his cross.
For his courage, while under enemy fire and for leading his tanks against enemy flamethrowers, 2nd Lt. Edward G. Winger was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in the area north of trails 5 and 7 along the west coast of Bataan during the period of 4 to 6 February 1942.
After the war, 2nd Lt. Edward Garfield Winger his remains were recovered and he was buried in Plot D, Row 6, Grave 190, at the American Military Cemetery, outside of Manila in the Philippine Islands. His mother’s family also had his name put on the family headstone at Lakeview Cemetery in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
After Edward had been killed, his mother attempted to collect on the insurance he had bought, but it was denied to her because of a rider that stated the person could not serve in the armed forces. The National Life and Accident Insurance Company of Nashville, Tennessee, contested the payment on the grounds that the clause in the policy required men in the military had to communicate with the company, advise them where they were stationed, and make any additional premium. The rider also stated that consent to serve in the military had to be approved by the company’s president, vice president, secretary, or an assistant secretary. The court ruled in her favor but the ruling was overturned by the Appellate Court which sent the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.
On June 17, 1948, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the Appellate court stating that the State of Illinois Insurence Department had notified the company that the rider could not be approved. The company was ordered to pay Mrs. Grace Perry, Winger’s mother, $6463.55. Ironically, Mrs. Perry died earlier in 1948 before the court made its ruling. The money was put into her estate.