HQ Location

Mayor Kills Gun Crew

Wainwright HQ

Finds an Eden -- With Bath, Dining Tables

July 15, 1942

Lieut. Emmett F. Gibson and the men of the old Maywood Tank Company landed in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day, 1941 and within a few days were plunged into the inferno of war. They were bombed at Fort Stotsenburg, saw the aircraft at Clark Field virtually destroyed, were hurled head-on against Jap shock troops. Henry Deckert, tank gunner, was killed, wiping out a Jap nest. Thousands of Japs dropping on Luzon by parachute were slain by the gallant Filipinos. A Maywood officer, single-handed, stopped a Jap force trying to cross a river.Now go on with the story:

Suicidal Courage of Native Mayor and Troops Told

The Japs were plunging southward along the main railroad and highway which led through Tarlac and San Fernando to Manila.

Our headquarters, which had moved out of Fort Stotsenburg to the field, first to a tiny barrio of Dolores, thence north of Gerone, was moved eastward to Cabanatuan, twenty-five miles southeast of Villasis.

The Maywood tank company was on MacArthur’s right flank, protecting his center, which was bearing the brunt of the Jap drive.

Supply was a tremendous problem. The front was fluid and it was difficult for food and ammunition supplies to keep pace with the switfly moving tanks. On the 21st, I had met Lieut. Arthur Holland, transportation officer from Forest Park, in charge of three freightcar loads of ammunition destined for tanks and artillery regiments.

Unable to Deliver Ammunition to Front

He wanted to know:
“Where the hell am I going to deliver this? Where’s the front? Where are there trucking facilities from the railheads?”

I couldn’t help him. I had my own problems. Six days later, he was to move back into Bataan with his ammunition, still undelivered and undeliverable, as the action outstripped his transportation.

The natives, too, were having trouble. In advanced areas, we found many unable to harvest their rice and sugar cane — whole villages facing hunger and disease as was laid waste to their crops.

We tried to feed as many as we could, and they, in turn, served as outposts for us. They put out wiry, jungle-wise men who eyes were keen, who could move as silently as a snake through reeds cane-fields, and forest; who hated Japanese with a single-purposed intensity.

We could rest easily with such guards to warn us of the approach of Jap bombers, or of Jap raiding parties which might slip past the fluid fighting lines in the rear areas.

Filipino Mayor Kills Crew of Jap Tank

The Filipinos were universally helpful. In the front lines they fought with suicidal courage, until they were cut to pieces. They suffered terrible casualties because of their disregard for danger. Filipino soldiers would rush ahead of our tanks, to reach the enemy first.

And Filipino civilians were equally courageous. Their daring was epitomized by Mayor Nocomedes Suller of San Manuel, Pangasinan Province, who climber aboard a Jap tank when a patrol reached his city.

While other civilians fired, Mayor Suller forced open the porthole of the tank; and emptied his gun into its interior with deadly effect.

As the last shot was fired, Suller toppled to the ground, his body riddled with shots. But he took with him in death the crew of the tank. There was one less machine to spread death and destruction among the Filipinos and Americans!

The Filipinos were a brave people, defending their home. They counted any loss as worth the effort. They proved to the hilt their right to freedom; their right to stand as equals with any people in the world.

Sent to Headquarters of Gen. Wainwright

I was transferred from tank headquarters to the field headquarters of LT. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright. I reported to that veteran cavalryman in the evening. He received me courteously. And jokingly, he said:
“I don’t know what we’ll do with a tank man here — but stick around!”

His headquarters was being moved back to Bambam, just north of Clark Field. Through the night, kitchen, food — all the supplies went back. In the morning the general came from his tent, stretched, and lighted a cigaret.

(One hundred and thirty-eight words censored here)

He said:
“Maybe I was wrong last night. Looks as though the tank men are as good as the cavalrymen after all!”

A fine, brave soldier, Gen. Wainwright. A great leader, easy to talk to, with a ready laugh, able to crack a joke to ease the tension at a critical time — and ever alert, fighting, thinking of his men and of the battle at hand.

And there was a critical time, if ever there was one. All the skill of Wainwright and MacArthur couldn’t check the Japs. We caught up with our supplies — and food — at Bambam, where a wealthy sugar planter turned over his home to us as headquarters.

Finds an Eden — With Bath, Dining Tables

It seemed like heaven — a cool, rambling tropic home. For the first time since the Japs bombed Clark Field on December 8, I caught up with a bath — lay soaking luxuriously in the warm soapy water.

There were tables to eat from — civilized tables, with spotless white cloths. There were chairs to sit in — and luxury of luxuries — a place to set up a cot, and sleep while nets kept the huge mosquitoes at bay.

It was fun to lie there and listen to the hungry mosquitoes buzz. We’d been their breakfast, lunch and dinner for days. Even the sun was no protection from them — for they operated as viciously by day as by night. They were the constant, irritating curse of men condemned to live and fight and sleep in the open.

But our peaceful life at Bambam could not last. To the north the Japanese legions were thundering toward us. We watched bombers on their way to smash Manila, which had been proclaimed as an open city.

By Emmett F. Gibson, 1st Lt., 192nd Tank Bat.
As Told to David Camelon
(Originally published in the Chicago Herald-American, July 15 or 16, 1942)

(This presentation (c) 2008, Stephen Gibson)

Chicago Herald-American
July 15 or 16, 1942 (Exact Date uncertain)