S/Sgt. John E. Ball was born in Stuart, Iowa, to
Frederick E. Ball & Cora C. Rinehart-Ball on
September 17, 1914. He was one of the couple's
ten children. Before he and his brother,
William, moved to the Chicago area in 1940, he worked
as a machinist in a light factory. In the
Chicago area, he and his brother lived at 1035 South
Harvard Avenue in Oak Park.
John was one of the original Illinois National Guardsmen, of B Company, called to federal duty on November 25, 1940. He trained with the company at Fort Knox, Kentucky, during 1940 and 1941. During his training at Ft, Knox, he qualified as a tank mechanic.
In the late summer of 1941, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the maneuvers, with the release of men 28 years or older, that John was promoted to tank maintenance crew chief.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco. Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island. On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.
At one point, the ships passed an island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th. They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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. With the 192nd, John sailed to the Philippine Islands in November of 1941. He lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield and took part in the defense of the Philippine Islands. On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after Pearl Harbor, John lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.
That morning, the tankers were informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A week earlier, the tankers had been positioned around the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. At all times, the two tankers had to remain with their tank.
The morning of December 8th, the news of the Japanese attack was given to the tank crews. They were ordered to their tanks. At 8:30 A.M., the planes at the airfield took off. All morning, as they watched, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch parking the planes is a straight line in front of their mess hall.
At 12:45, John and the other tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. In all, they counted 54 planes. At first, they watched since they believed the planes to be American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese. After the attack he saw the effects of the attack.
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 tankplatoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of 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 25th, 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 27th.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6th/7th, the 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross a bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
During the withdraw 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 leap frog
past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The
192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to
wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped
behind the main defensive line. 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.