Pfc. Frank Adelbert Byars
Pfc. Frank A. Byars was born on
November 27, 1921, in Forest Park, Illinois, to
Ida Sarwood-Byars and Emmett Byars. His name
on his birth certificate is Francis Adelbert
Byars. He grew up at 1334 Circle Avenue in
Forest Park, Illinois, and attended the
Field-Stevenson School and Proviso Township High
School. At Proviso, he was interested in
music, basketball, and ice skating. He was a
member of the Boy Scouts of America and the
Presbyterian Church. Before joining the
Illinois National Guard, he worked as a mechanic
for the Continental Can Company in Chicago.
In 1940, at the age of 19, Frank joined the Illinois National Guard's Maywood Tank Company. He went with the company first to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then to Camp Polk, Louisiana, for training.
In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk. None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there. On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, 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 an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while 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 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 Date Line. 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.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, 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 20th, 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, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the 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.
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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941,
just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor,
Elkoney lived through the Japanese attack on
Clark Airfield. That morning, they had
been awakened to the news that the Japanese had
bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. He
and the other tankers were eating lunch when
planes approached the airfield from the
north. At first, they thought the planes
were American. They then saw what looked
like rain drops falling from the planes.
It was only when bombs began exploding on the
runways that the tankers knew the planes were
Japanese. The company remained at Clark
Field for the next two weeks.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6/7, 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.
According to the
notebook kept by 2nd Lt. Jacques Merrifield,
Frank was killed on December 28, 1941, but
according to U.S. Army records, his date of
death was Friday, January 9, 1942, at Porac,
Philippine Islands. The discrepancy
indicates that Frank may have been wounded and
died from his wounds days later. U.S. Army
records show that Frank was taken to Hospital #1
at Limay, where he died. What is known is
that Frank was killed in action while attempting
to deliver a dispatch. He was 20
Pfc. Frank A. Byars
was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.