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.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes. Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam. When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward 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 love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times. The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. 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. 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.
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 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.
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.
His remains were recovered and buried as an
"Unknown" at the American Military Cemetery at