Pvt. Wallace Herman Coats
| Pvt. Wallace H.
Coats was born on February 27, 1918, in Jefferson
County, Oklahoma, to Wallace O Coats & Mattie
F. Coats. He grew up in outside of Ryan,
Oklahoma, on the family farm. He married Venis
E. Smith on January 5, 1941.
Wallace was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24, 1941, in Oklahoma City. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It was during this time that Wallace qualified as a tank driver.
It was after basic training that he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion had been sent there from Fort Benning, Georgia. When it arrived, maneuvers were taking place, but he battalion did not take part in the maneuvers.
During the maneuvers the 192nd Tank Battalion performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained at Camp Polk. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Wallace volunteered to replace a National Guardsman released from federal service.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco. By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they received inoculations and physicals. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island. They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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.
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.
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.
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 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line 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.
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.
held at Fukuoka Main Camp
after arriving in
Japan. The POWs in the
camp worked in a coal
mine. At this time,
not much else is known about
life in the camp. He
remained in camp until
liberated in September
1945. He returned to
the Philippines for medical
treatment and then returned
to the United States on the
U.S.S. Tryon, at San
Francisco, on October 24,
After being discharged from the Army,
Wallace and his wife moved to Washington
State and became the parents of five
daughters and a son. The couple
later returned to Oklahoma.