Peterson

Tec 5 Charles Albert Peterson


     T/5 Charles A. Peterson was born in Chicago on November 3, 1919, to Charles J. Peterson & Ruth M. Hansen-Peterson.  Until the age of ten, he grew up at 3212 West Addison Street in Chicago.  In 1930, his family moved to 2135 North 72nd Court in Elmwood Park, Illinois, where he attended Elmwood Park Grade School.   He then attended Leyden Township High School in Franklin Park, Illinois and was a member of the Class of 1939.

     In early 1940,  jobs were extremely hard to get.  Charles found himself employed as a shipping clerk at Carson Pirie Scott & Company.  Since he did not want to make this his life's work and  had heard that all young men were going to be required to serve in the military for one year, he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard as a member of the 33rd Tank Company from Maywood, Illinois.

     On November 25, 1940, the Maywood Tank Company was federalized and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training.  At Fort Knox the name of the unit was changed to Company B, and it became part of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  While at Ft. Knox, Charles trained to become a motorcycle messenger. 
    In the late summer of 1941, Charles 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, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, 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.  
Charles' family received a letter from him, while he was in transit, on November 2, 1941.  This was the last time they would hear from him.     
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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 members of each tank crew had to remain with their tanks at all times.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. 

    When war broke out, Charles rode a motorcycle carrying messages between the company headquarters and the battalion headquarters.  He did this throughout the four months that Filipino and American forces slowed the Japanese advance. 
    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.

    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff. 
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    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.
    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.        
    B Company 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.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.

    On April 9, 1942, Charles became a Prisoner of War when American forces, on the Bataan Peninsula, were surrendered to Japan.  The members of B Company made their way to Mariveles. at the southern tip of Bataan.  There, they were searched and the Japanese took what they wanted from the Prisoner of War.

     As a POW, Charles took part in the death march and was interred at Camp O'Donnell.  He was one of 100 POWs sent to Camp Olivaris on a work detail.  The men on this detail would work in teams of four.  Each team would drive a truck into Bataan to recover vehicles that had been destroyed by the retreating Filipino and American forces.  Three vehicles were hooked together and onto the truck. Each vehicle would be driven by a man as it was towed to San Fernando.  From San Fernando, the vehicles would then be driven to Manila and loaded onto ships bound for Japan.  

    During this time, Charles was one of five POWs on the detail hospitalized at the Pampanga Provincial Hospital in San Fernando suffering from malaria and dysentery.  Charles and Cpl. William Burns, from Company B, were considered so ill that they were placed in the isolation ward.  It was there that he died of dysentery and malnutrition on Wednesday, September 9, 1942, and was buried outside of San Fernando at Camp Olivias. 

    Charles was buried by Pvt. Harry Norowul and Sgt. Bob Peterson of B Company.  He was buried next to Cpl. William Burns, another Illinois National Guardsman, and Edrow Singletary of B Company.  Charles was 22 years old when he died.  His family received word of his death on May 4, 1945.

    After the war, Harry Norowul drew a map that helped the Peterson family locate Charles' remains. The family hired an architect who drew a detailed map of the burial site.  Charles Peterson's family requested that his remains be returned to the United States.  His remains were returned to Illinois, and a memorial service for Charles was held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Elmwood Park.   He was reburied, with full military honors, at Mt. Emblem Cemetery in Elmhurst, Illinois.


 





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