Sears

 


 

Pvt. Lawrence M. Sears
    Pvt. Lawrence M. Sears was born on March 9, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois.  His father died when he was a child.  His two brothers, his mother, Louise, and Larry live in the family home in Winfield, Illinois.  He was known as "Larry" to his family and friends.  He left high school after two years and did maintenance work at a private home.
    In 1940, a draft act had been passed by Congress and Larry knew that he would be drafted into the U.S. Army.  In early September, the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard was federalized and designated B Company, 192nd Tank Company.  According to the newspapers, the company would be released from federal service in the fall of 1941.  On September 27, 1941, Larry drove to Maywood, Illinois, and joined the tank company. 
    On November 25, 1940, the members of the company reported to the armory in Maywood.  Two days later, they march down Madison Street to Fifth Avenue and north to the Chicago & North Western Train Station.  They traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with the members of A Company, 192nd Tank Company.
    The members of the battalion attended various schools at Ft. Knox and learned to operate the battalion's equipment.  In Larry's case, he qualified as a tank driver.  Near the end of the summer of 1941, they were sent  to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they took part in maneuvers.  The maneuvers were suddenly canceled after the Red Army, which they were part of, broken through the Blue Army's lines and on their way to overrun General George Patton's headquarters.
    After the maneuvers, the battalion remained behind at the base instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  The company members had no idea why they were being held at the fort.  On the side of a hill, they were informed they were being sent overseas.  Those men 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The code name for the move was "PLUM."  Within hours, most of them had figured out PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. 
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements for the men released from federal service, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks.  The battalion traveled over three different railroad routes to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. 
    On the island, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals.  Those who had minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. 

         
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 5th, 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. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 20th 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.
    Seventeen days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the members of 192nd arrived in Manila.  The battalion was deployed Fort Stotsenburg. 
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men 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
.
  They spent the next seven days preparing their equipment for use in the maneuvers they expected to take part in with the 194th Tank Battalion.
        On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  Early that morning, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had reached the Philippines.  The tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  As they sat on their tanks, they watched American planes fill the sky.  At noon, every plane landed. 
    The tankers were eating lunch when they saw 54 planes approaching the airfield from the north.  As they watched the planes, they saw what looked like raindrops falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  Most of the tankers could do nothing but watch since their weapons were not meant to fight planes. 
    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 tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.

   Larry was the tank commander of the third tank in the column.  The next day, the platoon's tanks came into contact with the Japanese.  Because the road was surrounded by rice paddies, the tanks were restricted to the road.
    The tanks came under heavy enemy fire.  During the attack the tank of Larry's commanding officer, 2nd Lt. Ben Morin, was knocked out.  The remaining tanks attempted to come to his aid but withdrew because of the heavy fire.  Larry was wounded at this time and
   taken to Hospital #1 on Bataan.  He still was in the hospital when it was bombed by the Japanese on April 4th.  During the attack, he was wounded. 

    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  The number of operational tanks also became more critical with C Company, 194th - which was attached to the 192nd - having only seven tanks left.
   The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    The morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, the tankers received the order "crash."  The soldiers hearing this destroyed their equipment.  The Americans in the hospital were driven to Camp O'Donnell and did not take part in the death march.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water spigot for the entire camp.  Men stood in line for hours just to get a drink.  The lack of medicine meant that disease ran wild among the POWs with as many as 55 men dying each day.  The situation got so bad in the camp that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. 

    It is not known if Larry was sent to the camp when it was opened, or if he was sent there after returning from a work detail.  What is known is medical records kept by the camp hospital's staff show that he was in the hospital on July 16, 1942.
    Other medical records from Bilibid Prison, in October 1942, show that Larry had been admitted to Ward 11.  This would seem to indicate that he was on a work detail when he became ill.  The records show he was suffering from malnutrition, dysentery, malaria, kidney problems, and intestinal parasites.  It is not known when he was discharged, but after he was, he was sent to Cabanatuan.
    Larry was at Cabanatuan when his name appeared on a list of POWs that were being sent to Japan.  In early July 1944, the POWs were taken by truck to Bilibid Prison.  They were given physicals, declared healthy, and marched to the Port Area of Manila where they were boarded onto the Canadian Inventor
   The POWs boarded the ship and were put into its holds.  The ship sailed on July 4th but returned to Manila the next day due to boiler problems.  It remained at Manila until July 16th, when it sailed again in a convoy.  The POWs were held in the holds the entire time.
    While at sea, the ship had more boiler problems and could not keep up with the convoy, so the other ships left it behind.  The Canadian Inventor reached Takao, Formosa, on July 23rd.  The ship was loaded with salt while the POWs remained in the holds.  It sailed again on August 4th and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, on August 5th.   While in harbor, the ship had more boiler repairs made to it before sailing on August 17th.

    During this time some POWs went crazy and attacked other men in an attempt to drink their blood.  Many POWs died and their bodies were thrown overboard.
    By the time the ship reached the Ryukyu Islands north of Formosa, the ship was having boiler problems again.  The ship limped its way to Naha, Okinawa, for more repairs.   It departed several times only to return to Okinawa.   The ship was finally on its way to Japan when the convoy it was in was attacked by an American submarine, and one ship was sunk.  The Canadian Inventor finally reached Moji, Japan, on September 1st.
    The POWs were disembarked from the ship and formed detachments of 100 men.  In Larry's case, his detachment was taken to
Omine Machi where the POWs were used as slave laborers in a coal mine. 

    One morning the prisoners awoke to discover that the guards had disappeared from the camp.  American planes appeared and dropped information about the surrender to the POWs.  When the planes reappeared, they dropped food, medicine, and instructions about transportation from the camp.  

    After being liberated, Larry boarded the U.S. Consolation on or about September 16, 1945, at Wakayama, Japan.  Medical records from the ship show he was malnourished but not ill.  He was returned to the Philippine Islands for repatriation.  There, he and the other former POW's received medication and shots.  When he was deemed healthy enough, he returned to the United States.
    Larry was discharged, as a Staff Sergeant, on June 6, 1946, from the Army.  Larry returned to Chicago and married, Olive.  He later moved to Aurora, Colorado.
    Lawrence M. Sears passed away on April 14, 1983, in Aurora, Colorado.  He was buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Colorado, in Section 3, Site 6741.





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