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 from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  For many, it would be the last time that they would ever see the United States.  The battalion 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.  
Ironically, it was the day the National Guard members of the battalion had originally been scheduled to be released from federal service.
    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.
   
    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.
    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.      
    It is known that Larry was taken to Hospital #1 on Bataan and was in the hospital when it was bombed by the Japanese on April 4th.  During the attack, he was wounded. 
    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 16th.
    Medical records from Bilibid Prison, in October 1942, show that Larry had been admitted to Ward 11.  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 and declared healthy.  They were 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.
    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 ship's 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.  It did not sail until 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
    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.   The ship was finally on its way to Japan when the convoy it was in was attacked by an American submarine.  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, 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, he was discharged 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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