Pfc. Harold George Fanning was the son of Patrick and Lulu Fanning. He was born on December 16, 1916 in Milton, Wisconsin. Harold was the sixth of eight children and had four brothers and three sisters.
As a child, he grew up on a farm located on Rural Route One in Milton. He attended Milton Grade School, but it is not known if he went to high school. It is known that he worked on neighboring farms.
According to his family, Harold's parents left Milton to visit his older brother in Niagara Falls, New York in June of 1940. While they were gone, Harold enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company in Janesville at the age of twenty. It is their belief he did this so that his parents could not forbid him from enlisting.
Before The War
On November 25, 1940, the members of the 32nd Tank Company were federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. His parents drove him to the train station in Janesville where he joined the other members of the tank company who were being sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for training.
In January, 1941, Harold was reassigned to Headquarters Company when the company was formed. During his training, Harold qualified to drive the equipment assigned to the battalion.
In the late summer of 1941, Harold with the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the members of the battalion were informed that their time in the military had been extended, and the 192nd was being sent overseas. Harold received a ten day pass home to say goodbye to his family and friends.
During Harold's visit home, he visited with friends. For his family, the time went by much too quickly. The evening he left for Camp Polk, Louisiana, there was an ice storm and it was extremely cold. His entire family accompanied him to the train station and their were a great many tears. His family did not know it at the time, but it would be the last time that they would ever see him.
At Camp Polk, Harold and the other members of the battalion loaded their equipment onto flatcars. Traveling west by train, the tankers arrived in San Francisco and were ferried to Angel Island. There, they received the necessary shots and had to pass physicals before they were allowed to go overseas.
Sailing for the Philippine Islands, the 192nd stopped in Hawaii and Guam before arriving in Manila. Upon arrival in the Philippines, they were rushed to Ft. Stotsenburg and assigned tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Air Field. It was Thanksgiving Day, so the members of the battalion ate the leftovers of the 194th Tank Battalion.
During The War
The morning of December 8, 1941, December 7th in the United States, Harold and the other tankers heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tankers were assigned to the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers.
Around 11:45 in the morning, Harold and the other tankers saw planes approaching Clark Field. When bombs began exploding, they knew the planes were Japanese.
For the next four months, Harold with the rest of the battalion, fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. During this time, Harold was assigned to 1st Lt. Emmett Gibson as his driver. Gibson's job was to relay orders to the tanks when necessary.
One evening, Harold and Lt. Gibson left Angeles for San Fernando. On the way, they gave a ride to a pregnant Filipino woman who was attempting to locate her husband. This resulted in them going to Santa Anna. There, Harold and Lt. Gibson took pity on the friends of the woman because they had nothing to eat. Not too far from the town, they met Capt. Fred Bruni who was a member of the 192nd from Janesville, Wisconsin. Capt. Bruni gave them food for the family.
After returning to Santa Anna with the food, Harold, Lt. Gibson and the young woman left the town for San Fernando during a drenching rain storm. It was evening and it got dark very quickly. The storm made the night even darker. Since there was always the possibility of attack by Japanese planes, the two soldiers drove without headlights.
As Harold and Lt. Gibson approached a bridge, about five kilometers outside of San Fernando, a bus filled with Filipino soldiers loomed up out of the dark in front of them. Since both vehicles were driving without lights, neither driver could see the other until the last minute.
There was not enough room for both vehicles on the bridge so Harold slammed on the jeep's breaks. Since the bridge was wet, the jeep skidded and slammed into the bus. Lt. Gibson's left leg was crushed on impact. The Filipino woman with them also suffered a broken leg. Only Harold came out of the accident with minor injuries. The three were taken to San Fernando to a temporary hospital. Lt. Gibson would later be evacuated from Bataan to Australia on the last transport out of the Philippines.
Harold was released from the hospital and returned to his duties. On April 9, 1942, Harold became a Prisoner Of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He and the rest of HQ Company remained in their bivouac for two days. They were then ordered out to the road near their bivouac.
Time As POW
Harold and the other men were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, Japanese troops passing them took whatever they wanted from the Prisoners of War. A short time later, the POWs drove to Mariveles.
Harold took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. The conditions at the camp were so bad, that as many as fifty men a day died from starvation and disease. It is not known at this time if Harold went out on a work detail to escape the conditions of the camp.
It is known that Harold was sent to Cabanatuan #1 which was opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell. It was there that Pfc. Harold George Fanning died of dysentery or diphtheria on September 1, 1942.
After The War
After the war, the remains of Pfc. Harold G. Fanning were reburied at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.