1st Lt. Emmett F. Gibson was born in September 15, 1916, to Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Gibson. As a child, he grew up at 227 South 12th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois. Emmett attended grade school in Maywood and then attended Proviso Township High School.
In 1933, Emmett enlisted in the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company. To enlist, he had to get his mother's signature since he was only sixteen years old. He resigned from the National Guard to go to Washington, DC to work as a messenger at the Patent Office. When he was transferred to Chicago, in June, 1938, he rejoined the tank company. He married and resided at 1025 South Tenth Avenue with his wife, Anna, and his daughter, Carol.
Service Before War
In November, 1940, the 33rd Tank Company was called to federal duty. When the company was federalized, it became Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. Emmett and the other company members went to Kentucky and trained at Fort Knox.
While at Fort Knox, Emmett received his commission as a First Lieutenant and transferred to Headquarters Company of the 192nd. He next took part in the maneuvers of 1941. Unknown to Emmett or the other men, they had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.
During The War
In November, 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion arrived in the Philippine Islands just two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. When war came, Emmett was assigned as Liaison Officer between the four letter companies and HQ.
When the Japanese attacked Clark Field on December 8, 1941, Emmett was in the Provisional Tank Group's headquarters building on duty. Amazingly, the building was not hit by Japanese bombs.
During the Battle_of_the_Philippines, Emmett was assigned to command the motorcycle messengers for General_Jonathan_Wainwright. Emmett eventually acted as a messenger himself. As part of his duties, Emmett stole a tractor that was sitting along side a road because it was needed by the American forces.
One day, Emmett and his driver Pvt. Harold Fanning, left Angeles for San Fernando. On the way, they gave a ride to a Filipino woman who was attempting to locate her husband. This resulted in them going to Santa Anna. There, Emmett took pity on the friends of the woman because they had nothing to eat. Not too far from the town, Emmett met Capt. Bruni who was a member of the 192nd from Janesville, Wisconsin. Capt. Bruni gave Emmett food for the family.
After returning to Santa Anna with the food, Emmett, Pvt. Fanning and the young woman left the town, in a drenching rain, for San Fernando. It was evening and it got dark very quickly. As they approached a bridge about five kilometers outside of San Fernando, a bus load of 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 Pvt. Fanning slammed on the jeep's breaks. The jeep skidded and slammed into the truck.
Emmett's left leg was crushed on impact. The Filipino woman also suffered a broken leg. Only Pvt. Fanning came out of the accident with minor injuries. The three were taken to San Fernando to a temporary hospital.
Emmett was next taken to the Philippine_Women's_University in Manila. While a patient there, he and the other patients could hear the bombs exploding that were being dropped by Japanese planes. The patients laid in bed wondering if they would be the next to be bombed.
While in the hospital, Emmett met Lt. Richard Danca. Lt. Danca was in the hospital suffering from a nervous condition that paralyzed his legs. He would later return to combat and be wounded.
On December 31, 1941, the patients were informed that the Japanese had agreed to allow a ship, the SS Mactan1, to leave Manila with the wounded. Emmett and other patients were moved to the docks to be put on the ship. The ship was only about 2000 tons and had red crosses on white fields painted on its sides. The patients were placed on cots on the deck of the ship because there was no room for them below deck.
At ten o'clock at night, the ship sailed. As it left Manila, the patients could see and hear the explosions of gasoline storage tanks being dynamited by American troops. The patients had not been told about their destination so when the silhouette of Corregidor loomed out of the darkness they believed this was their destination. When the island began to fade into the darkness, the patients knew for the first time that they were being sent to Australia.
The remainder of the trip would not be uneventful. First, the ship's crew had to battle a fire in its engine room. Then, the ship had to struggle through a storm before arriving in Australia.
In Australia, Emmett was a patient at the 113th_Australian_General_Hospital in Sydney. He returned to the United States in June of 1942. He was somewhat of a celebrity and spoke to the families of the men of the 192nd Tank Battalion in both Maywood and Janesville. Emmett did not consider himself a hero and often spoke of the men, who were now Prisoners of War, as the true war heroes.
Emmett was reassigned to the Armored School at Fort Knox where he was promoted to Captain. He remained at Fort Knox fighting to stay in the army because his injury had left his injured leg an inch shorter than his other leg.
After the War
In February, 1945, Emmett was released from active duty and returned to Maywood. His one regret was that he had not been able to remain with the other members of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
In 1958, Emmett F. Gibson died from head injuries he received in an accident while a police officer in Maywood. His last request was to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at the battle sites on Bataan. On April 9, 1959, on the seventeenth anniversary of the fall of Bataan, his wish was carried out.
- [http://www.192nd.com] - Website devoted to Emmett F. Gibson