Corporal Oxonian’s Final Battle

Due to the death, destruction and dislocation of the Bataan Campaign, many of the Fil-Am units in the battles were unable to preserve unit records, and much was lost to history. Who knows what more could be told of the campaign had such reports, orders, documents, maps, images, etc., survived?

For example, trying to follow the action of the 45th Infantry regiment has been a focus of this web log writer’s content here. There’s not a lot of detail to go on though a good general picture is known for what did survive the campaign.

So one must resort to the painstaking search of fragments of history to try and build a better picture. One such fragment came across in view recently on the Military Times website. In the Hall of Valor there is an award and supporting citation for Corporal Pedro Oxonian receiving the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously).

U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross (Courtesy Military Times)

U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross (Courtesy Military Times)

Cpl. Oxonian was assigned to Company H of the 45th Infantry regiment, Philippine Scouts, and went missing in action on 11 February 1942, according to the sources. This is a bit confusing as the citation for the award states the action for which he was awarded took place on 12 February 1942. The posting says a citation is needed for the award, but then includes a synopsis written as follows:

“SYNOPSIS: Corporal Pedro Oxonian (ASN: 6737867), United States Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company H, 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts, in action against enemy forces on 12 February 1942, in the Philippine Islands. Corporal Oxonian’s intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. Source: Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces in the Philippines, General Orders No. 15 (1942).”

Looking in the American battle Monuments Commission website, it shows that Cpl. Oxonian is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines, with a date of death of 11 February 1942. In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice in World War II.

As for the cause of Cpl. Oxonian’s demise, in the second week of February, 1942, the 45th Infantry (PS) was involved in the Battle of the Points, and specifically, Anyasan and Silaiim Points.

Anyasan and Silaiim Points, on the west side of the Bataan Peninsula, early 1942.  (Courtesy US Army)

Anyasan and Silaiim Points, on the west side of the Bataan Peninsula, early 1942. (Courtesy US Army)

Did he indeed go missing in action on 11 February? Or was that date an administrative date assigned after the action?

Or did his fellow Scouts see him fall, but were unable to recover his body as the battle raged? Only later to return and find it missing?

Or was Cpl. Oxonian lost the next day, as suggested by the award citation synopsis? At dawn on 12 February, the Japanese commander of forces on these points, Major Mitsuo Kimura, Commander of the Imperial Japanese Army’s 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, attempted a breakout with 200 troops. In a counterattack against the 2nd Battalion of the 45th Infantry (PS), they exploited a gap in between Companies E and F, and despite Fil-Am efforts to plug the gap with a patrol and stout resistance from others, some Japanese broke through the encircling Fil-Am lines in their desperate bid to escape.

One PS machine gun section (two machine guns and crews) held their positions and killed 30 enemy soldiers before they were overrun. One crew escaped but the other crew, save for one man sent to get more ammunition, was killed. Was Cpl. Oxonian perhaps a member of this valiant machine gun crew? (Thought being Company H was the weapons company of the 2nd Battalion).

Or perhaps he was killed in the following chaos, as the battalion CP came under fire, or as the battalion commenced its attack to clear the rest of the points on that day. By 1500 on the 12th, the enemy was driven off these points. Was Cpl. Oxonian one of the Scouts lost in this part of the battle?

Perhaps someone who will read this knows more about Cpl. Pedro Oxonian. But these fragments of the historical record do perhaps add some personal detail to what might otherwise be an impersonal recording of the history of the Bataan Campaign.
References:

Distinguished Service Cross Award and Citation for Corporal Pedro Oxonian, at: http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=32314

Cpl. Pedro Oxonian, entry in American Battle Monuments Commission database, at: http://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/WWII_126296#.VXeq5Eb3i7M

Morton, Louis, The Fall of the Philippines, Chapter XVII: The Battle of the Points, at: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-P-PI/USA-P-PI-17.html