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Uncle Pat

Updated: May 27, 2022

A friend of mine mentioned that her uncle was killed during the Second World War. She never met him and knew little of his life. He was her mother's favorite brother. He wrote home that he was General MacArthur's radioman and could only tell his mother where he was by including the names of local plants and trees.

I undertook some research to learn more about Uncle Pat for my friend and her family. His service and sacrifice should be remembered. Other research projects taught me that in addition to individual personnel records a soldier who died had the Individual Death Personnel File. Most of the regular files were destroyed in a fire in the 70s. It took a year and a half to get a reply.

William Patrick Hawley was a thirty-one-year-old Technician Fourth Grade, sort of a buck sergeant, in the headquarters of the 172nd Infantry Regiment. In January 1945, he landed on the island of Luzon to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. They fought bitterly. The photo shows a radio man in action on Luzon.

On the night of January 16-17, 1945 infiltrators got through the lines to the headquarters at Hill 470 and, "...set afire a gasoline dump, damaged a couple of trucks, killed 2 American soldiers, and wounded 8 others." Hawley was found dead "bayonetted through chest." I was reminded of the closing line in All Quiet On The Western Front, "Im Westen neues."

I have no other details of the incident, but it is easy to imagine the raid, explosions, gunfire, muzzle flashes, burning gasoline, screaming Japanese, and total confusion. At night in the field soldiers only know the voices of their fellows since everything is strange and black. He probably did not even see his attacker. He was buried his pup tent shelter half as a shroud. Among his effects collected by the Quartermaster were a fountain pen, two pencils—he was a radio man and wrote things down—and $1.73.

Hawley's family was notified by telegram and letter that he was killed in action with no details. His parents were lucky that his death and burial were known. So many loved ones only knew their son or husband was missing in action and later declared dead. Those without graves are remembered on memorial walls.

His sweetheart grieved for him and moved on with her life.

Hawley's remains found their way in 1949 to the big cemetery in Manila along with more than 17,000 other heroes of the Southwest Pacific Theater. His parents and his little sister passed away leaving a niece and nephews and grand nephews to remember the sacrifice he and their family made in 1945. This is a little more in Pat's memory.

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