|Birth: ||Dec. 31, 1917|
|Death: ||Jun. 17, 1942|
Central Luzon, Philippines
Chronister was a driven young man, and was determined to enter college despite lacking the money for tuition. He arrived at the University of Maryland at College Park in 1935, presented himself to the track coach, and spent the next week and a half hanging around the educator’s office. “He just hung around until we figured out something,” recalled Colonel Gearey Eppley, the coach. “He started as a day student, then he got an NYA job. Then he got a job waiting on table in the dining hall, so that he could move to College Park.” In addition to maintaining an above-average GPA, Chronister also participated in ROTC and the soccer team – but his greatest feat, which won him national acclaim, was his performance on the school’s track team. Chronister was a well-known mile distance runner; in an NCAA meet in 1940, he finished slightly behind USC’s Louis Zamperini. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree 1 June 1940 from the College of Education.
On July 20, 1940, Mason Chronister reported to the Marine Barracks at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and underwent schooling at the barracks for the remainder of the year.
After completing his training in Philadelphia, Lieutenant Chronister was assigned to the Fourth Marines in Shanghai. He led the First Platoon of Company B and served with them in China until the regiment was recalled to establish the defense of the Philippines.
Lieutenant Chronister and his company fought in the defense of the Philippines from the earliest days of the war. While there, he wrote a letter to his mother, mentioning that his uniform and other possessions had been lost in a fire. “We’re looking for the people who started this fire,” he said, referring to the Japanese. “And we’re going to get them.”
Chronister’s regiment was compelled to call back to the island of Corregidor. There, they withstood sixty days of bombardment with dwindling supplies, hoping for the reinforcements that President Roosevelt had promised. When the Japanese landed on the night of May 5, 1942, the American and Filipino defenders were determined to sell The Rock as dearly as possible.
Chronister and Company B were along the south beaches of Corregidor. They could hear the sounds of gunfire growing closer, but with communications disrupted, they had little idea of the exact situation. The men held their positions until daylight when, to their horror, they could plainly see Japanese troops in possession of the high ground of Denver Battery. Acting quickly, Chronister organized his platoon along with volunteers from the Navy Communications Tunnel and Battery M, 60th Coast Artillery, and organized a counterattack. They were scaling the heights when they ran smack into a fresh Japanese unit, the 3rd Battalion 61st Infantry. After a quick fight, the Americans withdrew and met up with their comrades near the famous water tanks.
For the rest of the morning, Chronister and his men held the line. By 1200, it was clear that they could do no more, and the men were ordered to cease resistance and destroy their weapons. The following day, the Japanese took a count of their prisoners and recorded their names. Among them was Lieutenant Chronister, who was sent to Cabanatuan Prison in Luzon.
The news of Mason Chronister’s capture was carried in the sporting news sections of newspapers across the country. The Baltimore Sun carried a story on May 28, 1942, relating news of Chronister’s promotion to captain and hoping optimistically for his return.
The little information about Mason Chronister’s imprisonment and death is conflicting and difficult to verify – some even offer conflicting dates.
A list compiled by Martin Christie, a member of the 4th Marines who survived captivity and dedicated his life to the cause of remembering the experience of American prisoners, stated that Chronister was killed while fighting with a guerilla unit in the vicinity of Cabanatuan on June 17, 1942.
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial
National Capital Region, Philippines
Plot: Tablets of the Missing
Created by: CWGC/ABMC
Record added: Aug 08, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56772442