Pvt. John Byrne Aldred

    Pvt. John B. Aldred was born on June 20, 1918, to Alfred R. Aldred and Kathleen Byrne-Aldred.   He was one of the couples' three sons.  His family resided at 2312 Kentucky Street in Louisville, Kentucky.  From 1924 - 1932 he attended St. Louis Bertrand Grade School.  He then attended St. Xavier High School and Ahrens Trade School and worked for the National Distillers, Inc.

    On January 22, 1941, John was drafted into the U. S. Army.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  This was dome because the company had been a Kentucky National Guard unit.  During his training at Ft. Knox, John qualified as a radioman.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana for maneuvers.  It was after the maneuvers that Jon and the rest of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  The men received ten day passes home to say their goodbyes.

    The tank battalion's companies traveled west to San Francisco over four different train routes.  There, they boarded a ferry for Angel Island.  On Angel Island, physicals were given.  Those who did not pass them were released from duty.
The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  
    About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.  Waiting for them was General Edward King who made sure the tankers were fed their Thanksgiving Dinners before he had his dinner.

    The tank battalion was assigned to tents between Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg.  It was during this time that D Company was reassigned to the 194th Tank Battalion.  No official transfer of the company from the 192nd to the 194th ever took place.

    On December 1, 1941, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  This was maneuver was practice for defending the airfield from enemy paratroopers.  The tankers had no idea they would actually would do this in a combat situation.

    On December 8, 1941, the tank crews were aware that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.  The tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield in the morning.  All morning, they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.
    To get lunch three tankers from each tank were allowed to go to the food truck that had been sent to the airfield to feed them.  John and the other soldiers were in line at the truck when they saw planes approaching.  No one was alarmed by this since they did not believe that the Japanese would attack.  It was only when bombs began exploding that they realized they were wrong.

    With John was Pvt. Robert Brooks standing in line when the bombs began to explode on the runways.  John dove for cover, but Brooks attempted to get to his tank.  He was killed trying to do so.

    After the attack, D Company was ordered to Mabalac on the Delores Road.  They remained there until December 10th.  They were next sent to Calumpit to look for paratroopers.  While there, they guarded a huge bridge from saboteurs. 

    On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches.  They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.

    Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove.  As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat.  From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units.  The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.  
    At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company and C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw.  The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.       

    The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban airfields.  They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers.  They would continue this duty until April 7th.  On April 8th, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat.  The lines had broken.  They fought there until receiving the news of the surrender.   

    The morning of April 9th, John recalled that there was bitterness among both the Japanese and Americans.  Some of the members of the  D Company took off for the hills but were picked up later.  In his opinion, each man was on his own. 

    John started the death march at Cababin on April 10, 1942.  It took him two days to complete the march.  He received little food and water during the march.  He recalled that they march was done in groups of 100 to 200 with eight guards to a group.  If anyone dropped out, the guards took turns clubbing them with their rifle butts or shooting them.  John and the others marched  mostly at night, and were left sitting in the sun all day.

    John arrived at San Fernando on April 16th.  He and other POWs were packed into a boxcar and rode a train to Capas.  He then walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    The only work available at the camp for John and the other POWs was to bury the dead.  To do this, trenches were dug and forty to fifty men were buried in the trench.  

    John remained in Camp O'Donnell until he was transferred to Cabanatuan #1 on June 4, 1942.  During his time at Cabanatuan, he lived in Barracks 13, Group II.  He remained a POW there until September 19, 1943.  On that day, he went out on a work detail to Las Pinas.  During this time, John recalled farming, building roads and bridges, and dams.  It should be mentioned that his parents did not learn that he was a POW until April 17, 1943.

    From the detail, John returned to Cabanatuan and was assigned to Barracks 13, Group 2.  Medical records kept at the camp show that he was admitted on June 15, 1943.  Why he was admitted and when he was discharged was not recorded.  He remained in the camp until August 17, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing.  On August 25th, he was marched to the Port Area and boarded onto the Noto Maru.  The ship left the Philippines in August 1944.  During the voyage, the convoy that the ship was in was attacked by an American submarine.  Another ship carrying 1500 POWs was sunk.  After a brief stop at Formosa, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan on September 9, 1944.  John was sent to work in a copper mine the same day.

    In Japan, John was held as a POW at Sendai #6 near Hanawa.  The men worked in a copper mine.  His parents received a postcard from him in January 1945.  John remained in the camp for the rest of the war.  On August 25, 1945, the POWs lined up for work as usual.  They were sent back to their quarters.  This scene was repeated over the next few day.

    One morning, a Japanese officer stood on a box in front of the prisoners and announced that Japan and the United States were no longer enemies.  This was the first news that the POWs had that the war was over.

    On August 28, 1945, food was dropped near the camp by American planes.  The Japanese civilians helped the POWs carry it into the camps.  The only thing the civilians were interested in was the silk from the parachutes so that they could make clothing.  Americans entered the camp on September 16th and liberated the POWs.

    John sailed for home on October 10th and arrived at Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945.  He was discharged from the army on January 12, 1946.  John married Martina Barker on June 21, 1947.  They became the parents of five children and many grandchildren.

    John B. Aldred passed away on May 13, 1985, in Louisville, Kentucky, and was buried at Louisville Memorial Gardens, Shively, Kentucky.


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