Bainbridge 1

Sgt. James Arthur Bainbridge jr.


     Sgt. James A. Bainbridge Jr., was born in July 20, 1918, in Chicago, Illinois.  He was the son of James A. Bainbridge Sr. & Maude Floor-Bainbridge.  With his brother, Jack, he grew up at 910 South 9th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois.  He attended Emerson Grade School and was a member of the Proviso Township High School Class of 1937.  After high school, he worked as a salesman and driver for a grocery store.  He was engaged to Rose Vertuno, the sister of Russell Vertuno, another member of Company B.

     With his two boyhood friends, Bob Peterson and Ray Vandenbroucke, Jim joined the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company in Maywood, Illinois, in September 1940.  As a member of the tank company, he was called to federal service on November 25, 1940. 

    At Fort Knox, Kentucky, the tank company was designated Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  While there, Jim graduated from armor school and qualified as a radio operator first class on May 6, 1941.  This special rating entitled him to the rank of Private First Class Special.
    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  It was on the side of the hill that the men learned they were being sent overseas.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.

    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.
   
At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
   At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    During the trip to the Philippines, Jim wrote his family a letter.  It was mailed in Manila on November 26, 1941, but his family did not receive it until February 26, 1942.  His company arrived there on Thanksgiving Day, 1941.  The soldiers were taken to Fort Stotsenburg.  There they were lived in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  For the next few weeks, they prepared their tanks for maneuvers. 

    The morning of December 8th, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor  They were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  As they watched the sky that morning, it was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.

     At 12:45, as the tankers were having lunch, planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north.  At first, they thought the planes were Americans, until they noticed silver droplets falling from the planes.   When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.  The bombing destroyed most of the planes of the Army Air Corps.

     Jim, with his company, would fall slowly back toward the Bataan Peninsula.  As a member of Sgt. Jim Bashleben's half-track crew, he did reconnaissance for the tanks.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan moments before the last bridge was destroyed by American engineers. 

    Jim's company fought the Japanese, for three more months, until the Filipino and American forces were ordered to surrender.  He became a Prisoner of War on April 9, 1942.  With his company, Jim made his way to Marveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  From there, he started what has become known as the Bataan Death March.

    Jim walked most of the march with, his two boyhood friends, Sgt. Ray Vadenbroucke and S/Sgt. Bob Peterson.  On the march, the three soldiers saw that Sgt Al Cornils was not doing well.  To prevent him from falling out, Bob, Ray, and Jim carried Cornils between them.  As if to prove how precarious each man's situation was.  Before the march was over, Jim was carried between his two boyhood friends.  Both of his friends knew that if Jim fell out, he would be killed by the Japanese.

    When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  Those who died, during the train ride, remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.     

    Once out of the train cars, the POWs still had ten miles to walk.  During the last two miles of the march, Jim is credited with helping to carry Sgt. Walter Cigoi the last few miles of the march.  Jim and Sgt. Jim Bashleben found Walter Cigoi laying on the ground and frothing at the mouth.  The two men carried Walter into Camp O'Donnell and laid him under a Napa hut.  Later, when they came back to check on him, Walter was gone.

    As a POW, Jim was held first at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  On Wednesday, September 23, 1942, Sgt. James Bainbridge died of dysentery at Cabanatuan POW Camp.  He was 24 years old.  As he laid dying, maggots crawled out of his mouth and on his body.

    After the war, the remains of Sgt. James A. Bainbridge were reburied at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila.  He was buried in Plot N, Row 12, Grave 155 at the cemetery. 



 

 

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