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.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
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 first week of December, 1941, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers. Two members of every tank crew were to remain with their tanks at all time and received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8th, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor They were ordered to return 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. After the attack, the battalion remained at the airfield
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. About half the forces had already crossed the bridges. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6th/7th, the 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross a bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: "Tanks
will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent by Major Ted Wickord in front of the a column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicting heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.
tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the half-tracks were used to patrol the road. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over. B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
In March the amount of gasoline given to the tank battalions was reduced to 15 gallons a day. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were gut in half again.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd. On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tankwas knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.
Jim 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.