| Sgt. James
Very little is known about Sgt. James A.
Bird. It is known that he was born on
October 21, 1908, and raised in Geneva,
Illinois. He was the son of James Bird and
Mary Elizabeth France-Bird. His mother,
Mary, remarried, and he was the step-son of
Richard McElligott. He would later reside in
DuPage County, Illinois. As an adult,
he moved to Oak Park, Illinois, and lived at 1007
South Ridgeland Avenue. He was a member of
the Illinois National Guarind's 33rd Tank Company
in Maywood, Illinois.
In the late
summer of 1941, Jim took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the
battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp
Polk. None of the members of the battalion
had any idea why they were there. On the
side of a hill, the members learned they were
being sent overseas as part of Operation
PLUM. Within hours, many men had figured
out they were being sent to the Philippine
From Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, Jim and the other members of the 192nd sailed for the Philippine Islands. Arriving in Manila on Thanksgiving Day, the battalion was rushed to Fort Stostenburg. There they were housed in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Air Field.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the tanks
were deployed around the perimeter of the air
field. Just ten hours after the attack on
Pearl Harbor, Jim lived through the attack on
Clark Field. After the attack, the
battalion remained at the airfield and lived
through several more attacks.
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.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. The 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. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
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.
On April 9, 1942, the battalion received orders
to surrender. It was at that time that he and
other members of B Company made the decision to
attempt to reach Corregidor. To do this,
they found a boat and got it motor
running. At gun point, they convinced its
owner to take them to Corregidor.
After arriving at Corregidor, he volunteered to
go to Ft. Drum. He remained there until
the surrender of Corregidor on May 6,
1942. From there, he was returned to
Corregidor until he was sent to Cabanatuan,
shown to the
commander of the
camp, a Lt. Moto,
was called the
because he wore
a spotless naval
He was commander
of the camp for
One day a POW
working on the
Moto was told
about the man
and came out and
ordered him to
When he couldn't
made to carry
the man back to
Jim was admitted to the hospital ward on May 10, 1944, suffering from fungus infection on his foot. He would only remain at the hospital until June 1944, when was sent to the Port Area of Manila for transport to Japan.
Jim, with other prisoners, was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor. On July 4, 1944, the ship sailed for Japan. Because of the constant boiler problems, it took the ship 59 days to reach Japan. In Japan, Jim was held at Omine Machi on Honshu Island. There he was given POW number 373. He and the other POWs were used as slave labor in a coal mine. While a POW there he had no idea how the war was going.
Jim remained a prisoner at this camp until Japan surrendered to the United States in September 1945. He and the other liberated men left that camp by train on September 15, 1945. The next day, September 16th, he was admitted to the U.S.S. Consolation at Wakayama, Japan, for transport. According to records he was not suffering from an illness but was malnourished. He returned to the Philippine Islands and then the United States on the S.S. Klipfontein arriving at San Francisco on October 27, 1945. Ironically, he arrived home four years to the day that he had sailed for sailed for the Philippines. Jim would remain in the military and earn the rank of Sergeant First Class, before he retired from the military on April 30, 1960.
James A. Bird lived in Anaheim, California. He passed away, in California, on March 1, 1969, and was buried in Section F, Grave: 612, at Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper, Virginia.