Sgt. James Anthony Bird
     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 Guard's 33rd Tank Company from 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 Islands. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed 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 November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    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. 

   Jim fought with his unit to hold the Japanese as long as possible.  This include the withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula.  On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American troops were surrendered to the Japanese.

     Jim took part in the Death March and was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  He was next held as a POW at Cabanatuan.  While in the camp, on October 1, 1942, he was put into the camp hospital suffering from dysentery and malaria.  He was discharged from the hospital on October 16th.
    Jim remained at the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail.  In July 1943, he was sent out on the Las Pinas Work Detail.  It was there that he built runways at Camp Murphy and worked on a farm.  The POWs on this detail had nothing but picks and shovels to build the runways.  At first the work was hard but not as hard as it was going to get.  About 400 yards from where they began working where there were hills as high as 80 feet.  The POWs removed these hills with picks and shovels.  The dirt was put into wheel barrows and carried to a swamp and dumped as landfill.  This turned out to be inefficient, so the Japanese brought in mining cars and railroad track.  Two POWs pushed each car to where it was to be dumped.  Jim remained on this detail for almost seventeen months. 

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
    Jim developed beriberi because of the poor diet the POWs were fed.  He was sent to Bilibid Prison where he was admitted to the hospital.  According to medical records kept at the hospital, he was discharged on May 17, 1943, and sent to Cabanatuan.

    Jim was admitted to the hospital ward on May 10, 1944, suffering from fungus infection on his foot.  He would only remain in the Philippine Islands 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.

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