| 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 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
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.
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 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.