T/Sgt. Johnnie William Bottoms Sr.
T/Sgt. Johnnie W. Bottoms Sr.
was born in September 23, 1915. With his
brother, he was raised in Harrodsburg and
Richmond, Kentucky, by his grandparents. He
was known as "Johnnie" to his family and
friends. It was in Harrodsburg that he
joined the Kentucky National Guard's 38th Tank
Company which was called to federal service on
November 25, 1940. It is known that he was
married to Anna Mae Spoonamore and was the father
of a son, John William Bottoms Jr. When he
was called to federal service, he was working as a
truck driver and farm worker.
Johnnie trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky as a member of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He was reassigned to Headquarters Company when the company was created in January 1941, with men from the four letter companies of the battalion.
In September 1941, Johnnie took part in
maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the
maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp
Polk, Louisiana. It was on the side of
hill that he and the other members of the
battalion learned that they were being sent
overseas. Being that he was married, he
was given the opportunity to resign from federal
service. He chose to remain with the
battalion and go overseas. He received
leave home to see their families and say goodbye
before returning to Camp Polk.
Over the southern train route through Texas, New
Mexico, and Arizona, HQ Company traveled to San
Francisco, California, and were taken by ferry
to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. At the
fort the men received physicals and inoculations
for overseas duty. Those men found to have
minor medical conditions were held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later
date. Some men were simply replaced.
When the ships
they took on
At one point,
the ships passed
an island at
night in total
This for many of
the soldiers was
a sign that they
were being sent
Manila Bay, at
8:00 A.M., on
and docked at
later in the
the ship at 3:00
P.M. and were
taken by bus to
The early afternoon of December 8, 1941, Johnnie lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. Although Johnnie did not take part in any front-line action, he did live with the constant bombing and strafing by Japanese planes. The night of April 8, 1942, he and the other members of HQ Company were informed of the surrender to the Japanese by Capt. Fred Bruni its Commanding Officer. He called them together with all the food they could find and held what the company members called, "the last supper."
HQ Company remained in its bivouac for two days. The third morning a Japanese officer and soldiers arrived and ordered the Americans onto the road that ran in front of their bivouac. Once on the road, they were ordered to kneel with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers marching past them took whatever they wanted from the Americans. They were now officially Prisoners of War.
The members of the company boarded trucks and made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They left the trucks and were ordered into a schoolyard. They remained in the schoolyard for hours.
As they sat, the members of his company noticed that Japanese soldiers with rifles were organizing themselves into a formation. It soon became apparent to the Americans that this formation was a firing squad, and they watched and waited to see what was going to happen.
It was about this time that a Japanese officer pulled up in car and got out. He called a sergeant over to him and said something to him. When he was done talking to the sergeant, he got back into the car and drove off. As the officer drove off, the he sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
The members of HQ were ordered to move and had no idea they had started the death march. The first few miles out of Mariveles were uphill. At one point, the Prisoners of War were ordered to rest in front of Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor and Fort Drum, and the American guns returned fire. Shells began to land among the POWs. One group of POWs, who attempted to hide in a small shack, was killed when it took a direct hit. The Americans did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
of HQ Company were ordered to move again. When he reached San Fernando
the POWs were packed into
small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.
boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those men who died remained standing since there was no room for them to fall.
At Capas, the POWs disembarked the cars, and the dead fell to the floors as they living left. The POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. It had taken HQ Company six days to complete the march.
The situation in the Camp O'Donnell was so bad that as many as fifty men a day died. To get out of the camp, Johnnie went out on a work detail to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed weeks before by the Filipino and American forces as they retreated.
The first barrio that the work detail went to was Calauan. Johnnie like the other POWs was weak and susceptible to illness. In his case, he came down with malaria. According to Phil Parish, of A Company, Sgt. Johnnie Bottoms died from malaria on Thursday, May 28, 1942, at Calauan. His death bed was a wet concrete floor.
T/Sgt. Johnnie Bottoms was buried in Calauan's
small but neat cemetery. Parish stated
that several days after Johnnie's burial, a
Japanese guard was escorting the POWs as they
left for a work detail. As the detail
passed the front of the cemetery, the guard
ordered the POWs to halt and pointed to
Johnnie's grave. He then called out in
English "Attention" and the POWs and the guard
saluted. After saluting Johnnie, the guard
and detail continued on their way. Later, the
Japanese allowed the POWs to put a fence around
Johnnie's grave and the grave of Cpl. Thomas
Davenport, C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
After the war. the remains, of T/Sgt. Johnnie W.
Bottoms Sr., were returned to Kentucky as
requested by his wife, and family, on October
21, 1948. A service was held the next day
at Harrodsburg Baptist Church, and his
pallbearers were Virgil and Edwin Elliott, Jack
Wilson, Kenneth Hourigan, M/Sgt. Joe Anness,
and T/Sgt. Morgan French. The last
four men had been members of D Company.