T/Sgt. Johnnie William Bottoms Sr.
T/Sgt. Johnnie William
Bottoms Sr. was born in September 23, 1915, and
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. He 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.
In September, 1941, Johnnie took part in
maneuvers in Louisiana. It was at Camp
Polk, Louisiana, that he and the other members
of the battalion learned that they were being
sent overseas. Most members of the
battalion received passes home to see their
families and say goodbye.
Over different train routes, the 192nd traveled
to San Francisco. After receiving
physicals and inoculations, they were
onto the U.S.A.T.
Hugh L. Scott
The ship sailed
27th, for Hawaii
as part of a
They arrived at
given leaves so
they could see
the ships sailed
At one point,
the ships passed
an island at
island, they did
so in total
This for many of
the soldiers was
a sign that they
were being sent
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. The men watched and waited to see what was going to happen.
It was about this time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a jeep 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 jeep and drove off. The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Johnnie and the other members of HQ were ordered to move. It was this time that Johnnie began 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. The American guns on Corregidor 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.
The members of HQ Company were ordered to move again. When he reached San Fernando he and the other Prisoners of War were packed into wooden freight cars used to haul sugarcane.
Each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. Those men who died remained standing since there was no room for them to fall.
At Capas, Johnnie and the other POWs disembarked the cars. The dead fell to the floor as they living left. The POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. It took Johnnie, and the other members of 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 as 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. Phil Parish, of A
Company, 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
William 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.
His pallbearers were Virgil and Edwin Elliott,
and former members of D Company Jack
Wilson, Kenneth Hourigan, M/Sgt. Joe Anness,
and T/Sgt. Morgan French.