Braun_M

 


Cpl. Matthew Baxter Braun


    Cpl. Matthew B. Braun was born on November 30, 1916, in Sedgewick, Alberta, Canada, to Andrew & Mable Braun.  He was the second oldest of the couple's four children and known as "Matt" to his family and friends.  He grew up at 9 Williamstown Road in Camden, New York, until the family moved to 206 North Madison Street in Rome, New York.  He graduated Rome Free Academy in 1934 and after graduation, he held a job annealing at a brass mill.
     Matt was drafted in the U.S. Army in Albany, New York, on March 27, 1941, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  After completing basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion and sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where the battalion was stationed.  After the maneuvers - that were taking place there - the 192nd Tank Battalion received overseas orders.  Those men considered "too old" for overseas duty were given a chance to resign from federal service.  It was at that time that Matthew joined the tank battalion and was assigned to Headquarters Company.
    With his new battalion, Matt traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  Arriving there, the battalion was ferried to Fort McDowell on Angel Island, where the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals.  If they passed, they were going overseas.  Those who had medical issues were replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd sailed for the Philippine Islands on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy.  The ships arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 3rd.  Since the ships were remaining there for two days, the soldiers received shore leave to see the island.  On  Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  They took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  At one point smoke was seen on the horizon, the escort cruiser took off after the ship.  The tankers recalled the bow of the cruiser came out of the water and it took off after the ship.  It turned out the ship belonged to a friendly nation.
    The ships arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, where they took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.   Once this was done, the ships sailed again for Manila.
    The ships arrived at Manila Bay the morning of Thursday, November 20th, but the soldiers did not disembark until 3:00 P.M.  They were taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg.  The maintenance section of HQ Company remained behind to help with the unloading of the tanks.  Upon arrival of at Ft. Stotsenburg, the tankers were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized to them that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.   King made sure that the tankers received their Thanksgiving Dinners before he went to have his own.
    For the next seventeen days, Matt, and the other members of his company, worked to ready the equipment of the battalion for use in maneuvers they expected to take part in, in the coming month.  They removed cosmline from their guns which had been greased so they would not rust during the trip to the Philippines.  They also loaded ammunition belts since they were scheduled to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    The morning of Monday, December 1st,  the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 192nd was assigned the south end of the airfield.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tank at all times.  Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks.  The morning of Monday, December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  All members of the tank crews were ordered to their tanks.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. 
    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps. 
    For the next four months Matt worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd running. 
The night of April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni, the commanding officer of the company, told his men to destroy anything that the Japanese could use.  He manged to scrounged enough food and pineapple juice to give the men what he called "their last supper."
    On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M.  The members of the company remained in their bivouac.  
The only thing they did told destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Matt was now a Prisoner of War.

  
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.

    The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  Afterwards. the officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Matthew's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  They remained at the school yard until they were ordered to move.

    Matt, and the other men, had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, he received no water and little food.  At another point, the soldiers were ordered to sit.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
    When they began to the march again, it took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. 

    During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.

    At San Fernando, Matthew was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, Matthew walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink often because the Japanese guard shut off the water for no apparent reason.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.
    The Japanese knew that the death rate had to be lowered, so they opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan which had been a Filipino Army Base.  The death rate dropped when the Japanese distributed Red Cross packages to the POWs.  It is not known if Matt went out on an work details while he was a POW. 
    On October 28, 1942, Matt was taken by truck to Bilibid Prison and once there was given a physical.  He was taken to Pier 7 at Manila and boarded onto the Nagato Maru on November 5th.  The ship sailed on November 7th.  After three days at sea, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on November 11th and next sailed for the Pescadores Islands, Formosa, but it returned to Takao because of a storm.  After a three day stay at Takao, the ship sailed again for the Pecadores Islands on November 14th arriving and staying there for four days.  It sailed again on November 18th and arrived, on the same, at Keelung Island.  It stayed there for two days and sailed on November 20th for Moji, Japan, arriving at Moji on November 24th.

    After arriving, the POWs were disembarked and fumigated since they were covered with lice.  They also were inoculated and showered before being issued new clothing.  They were organized into detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station where they boarded a train which they rode to the various POW camps.
    In Japan, Matt was taken to
Tokyo #12-B which was also known as Mitsushima.  The POWs were used as laborers to carry cement to construct a dam.  One of the major crimes of camp was that, from Red Cross parcels, the Japanese had enough clothing to issue to the POWs but did not issue the clothing. The men had to go barefoot.  On April 16, 1944, Matt was one of 49 POWs transferred to Tokyo #16-B, which was also known as Kanose.  The POWs in the camp worked in a carbide mill and produced carbide rods Showa Denko Company.   
Doing this work left the POWs covered in carbon.
    Matt remained in the camp until the end of the war.  He was liberated in September 1945 and returned to the Philippines before returning to the United States on the U.S.S. Admiral Hughes, at Seattle, Washington, on October 9, 1945.  He was discharged from the Army on February 11, 1946.  Matt attended school in Chicago to become an electrician.  He worked as an electrician and resided in East Syracuse, New York.  While he was working at Bristol Laboratories, he met his future wife, Marie Culgar. 
He married Marie on July 4, 1953, and became the father of two daughters and a son.  Matt worked at Bristol Laboratories until he retired in the early 1980s.  The couple remained married until his wife's death in October 1999. 
    Matthew B. Braun passed away at New Britain General Hospital in New Britain, Connecticut, on June 29, 2010.  He was buried at White Chapel Memory Gardens in DeWitt, New York.





                          
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