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. The
family later resided at 206 North Madison Street
in Rome, New York. He graduated Rome Free
Academy in 1934. 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. He 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 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 volunteered to join the tank battalion. He 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. There, the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals. If they passed, they were going overseas.
The 192nd sailed for the Philippine Islands on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 3rd. Since the ships were remaining there for two days, the soldiers received leaves to go ashore. 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. It turned out the ship belonged to a friendly nation.
The ships arrived at Guam where they took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. Once this was done, the ships sailed again.
The ships arrived at Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th. 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 General Edward King. He apologized to the men for them having to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. 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.
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The letter companies were ordered to the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac.
All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed 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. On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M. The members of the company remained in their bivouac. Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Matt was now a Prisoner of War.
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. 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. 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.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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