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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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