Brewer

 

Pfc. Hubert Oris Brewer


    What is known about Pfc. Hubert O. Brewer is that he was born in February 27, 1921, in Onia, Stone County, Arkansas.  He was the son of Floyd D. Brewer & Gertha E. Lawrence-Brewer and lived in Lamar, Arkansas, as a child.  He had three brothers and a sister.
    Hubert later resided in Ofuskee County, Oklahoma, and worked as a farmhand.  He was drafted into the army on March 17, 1941, and inducted at Oklahoma City.  After basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    Hubert joined the 192nd Tank Battalion in the autumn of 1941, after those National Guardsmen 29 years old, or with two children, were released from federal service.  Many of these replacements were volunteers from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  Hubert was assigned to Company C which was originally an Ohio National Guard Tank Company.
    Over different train routes the battalion traveled to San Francisco and were taken by ferry to Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated.  Those men with minor medical conditions were kept on the island and told they would rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure they had their Thanksgiving dinner before he had his.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  At all times, two tank crew members remained with each tank.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed. 
There, they fought a successful battle against the Japanese at Demoritis to relieve the 26th U.S. Cavalry.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cebu, seven tanks, from the company, fought a three hour battle with Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Santa Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.           
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

   
    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.   Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks. 

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
   
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
   
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
   
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.     The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tan

    When Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, Hubert became a Prison of War.  He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  He was next sent to Cabanatuan. Records kept by the medical staff, show he was admitted to the camp hospital on April 5, 1943.  Why he was admitted to the hospital and when he was discharged were not recorded. 
    Hubert also was sent out to Nichols Field on a work detail.  He most likely was a replacement since the original detail left the camp in August 1942.  The POWs built runways at the airfield with picks and shovels.  To do this, they literally removed the side of a mountain.  The POWs were abused by the Japanese guards and some killed.
  The dying were taken to Bilibid Prison so that they would not die while on the detail.
    The POWs on the detail were housed in a school at Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  Thirty POWs were assigned to a room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war.  The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.  This resulted in the brutality against the POWs to increase.
    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.  Only 50 POWs were allowed to be sick each day, so the healthier POWs carried the weaker POWs between them.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
  The detail ended in July 1944.

     In early October 1944, the Japanese, knowing that it was just a matter of time before the American forces would invade the Philippines, began sending large numbers of POWs to Japan or other occupied countries.  On October 11, 1944, Hubert was taken to Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila. 

    Hubert's POW detachment was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru which was ready to sail.  Since the entire detachment had not arrived, the Japanese switched his detachment with another detachment which was ready to board its ship. 

     Later, Hubert's detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru and packed into the ship's hold.  The next day 80 POWs were moved to the ship's other hold which was partially filled with coal.

    On October 10, 1944, Hubert was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs died because of the conditions in the hold.  The Japanese not wanting the ship to turn into a death ship opened the first hold.  800 POWs were moved to this hold.  

    The stay in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes on ships in the Manila Bay.  During this time, one POW was shot attempting to escape.  It is known that the ship was attacked once by American planes while in the cove.  The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th.  There, it joined a convoy of twelve ships.  

    On October 21st, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  This made the ships targets for submarines.  

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, at 5:00 pm, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel.  The Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched at torpedo pass in front of the ship.  They then ran to the stern of the ship and watched another torpedo miss the ship.  Suddenly, there was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes amidships.  The ship stopped dead in the water.  Two torpedoes had hit the ship in its third hold where there were no POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U. S. S Snook.

    One of the Japanese guards took a machinegun and began firing at the POWs who were on deck.  To escape the fire, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds.

    As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two occupied holds.  Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders into the holds.  They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.

    All of the POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship.  At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship.  A group of 35 men swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs.  Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

     As the ship got lower in the water, more POWs took to the water.  Those POWs too weak to swim raided the ship's food lockers.  They wanted to die with full stomachs.  Many POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Some of the POWs found a abandoned lifeboat floating in the ocean.  These men stated that most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking. 

    The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.  According to the surviving POWs, as evening became night, the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence.

    Of the 1803 men on the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the sinking.  Of the survivors, only eight survived the war.  Pfc. Hubert O. Brewer was not one of them. 

    Since he died at sea,  Pfc. Hurbert O. Brewer's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.  


 

 

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