Brooks R.

 

Pvt. Robert Harold Brooks


    Pvt. Robert H. Brooks was the son of Adline &. Ray Brooks.  He was born in October 8, 1915, in McFarland, Kentucky.  He was raised in Sadieville, Kentucky, with his two sisters.  As an adult, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he enlisted in the U.S. Army in late 1940.

    In November 1940, Robert became a member of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The reason he joined the company was that the company had only 66 men.  He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he qualified as a half-track and a tank driver.  He attended track vehicle maintenance school at Ft. Knox and was assigned to the maintenance section of D Company.  He also drove the half track of Sgt. Morgan French who was in charge of tank maintenance.

    In late August 1941, Robert and the rest of the 192nd went on maneuvers in Louisiana.  They had no idea that they had already been selected for overseas duty.  At Camp Polk at the end of the maneuvers, Robert and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.  Each man was given a two week pass home.

    By train, D Company traveled to San Francisco.  From there, Robert and the other members of the company took a ferry to Angel Island.  They were inoculated and than boarded ships for the Philippines.  After arriving in the Philippines, the battalion was housed in tents since their barracks were unfinished.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T.  Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  They sailed the same day for Manila.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
    
  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. 

    On Monday, December 8, 1941, at 12:45 in the afternoon, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese planes appeared over Clark Field.  Most of the members of D Company had gone to lunch.  One man had been left behind with each tank. Robert was with two of the mechanics from maintenance working on tanks when the first bombs began to fall.
    According to Morgan French, Robert was running to his half-track. 
It was the belief of the other members of the company that Robert was attempting to get to his half-track so he could man the .50 caliber machine gun on it.  As he ran, a bomb, which was a dud, hit Robert and split him in two.  He was killed instantly.  Ralph Stine, who was looking through the viewing slit in his tank, watched the entire event.  Stine stated that he knew the bomb was a dud because it landed twenty feet from his tank.  When Robert was found by the other members of his company, half his head and part of his shoulder were missing.  Robert Brooks was the first American tank battalion member to be killed in World War II.

    When the news of his death reached Fort Knox, the commanding General, Jacob Devers, decided that a parade ground should be named in his honor.  One of General Dever's subordinates called the Farmer's Deposit Bank in Sadieville, attempting to reach Robert's parents.  As it turned out, the bank had the only phone in the town.  W. T. Warring at the bank answered the phone.  The aide asked if it would be possible for someone from the town to be present at the dedication ceremony.

    The aide asked Mr. Warring if he could tell him anything about Robert's parents.  Mr. Warring said, " His parents are tenant farmers, ordinary Black people;  maybe you could contact them and see if they could come." 

    The general's representative hung up the phone and immediately called back.  He said to Mr. Warring, "Did you say they were Black?"  Warring responded, "Yes, his mother and father are very dark."  The aide felt that this might change the situation.  When he reported back to General Devers, the general said, "It did not matter whether or not Robert was Black, what mattered was that he had given his life for his country."

    The ceremony dedicating the parade ground in honor of Robert Brooks was held with Robert's parents present.  During the dedication, General Devers said in his dedication speech, "In death there is no grade or rank.  And in this greatest democracy the world has ever known, neither riches nor poverty, neither creed nor race, draws a line of demarcation in this hour of national crisis."

    After the war, Robert Brooks' remains were moved to the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.  He still lies there today with the other members of his battalion.  He was posthumously promoted to Private First Class.


 

 

 

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