Tec 5 William C. P. Brown
Tec 5 William C. P. Brown was born, in March 1918, in
Pennsylvania, but sometime during the 1920s the family
moved to Ohio. He left school after two years of
high school and was working as a truck driver when he
was drafted into the Army.
On March 27, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It was while he was training at Ft. Knox that he was assigned to HQ Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. It is not known what his specific job was with the battalion.
The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941 to take part in maneuvers. During the maneuvers, HQ Company serviced the tanks of the battalion, but they did not actively participate. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. According to members of the battalion, General George Patton was the one who had made the decision. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service and replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Many of the members of the battalion were given leave so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.S. 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, and the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. When they arrived at Guam, on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. They sailed the same day for Manila. The ships entered Manila Bay the morning of Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7. The soldiers did not disembark until three or four hours after the docking; when they did, they were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. The fact was he had not learned of the battalion's arrival until a few days before they arrived. 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 battalion was scheduled to take part in maneuvers with the 194t Tank Battalion.
The week of December 1st, the tank crews were put on full alert and ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Two crew members remained with the tanks and half-tracks at all times. 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 soldiers, who were not with their tanks or half-tracks, were ordered to the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's 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. William and the other members of HQ took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes. After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
For the next four months William drove a truck with supplies for the tanks . It was at this time he was promoted to Tec 5 from private. 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, had given his men the news of the surrender the evening of April 8th. 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. William 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. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, William'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. The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese. William, and the other men, had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.
At one point, the POWs were ordered to rest in a field. 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 the POWs again began to march, they found that the Japanese had no intention to show any mercy toward them. During the march, they 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.
How long the POWs remained in the bull pen is not known. The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns of 100 men and took them to the train depot at San Fernando. William 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 and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car at Capas. From Capas, William 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. The Japanese guard could shut off the faucet at any time, so many died while waiting for a drink. The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day, so many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
William went out on the bridge building detail, on May 1st, which was under the command of Lt. Colonel Theodore Wickord of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The POWs on the detail were divided into two detachment. One detachment worked at a saw mill providing lumber to build bridges. The second detachment rebuilt the bridges. It was this detachment that William was assigned to as a worker.
The POWs rebuilt the bridge at Calauan, Laguna, Philippine Islands, that was destroyed during the withdraw into Bataan. The townspeople arranged for doctors to treat the POWs. Since the detail was under the control of civilian engineers, the POWs were treated fairly well as long as they worked. After building a bridge at this barrio, the detachment was sent to Calumpet, Bulacan, Philippine Islands. The POWs also built a bridge over the Pampanga River between Pliradel and Calumpet.
It was at this barrio that Tec 5 William C. P. Brown became ill with malaria and dysentery. He was reported to have died on June 25, 1942, at Calumpit and buried in a grave with five other POWs who died at the barrio. After the war, the remains of the five POWs were exhumed, but could not be positively identified. They were reburied, at the request of the families, in the United States in a common grave.
On April 13, 1950, the remains of Tec 5 William C. P. Brown were reburied, with the remains of the five other POWs, in Section 79, Site 42-44, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Saint Louis, Missouri. The reason this location was selected was that it was centrally located and the families of each man would have approximately the same distance to travel to visit the grave.