Brown_W

Pfc. William Edwin Brown


    Pvt. William E. Brown was born August 12, 1919, in Hodge, Louisiana   He was the son of William Leslie Brown & Zora Alexander-Brown and raised, with his brother, at 527 Fourth Street in Jonesboro, Louisiana.  His family called him "Edwin."

    On July 30, 1940, he was inducted into the U.S. Army in Jackson, Mississippi.  He was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training.  There, he was assigned to the 753ed Tank Battalion.  In the late fall of 1941, his battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  While he was there, the Louisiana maneuvers took place.  His battalion did not take part in the maneuvers.

    After the maneuvers, replacements were sought to fill the ranks of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  This battalion made up mainly of National Guardsmen from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky had been ordered overseas.  Those National Guardsmen considered too old to go overseas were released from federal duty.  William volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to C Company which had originally been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company.

    At Camp Polk, the tanks of the 753rd were given to the 192nd, and the 753rd received the 192nd's M-2 tanks.  The equipment of the battalion was loaded onto flat cars and the companies of the battalion were sent west by trains to San Francisco. 

    On Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, the soldiers were inoculated.  Some members of the company were found to have minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.

    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.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  In another incident, smoke from a ship was seen in the distance.  When the ship did not identify itself, one of the escort ships went after the ship.  The soldiers recalled that the bow of the ship actually came out of the water.
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guardsmen were scheduled to be released from federal service.  The soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
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 tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese attacked Clark Field.  That morning the soldiers were told about Pearl Harbor and ordered back to their tanks at the perimeter of the airfield. 

    All morning as William and his company watched, the sky was filled with American planes.  B-17's were loaded with bombs and fueled.  After noon, the planes that had filled the sky landed and the pilots went to lunch., parked in a straight line outside the mess hall, and their pilots went to lunch.

    At around 12:45 in the afternoon, William and the other tankers were lining-up near a truck for lunch when they saw planes approaching the airfield from the north.  The soldiers counted 54 planes.  At first, they thought the planes were American.  It was only when they heard the screams of the bombs that they knew the planes were Japanese.

    The tankers could do little more than watch as the planes attacked the airfield since they did not have the weapons to fight them.  After the attack, they saw the damage done during the attack.
    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 Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint 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

    Another method the tankers used to kill the Japanese was to park the tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver would then spin the tank around grinding the Japanese soldier into the dirt.

    On April 9, 1942, William became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He and the other soldiers destroyed their tanks and weapons.  They then made their way to Mariveles.  It was from there that William started what became known as the death march.

    William and the other prisoners made their way north to San Fernando.  The Japanese denied them water and gave them very little food.  Those men who dropped had to be left to die.

    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars.  The cars could hold eight horses or forty men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Many died during the trip to Capas. When the living disembarked the cars, the dead fell to the ground.  The living made their way to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Training Base.  There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs.  Men died at a rate as high as fifty a day.  Conditions in the camp were so bad, that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  When the camp opened, William was sent there.

    It is not known if William went out on any work details, but it is known he was still in the camp later in 1942.  According to U.S. Army records, Pfc. William E. Brown died of dysentery at Cabanatuan on Tuesday, October 20, 1942.

    After the war, the remains of Pfc. William E. Brown were returned to the United States.  He was buried at Antioch Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Quitman, Louisiana.


 

 

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