Brown_W

Pfc. William Edwin Brown


    Pvt. William E. Brown was born August 12, 1919, in Hodge, Louisiana   He was the son of Leslie & Zora Brown.  He was raised 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.  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. 
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 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 to the perimeter of the airfield.  There job was to guard against Japanese paratroopers.

   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.

   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.
    
At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.   The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
    The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over.

    For the next four months, William took part in the delaying action against the Japanese.  He most likely took part in the Battle of the Pockets.  The Japanese had lunched an offensive and after initial success were pushed back.  This resulted in two pockets of Japanese soldiers being trapped behind the American lines in two locations.  In an attempt to wipe the pockets out, tanks of the 192nd were sent into the pockets.
    According to the tankers, when a new platoon of tanks entered the pocket one tank would go in and one would come out.  This was done until all the tank were replaced.  To wipe out the Japanese, two methods were employed by the tankers.

    The first method used was to have the tanks drive over the Japanese foxholes.  On their backs were Filipino soldiers with bags of hand grenades.  As the edge of the foxhole appeared from under the tank, the soldiers would drop hand grenades into the foxhole. 
    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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