Bruce_J

 

Cpl. Jack Vernon Bruce


    Cpl. Jack V. Bruce was the son of Mamie Bruce.  He was born on October 28, 1921, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It appears that his father died and his mother married Joseph Bruce.  His step-father adopted Jack and his two sisters.  After his mother remarried, the family moved to Milton, Wisconsin, and attended Milton schools and Milton High School.

    While Jack was junior in high school, he enlisted in the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard.  The tank company was headquartered in an armory in Janesville.  To earn money, he worked as a farmhand.  While Jack was still in high school, he was called to federal duty.

    In November of 1940, Jack's tank company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky for one year of training.  During this training Jack became a tank crew member.  

    In the late summer of 1940, Jack took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  At Camp Polk after the maneuvers, Jack and the other members of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.

    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
   
The 192nd was 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.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island. 

    Jack and Phil Parish went on leave together in Hawaii.  On their last day of leave as they made their way back to their ship, Jack and Phil stopped for cake at a cafe.  Neither man was really hungry and could not eat the cake.  While they were POWs, they would often recall this incident and ask themselves why had they left the cake at the table barely eaten.   
    On November 5th, 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.  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.  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, who apologized that they 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.

    After arriving in the Philippines, Jack spent two weeks preparing to supply the members of A Company with the things they needed.  The preparations ended with the Japanese attack on Clark Field in the Philippines.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.
    As they sat in the tankers sat in their tanks the morning of December 8t hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they watched as American planes flew overhead all morning.  Around noon, all the planes landed and the pilots parked the planes in a straight line and went to lunch.

    Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared overhead.  Like the other men, Robert believed they were American until they felt and heard bombs exploding.  During the attack, Bob and the rest of his tank crew fired at the planes, but could do little damage since they did not have the proper weapons.

    After the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it could protect a highway and railroad from sabotage.   From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno 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.

    During the Battle of the Pockets, Jack somehow ended up in "no man's land" and was wounded.  He could not make it back to the American lines.  Owen Sandmire, John Hopple of B Company, and two other members of the battalion crawled out to him with a stretcher.  Hopple and the other men were hit by enemy fire during the rescue.  Since there were no drivers, Sandmire drove them down to Mariveles and back up the East Coast of Bataan to the hospital.  By the time he got there, all three were dead.

    Sometime during the Battle of the Philippines, Jack appears to have been made a member of 1st Lt. William Reed's half-track crew.  Being a member of the crew meant that Jack was involved in various engagements against the Japanese.  It was during one of these engagements that Jack's the half-track was hit by enemy fire and knocked out.  A second round would mortally wound Lt. Reed.  Jack and another member of the tank crew went for help, but before they could return, the Japanese overran the area. Lt. Reed died of his wounds and Pvt. Ray Underwood became a Prisoner of War.

    On April 9, 1942, Jack became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  It is not known if Jack went out on a work detail while a POW there.

    When the new camp at Cabanatuan opened, Jack was sent there.  Sometime in early 1943, Jack was selected for the Bachrach Garage Detail which was also known as the Cabcaban Detail.  The POWs on this detail repaired cars, trucks and other equipment for the Japanese.

    It was while he was on this detail that he became extremely ill on November 22, 1943.  That day records state he developed a fever and had back and leg pains.  It was reported that his illness was bad enough to have him transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Unit at Bilibid Prison on November 26, 1943.  The doctors wanted to admit him to the hospital, but the Japanese refused to allow it, so he was returned to the work detail. 

    Jack's bronchitis and pneumonia got worse, so he was returned to the hospital on November 29th.   Records kept by the medical staff show he was vomiting, coughing up blood in his mucous, and 102.4 degree fever.  On November 30th, the cramping he was experiencing increased and so did the bloody mucous. 
    On the voyage to the Philippines, Jack and Phil Parish went on leave together in Hawaii.  On their last day of leave as they made their way back to their ship, Jack and Phil stopped for cake at a cafe.  Neither man was really hungry and could not eat the cake.  While they were POWs, they would often recall this incident and ask themselves why had they left the cake at the table barely eaten.     
    On Wednesday, December 1, 1943, at Bilibid Prison at 12:05 A.M., Cpl. Jack V. Bruce died from his illnesses and was buried in Row 4, Grave 15, in the POW cemetery at Bilibid.  He was 22 years old.  His friend, Phil Parish, attempted to visit the grave, but since Jack was buried in a restricted area, he was not allowed to do so.

    After the war, Jack's family had his remains returned to Janesville, Wisconsin.  Cpl. Jack V. Bruce was reburied at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville on October 21, 1949.  His headstone indicates that he died on December 1, 1943, which is also the date given on the POW death records from Bilibid Prison.  This date conflicts with the date given in the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion. 


 

 

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