Brummett

 

Pvt. Grover Cleveland Brummett


    Pvt. Grover C. Brummett was born April 9, 1920, in Garratt County to Joseph Brummett & Nellie Ashford-Brummett.  He grew up on a small farm near Lancaster, Kentucky, with his three sisters and two brothers.  As a child he attended school in Hubble where he was educated in a one room log school house.  When he was ten, his family moved to Harrodsburg.    In 1938, he graduated from Harrodsburg High School.  In 1940, he was working on his brother's farm outside of Harrodsburg.

    He had attempted to join the regular army, but his father refused to sign the papers.  His reason for joining the army was that he wanted to get off the family farm. When he was nineteen, he joined the National Guard with his friends Maurice "Jack" Wilson, Bland Moore, Cecil Vandiver, Morris Collier and William Gentry.  His father, once again, had to sign the papers.  His father believed that if he signed the papers, Grover would be home to help him harvest.  Grover failed to tell his father that the tank company was going to be federalized.

    On November 25, 1940, the tank company was called to federal service.  Traveling to Fort Knox, the members of the tank company were now members of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Grover recalled that this tour of duty was suppose to be for one year.  It was at Ft. Knox that Grover was trained to drive a half-track.  He believed that the training he and the other men received was basic training for every soldier.  He would later become a half-track commander.   

    It was also there that Grover was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created in January, 1941.  In his opinion, the men selected for transfer were the troublemakers in each of the letter companies.

    One day, Grover looked down at the PX from the hill top where the 192nd's tank park was located.  He noticed 50 to 60 men in front of it.  Went down to take a look and found that a fight was going on between some D Company men and members of 19th Ordnance.  One member of his company was taking a pretty good beating.  Grover managed to stop the fight.

    Later that same day, each letter company of the 192nd sent a truck load of soldiers down to the PX looking for a fight with 19th Ordnance.  The fight never took place.  Kenneth Hourigan pulled a knife out and put it against one of the troublemakers stomach.  This seemed to convince those involved to stop fighting.

    In the late summer of 1941, Grover traveled to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  After them, Grover learned that the battalion was being sent overseas.  From Camp Polk the battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  HQ Company was routed along the Gulf Coast and through New Mexico and Arizona before traveling up the Pacific Coast to San Francisco.  From Angel Island, Grover left the United States for the Philippine Islands.
    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.  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.  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.  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.

    Having heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks had been placed around the perimeter of Clark Field to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers.  Around lunchtime of December 8, 1941, Grover lived through the attack on the airfield.   Grover and other soldiers were coming out of the non-com club. 1st Sgt. Willard Swift pointed to the sky at the planes.  He pulled out his binoculars and began counting them.  It was only when the bombs began exploding that they knew the planes were Japanese.

    During the attack, Grover ran to his half-track and manned a .30 caliber machine gun on his half-track.  He soon realized that the Japanese planes were making a figure eight and simply left the gun in one position.  He believed he shot down several planes.  In the heat of the battle, Grover saw a plane off to his side, he began shooting at it.  The pilot began to wave his wings to indicate that he was an American attempting to take off.

    On December 17, 1941, was sent north toward Lingayen Gulf.  During the Battle of Luzon, Grover  is credited with shooting down two Japanese Zeros and a "Photo Joe" reconnaissance plane.  In his opinion, the U.S. 26th Calvary, Philippine Scouts was slaughtered by its own officers by sending them into battle against tanks.  As the Filipino and American forces fell back into Bataan, Grover's tank covered five retreats.  During one of these retreats, Japanese troops ran into Grover's encampment at about 2:30 in the morning.  Grover and the other soldiers had about 600 grenades from World War I.  They began throwing the grenades.  Only about half of the grenades exploded.  Grover radio headquarters and was told to get his tanks out of there.

    During the Battle of Bataan, Grover lost a tank in his platoon.  While the tank crew was sleeping, the Japanese dug a trench under the tank.  The Japanese then raised the turret's hatch cover and dropped a grenade into the tank killing the four crewmen.

    Grover recalled that the tanks were the last units to pull back during a withdrawal.  The tanks would lay down intense fire as the Filipino and American troops withdrew.  After the troops had withdrawn, the tanks would destroy anything that the Japanese could possibly use.  This included warehouses, rice caches and banks.

    On April 9, 1942, Grover became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered.  The company remained in their encampment for three days before Japanese arrived.  He and many of the other members of the company had their 45s on them with one bullet in the chamber.  If the Japanese were going to kill them, they planned on killing themselves.  The Japanese and ordered them to make their way to Mariveles.

    The members of the company lined up along the road that ran past their encampment.  In front of them, they put their possessions.  About that time, a Japanese officer and 300 Japanese troops came down the road.  The Japanese took what they wanted from the Americans.

    Grover and the other men climbed onto trucks and road down toward Mariveles.  Outside the barrio, they were herded onto an airfield.  They were left there for several hours.  As they sat, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form across from them.  The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad.  Many believed it was the end of the line for them.

    As they prepared to die, a car pulled off and a Japanese officer ordered the soldiers not to harm the prisoners.  As he pulled away in the car, they lowered their guns.

    Later in the day, Grover and the other men were marched to a school yard in Mariveles.  Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire.

    Shells began landing around them and men attempted to take cover.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it was hit.  When the barrage ended, most of the Japanese guns had been destroyed.

    It was from this school yard that Grover began the death march.  He made his way from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march he saw men who had fallen shot and bayoneted where they fell.  At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars.  Those who died in the cars did not fall down until the prisoners exited the cars at Capas. 

    Grover also recalled that he was marching with Bland Moore.  The Japanese had these short whips and loved to hit the POWs across their butts with them.  Having a bad temper, Moore told Grover that he didn't know what he would do if a guard hit him with one.  A while later Moore was a little in front of Grover when a guard hit him across his butt with the whip.  When Grover caught up to Moore, he told Moore said to him, "Bland, did I see that Jap whap you?"  Moore looked at him and said, " You know I liked it too."

    For Grover the worse thing about the march was the lack of food and water.  At one point, a captain asked Grover for his canteen cup.  At first Grover hesitated about giving it to him.  The officer told Grover that he would get water and give him a cup.  The officer ran up to one of the artesian wells and filled the cups with water.  A Japanese guard came up behind the officer and stuck him in the butt with his bayonet but not deep enough to really hurt him.  The officer ran back in line and handed Grover his cup of water.

    General James Weaver was in Grover's group of POWs.  Because of his age, Weaver was being carried in a chair.  Two poles were attached to the legs of the chair so that four POWs could carry him.  At one point, Grover had the job of carrying Weaver.  Because of this, Grover did not think to highly of Weaver.  In his opinion, he and the other POWs were barely able to make the march on their own,  and they were given the additional chore of making sure Weaver survived it. 

    Just south of San Fernando a Filipino boy was selling rice cakes.  The POWs had no money so they could not by them.  Grover told the man next to him that he was going to get the boy to come over and grab his basket of rice cakes.  He told the man to take as many as he could grab.  When the boy came over Grover reached into his pocket as if he had money and than grabbed the basket.  The other man grabbed rice cakes. The boy kept telling him he wanted his money.  A Japanese guard finally chased the boy away.

    It took Grover fourteen days to complete the march.  During this period, he was only fed once.  At one point, Grover saw two Filipinos who were going to boil some rice in a canteen cup.  A Japanese guard told them to move on.  The two Filipinos did not understand what the soldier was saying so the Japanese soldier bayoneted them.

    He was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  Men in the camp were dying at a rate of forty to fifty men a day.  There, he worked on the burial detail.  To bury the dead, Grover would take a wooden pole and push the body down into the grave.  The water table was so high that when a grave was dug, it would fill with water.  The burial detail would put two more bodies into the grave which would hold down the first body.
    At some point, Grover went out on a work detail to collect scrap metal.  The deatil to the POWs became known as the Bataan Detail.  While on the detail, the POWs hunted water buffaloes with the Japanese.  The POWs put out salt and the water buffaloes came down from the mountains at night to eat it.  They would turn on lights on two eighteen ton wreckers and the Japanese shot them.  The POWs were allowed to eat the hind quarters.  When the detail ended, he returned to Cabanatuan.

    Grover also spent time on the Bachrach Garage Detail with Pvt. Jim Langford, HQ Company, and Pvt. Judson Simpson who was one of the original members of D Company.   Grover next was sent to Manila where he worked as a stevedore loading and unloading 55 gallon drums from ships.  This was the worse job he had while a POW.  He became ill and was sent to Bilibid Prison suffering from epilepsy on January 3, 1944.  He was discharged on February 14, 1944, but readmitted on February 26th suffering from enteritis which is a swelling of the intestine.  The records show he was discharged on February 29th to the Av. Bu. Detail.

    Grover was then sent to Bilibid Prison to be processed for shipment to Japan.  It was at this time that he attempted to talk his best friend, John Cummins, into going to Japan with him.  John refused stating that it was just a matter of time before the Americans would liberate the POWs.  Grover was boarded onto the Nissyo Maru at 8:00 A.M. on July 17, 1944.  The ship sailed but dropped its anchor by the breakwater in the bay.  It remained anchored there from July 18th to July 23rd while a convoy formed.
    The convoy left Manila Bay on July 24th and hugged the coastline of Luzon to avoid American submarines.  At 3:00 A.M. on July 26th, the POWs in the ship's holds heard a huge explosion and, since the hatch covers were off, saw the flames shoot over the ship.  The remaining ships made it safely to Takao, Formosa, at 9:00 A.M. on July 28th.

    At 7:00 P.M. the same day, the ship sailed.  From July 30th to August 2nd, it sailed through a storm.  The POWs were issued new clothes on August 3rd before it arrived at midnight August 4th.  The entire voyage to Japan took seventeen days because the convoy was attempting to avoid American submarines.  The only source of light in the hold was one light bulb.  In Grover's own words, "The hell ship was exactly what it was called, Hell."

    The POWs were disembarked at 8:00 A.M., and put in a pitch black theater.  They remained there until they were formed into detachments of 100 men and taken to the train station.  They boarded a train and were dropped off at camps along the line.

    The Nissyo Maru docked at Takao, Formosa on July 27th before sailing for Moji, Japan.  The ship left the next day and arrived at Moji on July 30, 1944.  On August 3, the ship arrived at Moji where the POWs were disembarked and sent to Narumi POW Camp arriving at the camp on August 4, 1944.  It was in Japan that Lewis began keeping a diary of his life as a POW.  Why the Japanese never confiscated the diary is not known.
   In this camp the POWs worked for the Nippon Wheel Manufacturing Company producing wheels.  One day, the POWs heard that the emperor was going to speak to his people over loudspeakers.  Through the interpreter, the POWs learned of the surrender.  The camp was turned over to the POWs and the guards vanished.  The guards left behind their weapons so the POWs posted guards to protect themselves against any possible attack.  The POWs also marked the camp so that it could be spotted by American planes.  The B-29s began dropping fifty gallon barrels of supplies to the former prisoners.    
    To get to the plant, the POWs had to ride a train with the Japanese civilians.  The civilians would throw their cigarette butts on the floor of the train cars.  The Americans who got on the trains first were able to collect the butts. 
    It was also at this camp that Grover witnessed a prisoner put to death for stealing.  One night, the man crawled into the camp kitchen to steal food.  For whatever reason, the man did not get out.  Realizing he would be caught, he attempted to kill himself.  The Japanese allowed the man to heal and then made him stand naked in front of the other POWs.  The Japanese then proceeded to starve the man to death.
    In the little free time that the POWs had, they would sit around and talk about food and the meals they would have when they got home.  He and the other prisoners would actually feel as if they had eaten after each of these sessions.
    As the war went on, American bombs fell around the camp.  The POWs saw craters on both sides of the camp from air raids to knock out the train station.  As they went to work, the POWs counted the bomb craters.
    One night, the bombers destroyed the factory that the POWs worked in.  No prisoners were killed because the attack came at night.  It was not too long after this that the POWs heard that they were going to be moved to another camp.
    The POWs knew something was up and were finally told that the war was over. 
One morning the camp's interpreter told the prisoners, "Between your country and mine we are now friends."  On September 2, 1945, American planes appeared and dropped food to the POWs.  These missions continued and the POWs also received clothing. 
    The strangest experience for the former prisoners was the fact the Japanese now insisted on bowing to them.  It also seemed a little strange to them that the Japanese brought all the food dropped by the B-29s to them without taking anything for themselves.  This was strange to the men, because they knew that the Japanese civilians did not have much more to eat than the former POWs.  The men assumed that the Japanese civilians had been told they would be killed if they were caught with American food.  On September 4, 1945, American troops liberated the former POWs.

    It should be mentioned that while Grover was a POW at Narumi, his father, Joseph Brummett, passed away on January 25, 1945.  Grover learned of his father's death after he had been liberated.
    On September 12, 1945, the former POWs received orders to move south.  They boarded trains and went to southern Japan.  There they boarded the USS Rescue for medical treatment.  It was on this ship that Lewis learned that he weighed 95 pounds.  Since it was determined that Grover was in pretty good health, he was boarded onto another American ship and taken to Yokohoma.

    Grover returned to Kentucky and married Mary Will Moore in November 1945.  Together they had two sons, James and Ronald.  Ronald died as an infant. The couple also had two daughter. It is known that he later married Evangeline Wiser and worked as a salesman and lived in Louisville.

    Grover C. Brummett passed away on February 7, 2002, in Louisville, Kentucky. 


 

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