Bryant_J

 


Pvt. James Maxie Bryant


    Pvt. James N. Bryant was born on September 25, 1920, in Inman, South Carolina, to William Bryant & Alma Bridges-Bryant.  He was one of the couple's two sons.  His parents divorced while he was a child.  With his mother and brother, he lived in Beech Springs, South Carolina.  He was known as "Jack" to his family and friends.  His mother would later remarry, and the family resided at 4404 First Avenue, Columbus, Georgia.
    On February 4, 1941, Jack was inducted into the Army at Augusta, Georgia.  He was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training.  After basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  What job he was qualified to do is not known.
    In the late summer of 1941, the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  Maneuvers were taking place at the fort but the battalion did not take part in them.  The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had taken part in maneuvers, was ordered to remain at the camp for further orders.  The battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.  Jack replaced a National Guardsmen released from federal service.  He was assigned to C Company.
    Over different train routes, the battalion was sent to San Francisco.  Once there, they were taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  At the fort, they received physicals and inoculated against tropical diseases.  Those men with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion in the Philippines.
   

    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. 
    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.  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 tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  That morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  When they looked up that morning, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  

    Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers noticed planes approaching the airfield.  When bombs began exploding around them, they knew the planes were Japanese.  Besides their .50 caliber machine guns, they had few weapons to use against the planes.  Most took cover and waited out the attack.  After it ended, they saw the destruction done by the bombs.
    The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line. 
    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.
   
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back.  According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.  When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.  During all these engagements, Ralph worked to keep the tanks running.  Often this meant scavenging parts from tanks that no longer were operable.
    About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  They destroyed their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them.  When they did, the Americans officially became Prisoners of War.  They made their way, as a company, to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  There, they started what they simply referred to as "the march."
    From Mariveles, the POWs made there way north to San Fernando.  They received little food and almost no water.  At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into a bull pin.  In one corner was a slit trench that was used as a washroom.  The surface moved from the maggots that covered it.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses and were known as "Forty or Eights."  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp.  As many as fifty POWs died each day.  Disease spread quickly among the POWs.  To get out of the camp, POWs volunteered to go out on work details. It is not known what work details that Jack went out on as a POW.
    At some point, Jack was held at Cabanatuan which had been opened by the Japanese to lower the death rate among the POWs.  It was only when Red Cross parcels were given to the POWs that it dropped. 

    There is no information on what "hell ship" that Jack was sent to Japan on.  But, it is most likely he was sent to Japan on the Nissyo Maru, since the other POWs, from the Philippines, in the Japanese POW Camp he was in, arrived on the ship.  The POWs from Cabanatuan were taken to the Port Area of Manila by truck and loaded onto the ship on July 11th.
    The ship was moved from Pier 7 to the harbor's breakwater where it dropped anchor.  It remained at the breakwater from July 18th to 23rd while a convoy formed.  On July 23rd, at 8:00 A.M., it sailed to Corregidor where it dropped anchor again at 2:00 P.M.  It sailed the morning of the 24th as part of a convoy. 
    The ships entered the South China Sea where one ship was sunk at 3:00 A.M. by an American submarine.  Since the hatch covers were not on the holds, the POWs saw the flames from the explosion shoot over the ship.  Three other ships were also sunk.
    The convoy arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 28th at 9:00 A.M.  It remained in port until 8:00 P.M. when the ships sailed for Moji, Japan.  From July 30th until August 2nd, the ships sailed through a storm.  The POWs were issued clothing on August 3rd, but the ship did not arrive at Moji until midnight of August 4th. 
    The POWs were unloaded at 8:00 A.M. and herded into a theater.  The POWs were organized into detachments of 100 POWs.  They were marched from the theater to a train station and rode a train, on the Tobata Line of the West Railroad Line, to the POW camp.

    In Japan Jack was sent to Fukuoka #3-B, there he worked at the Yawata Steel Mills doing manual labor.  The work was to shovel iron ore and rebuild the ovens.  The POWs were sent into the ovens to clean out the debris.  Since the ovens were hot, because the Japanese would not let them cool off, the POWs worked faster on this detail.
    The barracks that the POWs lived in were always cold since the Japanese heated them on a minimal basis.  Only the sick rooms had heat.  All POWs who died were reported to have died in the camp hospital. Food for the POWs consisted of a main dish of rice, wheat, wheat flour, corn, and Kaoliang.  The POWs worked at the Yawata Steel Mills from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.  They received a half hour lunch. 
    Jack was held in the camp until he was liberated on September 13, 1945.  He was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment and then the United States.  He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and discharged on February 4, 1946. 
    Jack married Doris A. Turner and became the father of one daughter and two sons.  One son died when he was four.  The family resided in Columbus, Georgia.  According to Jack's daughter, he never recovered from his experiences as a POW.  He died from cirrhosis of the liver from acute alcoholism on March 11, 1955.  He was buried in Riverdale Cemetery, in Columbus in Plot 30, Section 14.


 

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