|Pfc. James Roger Burden
James R. Burden was born on December 13, 1917, in
Wapakoneta, Ohio, to Fred E. Burden & Hazel M.
Fry-Burden. He grew up at 611 Maple Street in
Wapakoneta with his four sisters and six
brothers. His family called him "Roger."
He attended high school for two years and worked as a
James was inducted into the Army on March 22, 1941, in Toledo, Ohio. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and did his basic training there. It was at this time that he was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion as a truck driver. It was while he was training at Ft. Knox that he was assigned to HQ Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941 to take part in maneuvers. During the maneuvers, HQ Company serviced the tanks of the battalion, but they did not actively participate. After the maneuvers, on the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. According to members of the battalion, General George Patton told them the news. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service. Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Many of the members of the battalion were given leave so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Calvin Coolidge 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 November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam. When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. They sailed the same day for Manila. The ships 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.
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 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The letter companies were ordered to the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac.
All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps. James, and the other members of HQ, took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes. After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
For the next four months James drove a truck with supplies for the tanks. On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M. The members of the company remained in their bivouac. Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. James was now a Prisoner of War.
The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, James' group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. These two islands had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were
ordered to move again by the Japanese. James,
and the other men, had no idea that they had started
what became known as the death march. During
the march, he received no water and little
food. It took the members of HQ Company six
days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the
POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence
around it. In one corner was a slit trench to
be used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface
of the trench moved since it was covered in
maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but
they could not lie down.
Pfc. James R. Burden
died of dysentery on June 8, 1942, at Camp O'Donnell
at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon. He was
buried in the camp cemetery. After the war,
his remains were exhumed and identified. On
October 22, 1949, Pfc. James R. Burden was reburied
at Greenlawn Cemetery in Wapakoneta, Ohio, in Plot K