Finley_J

 

 


Pvt. James Finley


    Pvt. James Finley was born January 25, 1918, in Creek County, Oklahoma, to John D. & Sarah E. Finley, and he  grew up in Long Grove, Oklahoma, with his two sisters and five brothers.  He was known as "Jim" to his friends and family. Like many men of his time, Jim left school after eighth grade and went to work as a carpenter.
    Jim was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 17, 1941, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  After completing basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had recently been sent to the camp but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place there.
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was informed they were being sent overseas.  Men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Replacements were sought from the 753rd Tank Battalion, Jim either volunteered or had his name drawn to join the 192nd and was assigned to A Company.

    The company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where the soldiers received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.  The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.    
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
     At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.  
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance and prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    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 and received their meals from food trucks.
    About 12:45, on December 8th, as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat.  As the men watched the sky, they felt good about the planes in the sky and the protection they were providing them.  It was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling did they realize that the planes were Japanese.
   When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  Anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing. 
    That night, most men slept under their tanks or in a dried up latrine since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one half years.   

    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would could protect a highway and railroad from sabotage.  On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where 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 but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  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 were asked to hold the position for six hours, but they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The 192nd, and part of the 194th, fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
    As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31st and January 1st.  Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep.  It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river. 
    As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers.  The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks.  To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smoke screen.  Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had lost about half their men.
    At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese.  The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them.  The result was the loss of three tanks.
    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders should take orders.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given. 
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion, the Japanese were halted. 
    From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.  It was also at this time that the food ration was cut in half.  Not too long after this was done dysentery, malaria, and dengue fever began hitting the troops.January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese Marines who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank had left the pocket.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. Driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    On March 2nd or 3rd, during the Battle of the Points.  The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line.  The first Japanese troops landed and were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.  A and B Company helped in the cleaning out of the pockets.
    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks.  Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets.  The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
    After the Japanese made contact with them, the members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
    The POWs made their way north from Mariveles with the first five miles of the march being uphill.  At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor.  They received little water and little food.  When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen.  In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom.  The surface of the trench was alive with maggots.  How long they remained in the bull pen is not known. 
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks.  They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese  packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall.  At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base with only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink.  The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day.  The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead.  Often, when they returned the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
    The situation in the camp so bad that even the Japanese recognized that they had to do something to lower the death rate.  The Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan and sent the healthier POWs there.  Jim went directly to the camp when it opened.  It is known from medical records kept by the medical staff that Jim was in the camp hospital on June 21st.  Records show he was tested for tuberculosis, but his results were negative.  No date was given for his being discharged. 
    In July 1943, names were posted of POWs who were being sent to Japan, and Jim's name was on it.  The POWs were taken by truck to Manila and boarded the Clyde Maru at Pier 7.  The ship sailed on July 23, 1943, and arrived at Zambales, Philippines, the same day.  There, manganese ore was loaded onto the ship.  The ship sailed three days later on July 26th. 
    During the trip to Formosa, the Japanese allowed 100 POWs on deck at a time from 6:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. each day.  It arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 28th.  The ship sailed again on August 5, 1942, at 8:00 A.M. as part of a nine ship convoy.  The convoy reached Moji, Japan, on August 7th.  The next day, the POWs disembarked and were lined up on the dock.  They were marched to the train station and boarded a train.  The train departed at 9:30 A.M. for a two day trip.  It arrived at Omuta, Japan, on August 10th.  The POWs marched eighteen miles to the camp.  The Japanese provided trucks for the eighteen POWs who were too weak to walk.
    Jim was a now a POW at Fukuoka #17 which was one of the worst camps where a POW could be held.  The POWs were used as slave labor in a condemned coal mine.  In the camp, the stronger POWs preyed on the weaker POWs, and POWs would sell their food for cigarettes. 
    One day, the POWs who had been working in the mine were told by those in the camp that there was a tremendous explosion over Nagasaki.  Many believed that the Americans had hit the main Japanese ammunition dump.  None realized that the explosion was the atomic bomb.
    Soon 50 gallon drums of food and clothing were dropped to the former POWs.  George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, showed up at the camp and informed the POWs that Americans were on the island.  It is not known if Jim stayed in the camp or set out to reach the American troops.  It is known that he was liberated in September 1945, but his family did not receive word of his liberation until October 21st.
    Jim was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment before being boarded onto the U.S.S. Marine Shark arriving at Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945.  After further medical treatment, he later returned home to Oklahoma.  He was discharged from the Army on March 8, 1946.  He married Garce Amelia Leonard on February 24, 1951, and became the father of a son. 
    James Finley spent the rest of his life in Oklahoma.  He passed away on March 9, 1974, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  He was buried in Arlington Memorial Gardens in Spencer, Oklahoma.


 

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