Pvt. James Finley

    Pvt. James Finley was born January25, 1918, in Creek County, Oklahoma, to John D. & Sarah E. Finley.  With his two sisters and five brothers he grew up in Long Grove, Oklahoma.  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 the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had recently been sent to the camp but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place.
    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 volunteered to join the 192nd and was assigned to A Company.

    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.  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.  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.
    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
   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. 
    On one occasion the company were in bivouac on two sides of a road.  The posted sentries and most of the tankers attempted to get some sleep.  The sentries heard noise down the road and woke the company.  Every man grabbed a weapon.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  The tankers opened fire with everything they had.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
    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.
    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.  The first five miles of the march were 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.  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.  There was 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.  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.  The POWs were used as slave labor in a condemned coal mime.  In the camp, the stronger POWs preyed on the weaker POWs.  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.
    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.


Return to A Company