Garrett

 

Pvt. J. C. Garrett


    Pvt. J. C. Garrett was born on November 24, 1915, in Caddo County, Louisiana, to Charles & Mattie Garrett.  With his two sisters and three brothers grew up in Panola County, Texas, on the family farm.  He left high school to work on the family farm.
    In early 1941, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and did his basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.  There, he attended school and qualified as a tank mechanic.  After basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion and sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941.

    When the maneuvers ended, the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion, which did take part in the maneuvers, remained behind at Camp Polk.  The members of the battalion had no idea why they were being kept there.  What they were told on the side of a hill was that they were being sent overseas. It was at this time that members of the battalion, 29 years old or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.  Replacements for the released men were taken from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  J.C. had his name drawn and was assigned to B Company of the 192nd.
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.

    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.  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 B 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. 

    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.
 
    The night of April 8, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  They circled their tanks.  Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks.  Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
   After the Japanese made contact with B Company, the members of the company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  They were now officially Prisoners of War.  At Mariveles, the Japanese took blankets and other items from the POWs that they could use.  The tankers striped anything from their uniforms that indicated that they were tankers.  They heard the rumor that the Japanese were looking for them.
    From Mariveles, the tankers made their way north toward San Fernando.  They were given little food or water. 
On the march, J.C. carried Abner Humphrey, D Company, who had been wounded.  The two men remained friends the rest of their lives.  When they arrived at San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen.  In one corner was a slit trench that was the washroom for the POWs.  The surface of it moved from the maggots. 
    The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men.  They were taken to the train station and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as forty or eights since they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese put 100 POWs into each boxcar.  Those who died remained standing since there was no place to fall.  At Capas, the POWs disembarked and the dead fell to the floor of the cars.  The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp.  Disease among the POWs ran wild with as many as 55 POWs dying each day.  It is not known if J.C. remained in the camp or went out on a work detail.  The Japanese closed the camp and moved the healthier POWs to Cabanatuan. J.C. was sent to the camp when it opened.

    After arriving in the camp, J.C. developed malaria and diphtheria.  He was admitted into the camp's hospital on June 18, 1942.  He remained in the hospital until he was discharged on February 1, 1943.
    J.C. was still in the camp when names were posted of POWs being sent to Japan in July 1943.  J.C.'s name was on the list.  Trucks arrived at the camp and took the POWs to Bilibid Prison.
    The POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded the Clyde Maru on July 22nd.  The ship sailed on July 23rd to Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philippine Islands.  Arriving there the same day, manganese ore was loaded onto the ship.  Three days later, the ship sailed.  This time it was headed for Takao, Formosa.
    While at sea, 100 POWs, at a time, were allowed on deck form 6:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.  The ship arrived at Takao on July 28th and remained there until August 5th, when it sailed at 5:00 A.M. as part of a nine ship convoy.  It arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 7th, but the POWs remained in the holds until the next morning when they disembarked and formed 100 men detachments.
    The POWs were marched to the Moji train station and boarded a train that departed at 9:30 A.M. on what was a two day train trip.  At 7:30 P.M. the next day, J.C.'s POW detachment was disembarked at Omuta, Japan, and marched 18 miles to
Fukuoka #17.  Those too ill to walk were driven by trucks to the camp.
    In the camp, the POWs were housed in 33 barracks that were 16 feet wide by 120 feet long with a washroom.  The camp was 200 yards wide by 1000 yards long.  In each of the barracks, there were ten rooms.  Each room held four to six POWs.  Around the camp was a ten to twelve foot high wooden fence that had three electrified wires.  The first wire was about six feet off the ground. 
    The POWs were used as slave labor in a condemned coal mine owned by the
Mitsui Coal Mining Company but operated by the Japanese Army.  The POWs worked three shifts.  100 POWs were assigned to work on each shift for twelve hours in the mine.
    Food for the POWs consisted of consisted of steam rice and vegetable soup that was made from whatever could be found.  Every other day, when the POWs did not return from the mine to eat, they received three buns to each for lunch in the mine.  The best meal they ever received in the camp was the day the Red Cross came to the camp.  Then, they were received the most food they ever had in the camp.  This was so the Red Cross Inspector would give a positive report on the camp.
    It is not known if J.C. was in camp or in the mine when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945.  Those POWs reported that they saw a marsh-room shaped cloud over the city.  Many believed that American bombers had hit a major Japanese ammunition dump.  None of the POWs knew that Omuta had been the primary target for the bomb, but the B-29's crew chose to continue on to Nagasaki because of cloud cover over the city.
    Within days, the POWs were given a day off from work for the Emperor's birthday.  This was the first day off the POWs had ever received.  They knew something was up when they received another day off the next day. 
    One day, George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News arrived at the camp and told the POWs that American troops were on Honshu.  Some of the POWs, many from B Company, left the camp and made contact with the troops.  It is not known if J.C. was in the group.
    J.C. was liberated in September 1945 and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  He later returned to the United States.  J.C. was discharged from the Army, but on July2, 1946, he reenlisted.  He was discharged again on July 1, 1950, but this time when he reenlisted, he transferred to the U.S. Air Force.  He rose in rank to sergeant.
    J.C. retired from the Air Force and returned to Texas.  He married and became the father of two daughters and a son.  On April 18, 1970, J.C. Garrett passed away in Panola County, Texas.  He was buried at Old Fellows Cemetery in Carthage, Texas.


 



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