Tec 4 James W. O'Brien
T/4 James W. O'Brien was born on July 15, 1923, at Schofield Barracks, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was one of the three sons of Patrick & Amanda O'Brien. He was raised in Port Clinton, Ohio and resided at 517 West Fifth Street. He was called "Jimmy" by his family.
Jim joined the Ohio National Guard's H Tank Corp with his best friend from high school, Bob Gerding, while they still were in high school. In the fall of 1940, Jim and Bob were given the choice to stay in school or go to Fort Knox, Kentucky with their tank company. Bob chose to stay in school, while Jim went with the company to Ft. Knox when the company was called to federal duty on November 25, 1940.
At Ft. Knox,
the company was designated C Company, 192nd Tank
Battalion. It was at this time that Jim was
trained as a motorcycle messenger. After ten
months of training Jim took part in maneuvers with
his tank battalion in Louisiana. After the
maneuvers the tankers were informed that they were
not being released from Federal service, but that
they were being sent overseas.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers. Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times. On December 8, 1941, Jim lived through the attack on Clark Field. He and the other members of the company could do little more than watch as the Japanese destroyed the Army Air Corps.
The tank battalion received
that it was to
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag. 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese
were in view of his platoon and then joined in the
hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and
down the streets of the village, through buildings
and under them. By the time Bill's unit was
ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had
knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
When Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, James became a Prisoner Of War. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. On the march, Jim carried another member of C Company who was too ill to finish the march. At San Fernando, Jim boarded a small wooden boxcar and road a train to Capas. From there, he walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Jim did not
remain in Camp O'Donnell very long. Not too
long after arriving in the camp, Jim went out on a
detail to drive trucks for the
Japanese. Sometime during this time,
Jim became ill.
On Tuesday, June 30, 1942, at 2:00 P.M., Pvt. James W. O'Brien died of dysentery in the Philippine Islands. He was 19 years old. After he died, he was interred in Grave 1010, Row 0, Plot 10. He shared his grave with fourteen other POWs. One of which was Russell Simon of HQ Company who was also a National Guardsman from Port Clinton.
After the war in 1948, Jim's family requested that the his remains be returned to Port Clinton. He was buried in Riverview Cemetery next to his brother, Ralph, who was Killed in Action in Europe.