Pfc. Field McLeod Reed Jr.
Pfc. Field M. Reed Jr. was
born on February 24, 1920, in Indiana and raised
in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He was the son of
Field M. Reed Sr. and Mertie Mae
Woodward-Reed. His grandfather, who did not
want his first born grandson to be named Field
gave him the nickname of "Jack" by which he was
Jack grew up in the country and attended a one room school house with all eight grades in one room. His family would later move to Harrodsburg where he attended Harrodsburg High School. In high school, he played football and basketball, and he also got married before he graduated.
After high school, Jack started school at Western Kentucky University. He also soon learned that he was going to be a father. The longer he was in school, the more depressed he became, so he dropped out and bought a truck and started to haul pasteurized milk. In 1939, he became the father of a son, and was working as a director for the Works Projects Administration.
Jack joined the Kentucky National Guard and became a member of the Harrodsburg tank company. The reason he joined the Guard was that his wife's cousin, Bacon Moore, convinced him to join. Moore was also the company commander and told Jack that he could use the extra money to make things easier at home. Jack used the extra money to pay his mortgage.
In September 1941, the company was federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 28, 1941, after a five day stay in Harrodsburg, the company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of federal service. It was at this time that Jack qualified as a truck driver. According to Jack, after the company arrived at Ft. Knox, an officer asked them who could drive a truck. Several men raised their hands and were given the job of hauling gravel to the 192nd's tank park.
In early 1941, Jack was transferred to Headquarters Company when the company was created. Since he was now officially a driver, he did not have to drill as hard, and he often drove Col. Moore to meetings.
Being assigned to HQ Company meant that Jack met the National Guardsmen from the other companies who also had been transferred to the company. He recalled that the soldiers from Janesville, Wisconsin, loved to drink beer. They would go out and buy a case a beer, but instead of putting the empties in the case, they put the bottles in the attic of the barracks. By the time they left for Louisiana, the ceiling was ready to cave in from the weight of the bottles.
Jack also stated that, after a few beers, M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald would start to tell stories. In the nine months Jack lived in the barracks, he never heard McDonald tell the same story twice.
The equipment that the 192nd received, at Ft.
Knox, was the 1st Armor Division's throw
offs. Jack recalled that they often had to
drag the tanks behind a truck to get them
started. The soldiers worked on the tanks
until they all started on their own.
In the fall of 1941, Jack took part in maneuvers
in Louisiana. His job was to make sure the
tank companied had what they needed. After
the maneuvers, instead being allowed to go home,
the members of the battalion were ordered to
Camp Polk, Louisiana. The married men,
including Jack, were told to have their wives
come down to visit, and the women were allowed
to stay for nineteen days. It was on the
side of a hill, that the members of the 192nd
learned they were being sent overseas.
By train, along the Gulf Coast, Jack and the other soldiers traveled to San Francisco through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. At Yuma, Arizona the train stopped and the Native Americans entered the train cars and sold beads to the soldiers. The soldiers knocked each other over attempting to buy the beads. After the train pulled out of the station, someone noticed that the genuine Native American beads were made in Japan.
The train made its way north along the Pacific
Coast and arrived in San Francisco, where they
were taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. During their time on the island,
the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated
against tropical diseases. Those with
minor medical conditions were scheduled to
rejoin the battalion at a later date.
Other men were simply replaced.
In the Philippines, Jack lived in a tent along
the main road between Ft. Stotsenburg and Clark
Field. For the next seventeen days, the
tankers prepared their tanks for
maneuvers. During this time, Jack was
assigned as Capt. Ruben Schwass' driver and
drove him to meetings.
On December 8, 1941, Jack remembered that all the American planes took off and filled the sky. At about 12:30 they landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. Fifteen minutes later the airfield was bombed. Jack was at lunch, in the mess hall, when planes appeared over Clark Field. When he heard the sounds of explosions, he ran to the area that his company was assigned. He learned later that the mess hall had been hit by a bomb.
Jack watched as the pilots of the American planes attempted to get their planes off the ground. As they roared down the runway, Japanese fighters strafed the planes causing them to crash and burn. Jack manned a .50 caliber machine gun and fired at the Japanese planes and watched as the tracer shells hit the planes, but the planes kept flying.
After the attack, Jack could not believe the carnage. Bodies of the wounded and dying were everywhere. Smoke seemed to be everywhere, and the entire base seemed to be burning.
Jack being a truck driver spent the next four months attempting to get supplies to the tanks to fight the Japanese. He often worked with Joseph "Mule" Henderson who was a member of B Company. Doing this job often put his own life in jeopardy since the front lines were fluid. While trying to deliver ammunition and gasoline to the tanks, Jack often only had an idea where the tanks might be. While delivering gasoline and ammunition to A Company, he heard the sound of shelling. He knew that this meant the front line was not too far away.
Jack remembered that he and Mule pulled up to an A Company tank and saw Capt. Walter Write lying on the back of the tank. A landmine he had been planting exploded in his hands. According to Jack, Write said to his men, "Be careful fellows. There isn't a damn thing out there worth giving up your life for." Write died of his wounds soon after Jack saw him.
On several occasions, doing his job resulted in Jack found himself behind Japanese lines. His only means of escape was to give the truck the gas and smash through Japanese roadblocks until he reached the American lines.
On one occasion, Capt. Arthur Burholt gave Jack and Mule a bottle of scotch for C Company. Burholt told them where the tanks were suppose to be. When they got there, the two soldiers realized that they were a half mile behind enemy lines. Jack told Mule to drive and that he would man the machine gun on the jeep. They made it back to their own lines without incident.
Jack also recalled that he and Mule had become friends with a Naval Chief. While they were in Mariveles, the chief took them into tunnels and showed them cans and cans of food and allowed them to take what they could carry.
The longer the Americans fought food became the major issue for them. Jack recalled how one day, a truck arrived in their bivouac with a hindquarter of meat on it. They realized that this meat came from one of the horses of the 26th U. S. Calvary of Filipino Scouts. They were happy have the meat.
According to Jack, the soldiers also would attempt to catch iguanas. They would dig a hole and put the chicken in it as bait. When an iguana crawled into the hole, they would catch it, cook it, and eat its tail.
April 8, 1942,
his men the
news of the
While informing the members of the company of the
waved his arm
tanks and told
the men that
they would no
he spoke, his
He turned away
from the men
for a moment,
and when he
turned back he
He next told
should do to
that they all
He told the
that could be
used by the
The only thing
they were told
not to destroy
The men waited
juice for what
he called, "Their last supper."
When the soldiers were ordered to move, they boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. They were stopped outside the barrio and from there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. Jack remembered that at Mariveles, there was a pen that had been used to house captured Japanese soldiers. He watched as the Japanese, upon occupation of the barrio, machine gunned 125 of their own men for having surrendered.
From Mariveles, Jack started the death march. In his opinion the biggest problem both the Americans and Japanese had was communication. Neither side spoke the same language and did not know what the other person was saying. This resulted in confusion on both sides.
On the march, Jack and the other Prisoners of War went without food or water for days. He also witnessed Americans mistreated by the Japanese. Often, the abuse came from Japanese soldiers heading south in trucks toward Corregidor. As they passed the POWs, the Japanese would hit the POWs in their heads with the butts of their rifles. During the march, the only member of the 192nd from Harrodsburg with him was Lonnie Gray who also was a member of Headquarters Company.
Jack said the worse thing he saw on the march was a Japanese guard bayonet a Filipino baby that was being held in the arms of its mother. He also saw the Japanese bayonet pregnant women.
At one point, the POWs had to pass Japanese artillery that had been set up to fire on Corregidor. As Field neared the artillery, the Japanese fired on the island. A few minutes later, shells from Corregidor began hitting the Japanese guns. One of the shells exploded near Jack killing the Japanese officer who was directing the fire of the Japanese guns. A piece of shrapnel from the shell hit him in the leg and wedged itself against the bone. When his group was given a break, another POW gave Jack a mess kit knife that he had hidden from the Japanese. Jack used the knife to cut the shrapnel out of his leg.
Not too far from San Fernando, Jack was stabbed with a bayonet by a guard because the guard believed that he had not followed orders. The wound was meant to send a message and not kill him. Jack now had to continue the march bleeding. It was also at this time that two Americans broke from his POW column to get water from an artesian well. The Japanese buried the men alive.
At San Fernando, Jack was reunited with Lt. William Gentry and Pvt. Lyle Harlow and seeing them made him feel better. It was also at San Fernando that Jack volunteered to return to Bataan to clean up war materials, fill in craters from shells, and rebuild bridges. In Jack's opinion, he was treated very well on the detail and actually put on weight.
A Jack remained in Bataan and was joined by other POWs including Grover Brummett from Harrodsburg. At one point, the POWs were building a bridge over a river. Jack and Joseph "Mule" Henderson had the job of using poles to push away junk that would slam into the pilings and knock them loose. The Japanese guard watching them was called, "Pick handle Pete". Jack and Mule caught him off guard and drowned him in the river by holding him under with the poles. When the other guards came looking for him, they said he had gone into the jungle and they had not seem him since he had left.
On one occasion, Jack was the last man in line
for lunch. Because of this, he was
punished. One guard hit him with the
handle of a pick in the back, while another used
his belt on Jack. A third guard punched
him in the mouth, and he soon passed out.
The one permanent result of the being beaten so
badly was that he suffered hearing loss.
This was all done while the other guards and
POWs ate their lunches.
One evening, after working Jack went to see
Devine to feed and clean him. Nothing that Jack
could do got Devine to change his
attitude. It was not too many days after
this that Jack returned from work to find that
Ben had died. The one image Jack
remembered was of the maggots attempting to work
their way into Devine's mouth. Devine was
buried in the camp cemetery.
On December 12, 1942, Jack
went out on a work detail to Las Pinas to build
a runway at Nichols Field. They were
housed in eighteen rooms at the Pasay School,
with 30 POWs sleeping in each room on the
floor. Their food was the scraps from the
Japanese kitchen. With him on the detail
were Joe Anness, Edwin Rue, Jennings Scanlon,
Charlie Quinn, William Jardot, and George Boyce
of D Company.
Each morning the POWs were awakened at 6:00 A.M.
and did exercises. They were next fed
their breakfast and marched about a mile to
Nichols Airfield. The Filipino civilians
seeing the ragged clothes and lack of shoes
expressed their sympathy to the POWs which
angered the Japanese guards.
Jack was punished a second time while on this
detail. A friend of his was ill and fell
to the ground. The Japanese guard
bayoneted the man. Seeing this caused Jack
to lose his temper. Jack punched the guard
in his mouth breaking his jaw. The other
guards around him grabbed Jack and beat
him. They returned Jack to the school and
put him in the sweat-box where he remained for
When Jack was taken out of the box, he was in bad shape, but he was put back to work. To get out of the detail, he ate a half a bar of lye soap and became ill with symptoms similar to dysentery. The Japanese believing he was going to die sent him to Bilibid Prison which was the closest thing to a hospital the POWs had. Jack put on enough weight to be returned to Cabanatuan. It should be mentioned that on April 16, 1943, while Jack was on this detail, that his parents learned he was a POW.
One of the worse things Jack witnessed at Cabanatuan was Americans preying on other Americans. These POWs took advantage of the weak by selling food to the weak at extremely high interest rates. Those who accepted the terms of these scavengers found themselves repaying their debt with most of their food ration.
One of the funnier things Jack saw at Cabanatuan was during the rainy season. The POWs used a slit trench as a latrine. A POW was coming down the slope toward the trench and could not stop. He put out his arms to stop and knocked two other POWs into the trench with him. When they climbed out, they helped the man out of the trench and than threw him back into it.
Jack also heard a Japanese raid on a barrio not too far from the camp. The POWs heard gunfire during the night. Later, when they were on a detail passing through the barrio, they saw heads stuck on poles. The Filipinos were killed for aiding guerrillas.
The Japanese must have determined that Jack was too ill to be transported to Japan, because Jack was still a POW at Cabanatuan on January 30, 1945, when U. S. Rangers liberated the POWs from the Japanese. He recalled that he and other POWs were sitting inside their barracks talking when a shot rang out at about 7:30 P.M. A second shot was heard, and than all hell broke out.
Jack and the other men hit the floor covering their heads. How long he covered his head he did not know. When he heard a voice shouting "Head for the main gate!," he did what he was told. There was some confusion while doing this since there was a main gate and a front gate. When Jack arrived at the correct gate, he saw a sergeant, with the Rangers, slit the throats of eleven Japanese guards who had surrendered.
Jack and the other POWs safely made it to
American lines. Those who could walk did
so, but the majority of freed POWs rode in carts
pulled by carabao and were taken to an area by
Subic Bay for medical treatment and given 24
hour kitchen privileges.
After he was liberated, Jack
was promoted to corporal and told his story of
life as a Japanese POW. He was returned to
the Philippines and sailed on the U.S.S.
General A. E. Anderson arriving at
San Francisco on March 8, 1945. Jack
returned home to his wife and children, in
Harrodsburg, and was discharged on
September 12, 1945.
Jack and Charlie Quinn were asked to tour with John Wayne and Anthony Quinn on a promotional tour for the movie, Back to Bataan. Jack declined to take part in the tour, but Charlie went on the tour.
Jack decided it was time to get on with his life, so he moved to Louisville where he sold truck tires. Finding this to cutthroat, he attempted other jobs before going to work for International Harvester. He remained with the company for 38 years. When he retired, he was assistant superintendent of the plant.
Field M. Reed Jr. died on August 28, 2003, in Louisville, Kentucky, and was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.