Pvt. John Byrne Aldred
Pvt. John B. Aldred was born
on June 20, 1918, to Alfred R. Aldred and Kathleen
Byrne-Aldred. He was one of the
couples' three sons. His family resided at
2312 Kentucky Street in Louisville,
Kentucky. From 1924 - 1932 he attended St.
Louis Bertrand Grade School. He then
attended St. Xavier High School and Ahrens Trade
School and worked for the National Distillers,
On January 22, 1941, John was drafted into the U. S. Army. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. This was done because the company had been a Kentucky National Guard unit. During his training at Ft. Knox, John qualified as a radioman.
September 1st through 30th, the 192nd was sent
to Louisiana for maneuvers. It was after
the maneuvers that the battalion was
ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of
returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side
of a hill that they learned they were being sent
overseas. Most of the men received
furloughs home to say their goodbyes.
The tank battalion's companies traveled west to
San Francisco over four different train
routes. There, they boarded the ferry, the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, for Ft.
McDowell on Angel Island, where they were given
physicals and inoculated by the battalion's
Those with minor medical conditions were
held on the island and scheduled to rejoin
the battalion at a later date. Other
men were simply replaced.
On December 1, 1941, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. This was maneuver was practice for defending the airfield from enemy paratroopers. The tankers had no idea they would actually would do this in a combat situation.
On December 8, 1941, the tank crews were aware
that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the
Japanese. The tankers were sent to the
perimeter of the airfield in the morning.
All morning, they watched as American planes
filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed
and the pilots went to lunch.
With John was Pvt. Robert Brooks standing in line when the bombs began to explode on the runways. John dove for cover, but Brooks attempted to get to his tank. He was killed trying to do so.
After the attack, D Company was ordered to Mabalac on the Delores Road. They remained there until December 10th. They were next sent to Calumpit to look for paratroopers. While there, they guarded a huge bridge from saboteurs.
On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut
grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were
all they had to eat. From
Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and
night, all the tanks did was cover retreats
of different infantry units. The tanks
were constantly bombed, shelled, and
The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban airfields. They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers. They would continue this duty until April 7th. On April 8th, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat. The lines had broken. They fought there until receiving the news of the surrender.
The morning of April 9th, John recalled that there was bitterness among both the Japanese and Americans. Some of the members of the D Company took off for the hills but were picked up later. In his opinion, each man was on his own.
John started the death march at Cababin on April 10, 1942. It took him two days to complete the march. He received little food and water during the march. He recalled that they march was done in groups of 100 to 200 with eight guards to a group. If anyone dropped out, the guards took turns clubbing them with their rifle butts or shooting them. John and the others marched mostly at night, and were left sitting in the sun all day.
John arrived at San Fernando on April 16th. He and other POWs were packed into a boxcar and rode a train to Capas. He then walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The only work available at the camp for John and the other POWs was to bury the dead. To do this, trenches were dug and forty to fifty men were buried in the trench.
John remained in Camp O'Donnell until he was transferred to Cabanatuan #1 on June 4, 1942. During his time at Cabanatuan, he lived in Barracks 13, Group II. He remained a POW there until September 19, 1943. On that day, he went out on a work detail to Las Pinas. During this time, John recalled farming, building roads and bridges, and dams. It should be mentioned that his parents did not learn that he was a POW until April 17, 1943.
From the detail, John returned to Cabanatuan and was assigned to Barracks 13, Group 2. Medical records kept at the camp show that he was admitted on June 15, 1943. Why he was admitted and when he was discharged was not recorded. He remained in the camp until August 17, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing. On August 25th, he was marched to the Port Area and boarded onto the Noto Maru. The ship left the Philippines in August 1944. During the voyage, the convoy that the ship was in was attacked by an American submarine. Another ship carrying 1500 POWs was sunk. After a brief stop at Formosa, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan on September 9, 1944. John was sent to work in a copper mine the same day.
In Japan, John was held as a POW at
Sendai #6 near Hanawa. The men
worked in a copper mine. His parents
received a postcard from him in January
The Japanese, at the camp, withheld the Red
Cross packages from the POWs and took the canned
meats, canned fruit, canned milk, and cheese for
themselves. Blankets and clothing intended
for the POWs were used by the guards. If a
POW violated a rule, the grain ration, for all
the POWs, was reduced by 20 percent. At
one point, 49 POWs were lined up - because one
POW had broken a rule - and beaten with leather
One morning, a Japanese officer stood on a box in front of the prisoners and announced that Japan and the United States were no longer enemies. This was the first news that the POWs had that the war was over.
On August 28, 1945, food was dropped near the camp by American planes. The Japanese civilians helped the POWs carry it into the camps. The only thing the civilians were interested in was the silk from the parachutes so that they could make clothing. Americans entered the camp on September 16th and liberated the POWs.
John sailed for home on October 10th and arrived at Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945. He was discharged from the army on January 12, 1946. John married Martina Barker on June 21, 1947. They became the parents of five children and many grandchildren.
John B. Aldred passed away on May 13, 1985, in Louisville, Kentucky, and was buried at Louisville Memorial Gardens, Shively, Kentucky.