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, Inc.

    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.

From 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 reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water.  He came upon more flagged buoys that lined up - in a straight line - for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day, so the next day - when a when planes were sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between the planes and Navy was poor, noting was done to intercept the boat.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

    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 medical detachment.  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.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, the transport, S.S. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    After arriving in the Philippines, the process was begun to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion, which had left for the Philippines minus one company.  B Company of the battalion was sent to Alaska while the remaining companies, of the battalion, were sent to the Philippines.  The medical clerk for the192nd spent weeks organizing records to be handed over to the 194th.

    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.
    To get lunch three tankers from each tank were allowed to go to the food truck that had been sent to the airfield to feed them.  John and the other soldiers were in line at the truck when they saw planes approaching.  No one was alarmed by this since they did not believe that the Japanese would attack.  It was only when bombs began exploding that they realized they were wrong.

    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 strafed.  
    At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company and C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw.  The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.       

    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 1945. 

    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 belts.
    John remained in the camp for the rest of the war.  On August 25, 1945, the POWs lined up for work as usual.  They were sent back to their quarters.  This scene was repeated over the next few day.

    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.


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