Cpl. Philip Sidney Brain Jr.
| Cpl. Philip
Sidney Brain Jr. was born to Philip S. Brain Sr.
& Marie Brain on June 24, 1915, in Libby,
Montana. He was the second oldest son and
had three younger brothers and two younger
sisters. When he was a toddler, his family
moved to Minneapolis. His family resided at
4027 26th Ave South in Minneapolis. His
father was a longtime tennis coach as the
University of Minnesota.
Philip attended Roosevelt High School and the University of Minnesota, where he played tennis. He graduated in 1939, and attended graduate school at George Williams College in Downers Grove, Illinois. He worked for a railroad as a stenographer.
In April 1941, Philip was inducted into the U. S. Army. He was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was assigned to HQ Company, 194th Tank Battalion. The company was created with National Guardsmen from Minnesota, Missouri, and California. Draftees were put into the company to bring it up to company strength.
On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders,
from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the
Philippines because of an event that happened
during the summer. 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 in the
water. He came upon more 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. By the time the planes landed, it
was too late to do anything that day.
The morning of December 8th, the tankers were
told of the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor. They were then ordered to the
perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. The entire morning,
American planes filled the sky. At 12:30
the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch
lining their planes up in a straight line
outside the mess hall to be refueled. At
12:45. Philip and the other tankers watched as
planes approached the airfield from the north
and had time enough to count 54 planes.
When bombs began exploding on the runways, the
tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
Phil recalled: "There's
a real soldier. The boys had the
highest respect for him. Col. Miller,
ordering tanks and artillery to fire point
blank at the Nips, strode from machine to
machine, cigar in mouth, giving
the boys encouragement. The boys
figured that if Col. Miller could do
that they could fight. That's what
they did. The whole regiment of
Japs was wiped out.
The Japanese arrived the morning of April 10th
and ordered the Prisoners of War to the trail
that ran near the headquarters. The trial
the POWs were on ended when they reached the
much of the march with Bernard Fitzpatrick
and Bill McKeon. At one point a
Filipino boy shoved a small watermelon into
his hand. The boy successfully escaped
from a Japanese guard. When it was
safe, he shared it with Fitzpatrick and
march for Phil was filled of atrocities.
It seemed that the sound of gun shots filled the
air. On one occasion he watched as a
Filipino woman, who was hold a baby, flashed the
"V" for victory sign to the Americans. She
was seen by a Japanese guard who responded by
bayoneting her baby. The look on her face
was something that haunted Phil the rest of his
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into warehouse for the night. Again, since there were no latrines, the floor was soon covered in human waste. The next morning, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. In Philip's own words, "When they slammed the doors closed, there was no room to move. When men died, they just stayed on their feet."
At Capas, the POWs climbed out of the boxcars. As they did, the bodies of those who died fell out of the cars. From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp. The camp had only one water faucet for 12,000 men. Men died standing in line for a drink. When the POWs arrived at the camp, they were searched for anything they might have on them that was Japanese. One man had Japanese currency on him. He was beheaded on the spot.
During his time in the camp, Philip worked the burial detail. As many as fifty POWs died each day. "When a guy on the burial detail died, they just put him in with the others."
To get out of the camp, Philip volunteered to go
out on a work detail to rebuild the bridges that
the Americans had destroyed as they retreated
into Bataan. The commanding officer of he
detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd
Tank Battalion. The Japanese commandant
liked American western music and treated the
POWs decently. With him on the detail was
his friend Bernard Fitzpatrick.
After the detail ended, Phil was sent to
Cabanatuan which had opened to relieve the
conditions at Camp O'Donnell. During the
ten months that he spent there, he worked the
burial detail and dug slit trenches for
latrines. While he in the camp he suffered
Several months after arriving at Cabanatuan,
Philip was selected to go out on a work detail
to Davao, Mindano. The trip took three
days. The entire time the POWs stood in
the hold of the ship. Upon arriving at
Mindano, Philip went to work working in rice
paddies. Philip remained on this detail
until June 1944. It is known that he
had malaria during this time.
As the American forces got closer to the Philippine Islands the Japanese began to send as many POWs to Japan or other occupied countries as possible. On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindano, by truck. Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed. The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano, for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17th. The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse. The POWs were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship and arrived at Manila on June 25th.
In August, Philip was selected to shipment to Japan. He was boarded onto the Noto Maru on August 25th and sailed on August 27, 1944, for Formosa. During the trip, Philip recalled that the POWs could not sit or lie down until enough men had died. On its way to Japan, the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa arriving and departing on August 10th. It made it to Keelung, Formosa, the same day and sailed for Japan on August 31st. It arrived in Moji, Japan on September 4th. It was because of this experience that he decided that if he survived the war, he would find a purpose to live his life by.
In Japan, Philip was sent to Sendai #6. The POWs were used as slave labor in a copper mine owned by Mitsubishi. The POWs were forced to climb up the side of a mountain and down into the mine. Each day he and the other POWs descended 472 steps into the mine. The POWs noticed that the guards never seemed to be winded when they arrived at the mine. The POWs later learned that the Japanese had cut a ground level entrance to the mine which the guards used to enter it.
In September 1945, Philip was liberated from the
camp. He returned to the Philippine
Islands for medical treatment.
Boarding the U.S.S. Rescue in late
September 1945, he arrived at San Francisco on
October 10, 1945. He was sent to Letterman
General Hospital before he returned home to
Minneapolis and learned that his brother,
Stanley, who was a bomber pilot, was killed in a
plane accident in Texas, in January 1945.
In 1990, Philip published his POW story in the Rotarian published book Soldier of Bataan. Philip S. Brain passed away on May 5, 2005, in Golden Valley, Minnesota.