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.
"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
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 main road.
He walked 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 McKeon.
The 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 life.
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 from dysentery.
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 and rode a train to Hanawa. From there, the POWs made a short walk to the camp. 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, he was sent to Sendai #6, where 500 POWs worked in a copper
mine owned by Mitsubishi and under company supervision. The camp was approximately 200 feet wide by 350
feet long and had a 12 foot high wooden fence around it and was located at 4,000 feet. The POWs were
housed in wooden barracks, with 30 foot ceilings, with two tiers of bunks, against each long wall, with straw
matting, and a mattress stuffed with straw for sleeping. They also had a 4" by 4" by 8" block of wood for
Work details were set up for POWs who were machinists, electricians,
mechanics. Those who did not have these skills were assigned to working at a foundry or mining. The
POWs worked in a copper mine owned by Mitsubishi. Each day, the POWs were marched up the side of a
mountain to the top and then down into the mine. To their amazement, their guards always seemed to be
waiting for them. It turned out there was a tunnel into the mine which the guards used so they did not
have to climb the mountain.
A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising
the quota. The number of carloads mined by the men were never enough. The POWs were beaten for not
working hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to
get to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding. Lighting was poor and most
areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt. There was
no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning
There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an
explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.
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.