Cpl. Matthew Baxter Braun
Cpl. Matthew B. Braun was born on November 30,
1916, in Sedgewick, Alberta, Canada, to Andrew
& Mable Braun. He was the second oldest
of the couple's four children and known as "Matt"
to his family and friends. He grew up at 9
Williamstown Road in Camden, New York, until the
family moved to 206 North Madison Street in Rome,
New York. He graduated Rome Free Academy in
1934 and after graduation, he held a job annealing
at a brass mill.
Matt was drafted in the U.S. Army in Albany, New York, on March 27, 1941, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. After completing basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion and sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where the battalion was stationed. After the maneuvers - that were taking place there - the 192nd Tank Battalion received overseas orders. Those men considered "too old" for overseas duty were given a chance to resign from federal service. It was at that time that Matthew joined the tank battalion and was assigned to Headquarters Company.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. 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 which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
With his new battalion, Matt traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and was ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Fort McDowell on Angel Island, where the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment. Those who had medical issues were replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd 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. The ship 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, another transport, the S.S. 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.
Upon arrival of at Ft. Stotsenburg, the tankers were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized to them that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. King made sure that the tankers received their Thanksgiving Dinners before he went to have his own.
For the next seventeen days, Matt, and the other members of his company, worked to ready the equipment of the battalion for use in maneuvers they expected to take part in, in the coming month. They removed cosmline from their guns which had been greased so they would not rust during the trip to the Philippines. They also loaded ammunition belts since they were scheduled to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
The morning of Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 192nd was assigned the south end of the airfield. Two members of each tank crew remained with their tank at all times. Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks. The morning of Monday, December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. All members of the tank crews were ordered to their tanks. HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac.
All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.
Being that their job was maintenance and ordnance, the members of HQ company remained in the battalion's bivouac. Since HQ Company had no weapons to fight planes, they could do little more than watch the attack and take cover.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
The battalion remained at Clark Field for two weeks until it received orders to the Lingayen Gulf area were the Japanese had landed. The battalion repeatedly dropped back as it fought the Japanese.
23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of
Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to
use to cross the Agno River was destroyed.
The tankers made an end run to get south of
river and ran into Japanese resistance early in
the evening, but they successfully crossed at
the river in the Bayambang Province. Later
on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive
line along the southern bank of the Agno River
with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the
The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. Afterwards. the officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Matthew's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. They remained at the school yard until they were ordered to move.
the other men, had no idea that they had started
what became known as the death march.
During the march, he received no water and
little food. At another point, the
soldiers were ordered to sit. Behind
the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces
which began firing on Corregidor and Ft.
Drum. These two islands had not
surrendered. Shells from these two
American forts began landing among the
POWs. The POWs could do little since
they had no place to hide. Some POWs
were killed by incoming American
shells. One group that tried to hide
in a small brick building died when it took
a direct hit. The American guns did
succeed in knocking out three of the four
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two were still alive. When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
At San Fernando, Matthew was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car. From Capas, Matthew walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training
base that the Japanese pressed into service as a
Prisoner of War camp. It turned out to be
a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying
each day. There was only one working water
faucet for the entire camp. To get a
drink, men stood in line for days. Many
died while waiting for a drink often because the
Japanese guard shut off the water for no
apparent reason. The death rate among the
POWs was as high as fifty men a day. Many
POWs went out on work details to get out of the
arriving, the POWs were disembarked and
fumigated since they were covered with
lice. They also were inoculated and
showered before being issued new clothing.
They were organized into detachments of 100 men
and marched to the train station where they
boarded a train which they rode to the various
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