Pvt. Robert H. Brooks was the son of Adline &. Ray Brooks. He was born in October 8, 1915, in
McFarland, Kentucky. He was raised in Sadieville, Kentucky, with his two sisters. As an adult, he moved
to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he enlisted in the U.S. Army in late 1940.
In November 1940, Robert became a member of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The
reason he joined the company was that the company had only 66 men. He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where
he qualified as a half-track and a tank driver. He attended track vehicle maintenance school at Ft. Knox
and was assigned to the maintenance section of D Company. He also drove the half track of Sgt. Morgan
French who was in charge of tank maintenance.
From September 1 through 30, the 192nd went on maneuvers in Louisiana. They had no
idea that they had already been selected for overseas duty. After the maneuvers the battalion was ordered
to Camp Polk, Louisiana, at the end of the maneuvers, where the battalion members learned that they were being
sent overseas. Most of the soldiers were given two week furloughs home.
The reason for this move was because of an event that happened earlier in 1941. A
squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was lower than
the others, 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, with a large radio transmitter. The island was
hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles before
returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, the
buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication
between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was
made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion's new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto
flat cars, on different trains. The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust.
Over different train routes, the companies were sent to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were
ferried, by the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given
physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found 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 27. 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 5, 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 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they
awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had
crossed the International Dateline. On Saturday, November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard
against Japanese paratroopers. The 194th, with D Company, was assigned northern part of the airfield and
the 192nd guarded the southern half. Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their
vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an
office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The letter companies were ordered to
the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. HQ Company remained behind
in their bivouac.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the sky was filled with American planes.
The soldiers had learned about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor earlier in the morning. At noon,
the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. The planes were lined up in a
straight line outside the pilots' mess hall.
At 12:45, two formations of plane approached the airfield from the
northwest. Most of the members of D Company had gone to lunch, and one man had been left behind with each
tank and half-track. Robert was with two of the mechanics from maintenance when the first bombs began to
According to Morgan French, Robert was running to his half-track.
It was the belief of the other members of the company that Robert was attempting to get to
his half-track so he could man the .50 caliber machine gun on it. As he ran, a bomb, which was a dud, hit
Robert and split him in two. He was killed instantly. Ralph Stine, who was looking through the viewing
slit in his tank, watched the entire event. Stine stated that he knew the bomb was a dud because it landed
twenty feet from his tank. When Robert was found by the other members of his company, half his head and part
of his shoulder were missing. Robert Brooks was the first American tank battalion member to be killed in
World War II.
When the news of his death reached Fort Knox, the commanding General, Jacob Devers, decided that a parade ground
, at the fort, should be named in his honor. One of General Dever's subordinates called the Farmer's
Deposit Bank in Sadieville, Kentucky, attempting to reach Robert's parents. As it turned out, the bank
had the only phone in the town. W. T. Warring at the bank answered the phone, and was asked by the aide if he
would ask Robert's parents if they could be present at the dedication ceremony.
The aide asked Mr. Warring if he could tell him anything about
Robert's parents. Mr. Warring said,
" His parents are tenant farmers, ordinary Black people; maybe you could contact them and see if they
The general's representative hung up the phone and immediately called
back. He said to Mr. Warring,
"Did you say they were Black?"
"Yes, his mother and father are very dark."
The aide felt that this might change the situation. When he reported back to General
Devers, the general said,
"It did not matter whether or not Robert was Black, what mattered was that he had given his life for his
The ceremony dedicating the parade ground in honor of
Robert Brooks was held with Robert's parents present. During the
dedication, General Devers said in his dedication speech,
"In death there is no grade or rank. And in this greatest democracy the world has ever known, neither
riches nor poverty, neither creed nor race, draws a line of demarcation in this hour of national
After the war, Robert Brooks' remains were moved to the
American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. He still lies there today with
the other members of his battalion. He was posthumously promoted to Private First Class.