| 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
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
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 fall.
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
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
responded, "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 country."
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 crisis."
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.