Pfc. Thomas Franklin Brooks was born on October 13, 1919, in Edmonson County, Kentucky
to Charles Smith Brooks & Frances Isabel Brooks. He was the fourth of the couple's twelve
children. He crew up at Rural Route 2 near Monmouth Cave, Kentucky. He was known as "Frank"
to his family and friends.
Thomas was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 20, 1941 in Louisville, Kentucky. He
was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. During his
training, he became friends with Pvt. Patrick Boone and Pfc. James Carter.
From September 1st through 30th, the battalion took part in maneuvers in
After taking part in maneuvers in Louisiana, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and remained
there for about two weeks before being informed it was being sent overseas. The soldiers were given furloughs
home to say goodbye to their families. After returning to Camp Polk, Louisiana, the soldiers cosmolined
anything that could rust while at sea and loaded their new tanks - M3 "Stuart" Tanks that came from the
753rd Tank Battalion.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. 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. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day, so the next day - when a Navy ship
was sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up. It was at that time the decision was made to build up
the American military presence in the Philippines.
Over different train routes, the companies were sent to 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 2 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 Date Line. 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 8, 1941, just hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the
company was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field. All morning long, the sky was filled
with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. The
planes were parked in a straight line outside the pilots' mess hall.
At 12:45, two formations, totaling 54 planes, approached the airfield from the
north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew that planes were Japanese. Being
that their tanks could not fight planes, they watched as the Japanese destroyed the Army Air Corps.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The
soldiers watched as the dead, the dying, and the wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and
anything else, 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.
One of the results of the attack was that the transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was
never completed. The company retained its designation of being part of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon
and the Battle of Bataan.
The 194th, with D Company, was moved, the night of the 12th, to an area south of San
Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M. On December 13, the tankers were moved 80
kilometers from Clark Field to do reconnaissance and to guard beaches. On the 15th, the battalion received 15
Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts. These were used to test the
ground to see if it could support tanks.
The tank battalions were sent to the area around the Lingayen Gulf. The company was
near a mountain, so many of the tankers climber to the top. On the mountain, they found troops, ammunition,
guns but were just sitting there watching the Japanese ships in the gulf. They had received orders not to
The tankers walked down the mountain and waited. They received orders to drop
back from the mountain and let the Japanese occupy it. They watched as the Japanese brought their equipment
to the top of the mountain. The Americans finally received orders to launch a counterattack which failed.
On December 22, the companies were operating north of the Agno River and after the main
bridge was bombed, on December 24/25, made an end tun to get south of the river and not be trapped by the
Japanese. The tanks held the south bank of the river from west of Carmen to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road
with the 192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin).
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in the night in a coconut grove. As it turned out,
the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks
did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose line
on December 26. When they dropped back from the line, all the platoons withdrew, except one which provided
cover, as the other platoons from the area. One tank went across the line receiving fire and firing on the
At Bayambang, Lt. Petree's platoon lost a tank. It was at this time that D
Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks, except one, because the bridge they were suppose to cross had been
destroyed. The company commander, Lt. Jack Altman, could not bring himself to totally destroy the tanks, and
the Japanese repaired them and used them on Bataan. The sergeant of the one tank, that had not abandoned,
found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south
of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were
attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to
withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen.
MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces
defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st
Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2
to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using
smoke as cover. This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese
withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6/7 the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its
position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's
withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up
the bridge at 6:00 A.M. It was at this time that the tank companies were reduced to three tanks each.
This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as replacements,
At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company, 194th, were given the job to hold
the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along
the bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they
were wearing white t-shirts. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
The night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the
Culis Creek and entered Bataan. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan. At this time, the food
rations were cut in half.
General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time.
"Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay
will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the
enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and
personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the
greatest possible delay."
A composite tank company was created on January 8 under the command of Capt. Donald
Haines, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa. Its job was to keep the
north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been formed.
The Japanese never lunched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed. The tanks withdrew after they
began receiving artillery fire.
The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda
Road. While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month. The tanks, which
were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance. It was also at this time that tank
platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon. This was done so that D Company, 192nd,
would have tanks.
The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda's forces, which
were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw. Attempting to do this two tanks were knocked out by
landmines planted by ordnance, but recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was destroyed. The mission was
abandoned the next day. Gen. Segunda's forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st
Infantry's command post. On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry,
but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26
with four self-propelled mounts. At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that a
large Japanese force was coming down the road. When they appeared the tanks opened up on them. At 10:30, the
Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men. This action prevented the new line of defense from being
On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that the
Japanese couldn't land troops. The 194th guarded the coastline from Limay to Cabcaban. During the
day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy. At bight they were pulled out onto the beaches. The
battalion's half-tracks had the job of patrolling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with
on-shore and off-shore patrols.
For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been
fought to a standstill. On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to
free them. While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area. Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller
ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point blank range. He also ran from tank to tank directing the
crew's fire. The Japanese were wiped out. On March 21, the last major battle was fought by the
At some point Tom was hospitalized at Hospital #2 at Cabcaben, Bataan, and was still in the
hospital when Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942.
Tom is listed as part of the Cabcaben POW Camp on May 19, 1942. It appears to be a roster of POWs
being transferred from the Hospital #2 to Bilibid Prison. How long he stayed at Bilibid is not known, but
he and the other POWs who were in the hospital when the surrender took place were sent to Cabanatuan #3.
They would later be sent to Cabanatuan #1, which was where the survivors of the death march were sent, when the
camp was closed.
What is known is that in late 1942, Thomas developed beriberi. According to U. S.
Army records, Pfc. Thomas Franklin Brooks died of beriberi at Cabanatuan POW Camp on Thursday, December 10, 1942,
at approximately 5:20 PM, and was buried in the camp cemetery in Grave: 917, Row: 0, Plot: 9.
After the war, on November 25, 1947, the remains of Pvt. Thomas F. Brooks, and of other POWs
buried in Grave 917, were exhumed from the grave. The remains believed to be those of Thomas were given the
number C-641, later X-1683, and finally X-4483. In 1949, it was determined that his remains and the remains
of three other POWs could not be identified.
Thomas' remains were buried at the new
American Military Cemetery at Manila.
Records seem to indicate that he was buried in Plot: 3, Row: 4, Grave: 425 as an unknown.
Since his remains could not be identified, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the
center of the cemetery.
It should be noted that on the Tablets, it shows that Tom was a member of the 194th Tank
Battalion. Although D Company was attached to the 194th, it was never officially transferred to the battalion
and remained a part of the 192nd Tank Battalion throughout the Battle of Bataan.