Pfc. William Edwin Brown
Pvt. William E. Brown was born August 12, 1919, in Hodge, Louisiana
He was the son of
William Leslie Brown & Zora Alexander-Brown and raised, with his brother, at 527 Fourth Street in Jonesboro,
Louisiana. His family called him "Edwin."
On July 30, 1940, he was inducted into the U.S. Army in Jackson, Mississippi. He was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training. There, he was assigned to the 753ed Tank Battalion. In the late fall of 1941, his battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana. While he was there, the Louisiana maneuvers took place. His battalion did not take part in the maneuvers.
After the maneuvers, replacements were sought to fill the ranks of the 192nd Tank Battalion. This battalion made up mainly of National Guardsmen from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky had been ordered overseas. Those National Guardsmen considered too old to go overseas were released from federal duty. William volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to C Company which had originally been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company.
At Camp Polk, the tanks of the 753rd were given to the 192nd, and the 753rd received the
192nd's M-2 tanks. The equipment of the battalion was loaded onto flat cars and the companies of the
battalion were sent west by trains to San Francisco. Over different train routes, the tankers made their way
west to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to
Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.
On the island, they received physicals and were inoculated by the battalion's medical
detachment. Some members of the company were found to have minor health issues were held back 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. 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. The ship 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.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese
paratroopers on December 1 to guard against paratroopers.
The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese
attacked Clark Field. That morning the soldiers were told about Pearl Harbor and ordered back to their tanks at
the perimeter of the airfield.
All morning as William and his company watched, the sky was filled with American
planes. B-17's were loaded with bombs and fueled. After noon, the planes that had filled the sky
landed and the pilots went to lunch., parked in a straight line outside the mess hall, and their pilots went to
At around 12:45 in the afternoon, William and the other tankers were lining-up near a truck for lunch when they saw planes approaching the airfield from the north. The soldiers counted 54 planes. At first, they thought the planes were American. It was only when they heard the screams of the bombs that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The tankers could do little more than watch as the planes attacked the airfield since they
did not have the weapons to fight them. After the attack, they saw the damage done during the attack.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag . 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the
company crossed over the last bridge which was
mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held
its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion
could leap frog past it and then cover the
192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last
American unit to enter Bataan.
In early February, the Japanese attempted
to land troops behind the main battle line
on Bataan. The troops were quickly
cut off and when they attempted to land
reinforcements, they were landed in the
wrong place. The fight to wipe out
these two pockets became known as the
Battle of the Points.
Another method the tankers used to kill the Japanese was to park the tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver would then spin the tank around grinding the Japanese soldier into the dirt.
On April 9, 1942, William became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He and the other soldiers destroyed their tanks and weapons. They then made their way to Mariveles. It was from there that William started what became known as the death march.
William and the other prisoners made their way north to San
Fernando. The Japanese denied them water and gave them very little food. Those men who dropped had to
be left to die. There, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars
could hold eight horses or forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.
Many died during the trip to Capas but could not fall to the floors of the cars since there was no room for them to
The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was
an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1,
1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and
refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them,
they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the
camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
It is not known if William went out on any work details, but it is known
he was still in the camp later in 1942. According to U.S. Army records, Pfc. William E. Brown died of
dysentery at Cabanatuan on Tuesday, October 20, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery.
After the war, the remains of Pfc. William E. Brown were returned to the United States and buried at Antioch Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Quitman, Louisiana.