Pvt. Paul H. Bruce
Paul H. Bruce was the son of Clomer L. Bruce &
Mamie E. Hendrix-Bruce. He was born on May 21,
1918 in Palo Pinto County, Texas. It is known
that he had two sisters and two brothers.
Sometime during the 1930s, his mother passed away and
the family moved in with his father's brother and his
wife. The family resided in Gladewater,
Texas, in 1940. Paul attended
Texas A & M College for three years but left
before graduating and worked on a street crew for
the City of Gladewater.
Paul was inducted into the U.S. Army in Houston, Texas, on March 11, 1941, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. Maneuvers were going on when the battalion arrived there, but they did not take part in the maneuvers.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to Camp Polk and informed that they were being sent overseas. Since the battalion was primarily National Guardsmen, the Army allowed men 29 years old or older to resign from federal service. Paul replaced one of these men 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.
Over four different train routes the tankers traveled to San Francisco, California, and were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands by the battalion's medical detachment. Those with health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion in the Philippines. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. 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. 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 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, the transport, S. S. President 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.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Gen. 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 worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance. They were scheduled to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On Monday. December 1st, the tanks and half-tracks were ordered to the southern perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Two members of each crew remained with their vehicles at all times. The morning of 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 letter companies were ordered to the tanks and half-tracks at the airfield. 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. Paul and the other members of HQ took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes. After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
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.
A Company, on December 12th, was sent to the Barrio of Dau to protect a road and railroad from sabotage. It remained there until the 21st when it was sent to join B and C Companies which had been sent north toward the Lingayen Gulf were the Japanese were landing troops.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th. The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th. On January 1st, conflicting orders - about who was in command and that the troops should withdraw - were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would trap the Southern Luzon Forces withdrawing 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 and half had withdrawn. 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 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night 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.
The night of January 7th, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: "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."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile. Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
The evening of April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni came to his company and told them they would be surrendered. He told them to destroy anything that would be useful to the Japanese except their trucks. Somehow he came up with enough food and pineapple juice to have what he called their "last supper." On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M. The members of the company remained in their bivouac. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Paul was now a Prisoner of War.
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment, and a Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
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. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Paul'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 and let them sit in the sun for most of the day. When they were ordered to move, they had no idea that they had begun what became known as "The Bataan Death March."
The first place they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machine gun nest. 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 Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese. About once a hour, the POWs were allowed to rest while the Japanese changed guards. During the march, the POWs received no water and little food. What made things worse was as they marched, they came across artesian wells and watering holes, but they were denied their request for water. The Japanese would chase the POWs away from the wells. The lack of water caused the mouths of the POWs to swell and tongues to split. It got to the point that even though the Japanese attempted to keep the prisoners from the water they still went to the wells. This resulted in the deaths of many men who were bayoneted while getting water.
It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it. In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
How long the POWs remained in the bull pen is not known. The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns of 100 men and took them to the train depot at San Fernando. Paul was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. The cars hauled sugarcane and could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car since there was no place to fall. From Capas, William walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp 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 since the Japanese guards controlling the faucet often shut it off for no reason. The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day, so many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
Paul was next held at Cabanatuan. It is not known if he was sent there when the camp opened or if he was sent to the camp after being on a work detail. It is known that he worked on the burial detail at the camp. Paul went out on the Bachrach Garage Detail at Manila. The POWs repaired cars, trucks, and other vehicles for the Japanese. Apparently, he became ill while on the detail and returned to Cabanatuan.
In late September 1942, Paul's name appeared on a transfer list. 800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball. After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M. There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M. The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila. Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier. The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry and were put in a warehouse on the pier. The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted. They also were allowed to wash.
Before boarding the ship on October 7th, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off. This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon. In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship. That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck. Each day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water. The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship. The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed. A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine. The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th, and the POWs disembarked and were bathed on the dock. They sailed again on October 16th at 7:30 A.M. but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M., because the Japanese thought submarines were in the area. At this time, the POWs were receiving two bags of hardtack and a meal of rice and soup each day. The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored until October 27th when it returned to Takao.
During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea. The ship sailed again on October 27th and returned to Takao the same day. The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned. They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 28th and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands. The ship sailed on October 31st, as part of a seven ship convoy. During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea. On November 5th, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered.
The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7th, but the 1300 POWs leaving the ship did not disembark until November 8th. Those POWs who were too ill to continue the trip to Mukden, Manchuria, remained behind at Fusan. Those who died were cremated and had their ashed placed in small white boxes which were sent to Mukden.
The POWs were given new clothes and a fur-lined overcoat before boarding a train for a two day trip to Mukden, arriving there on November 11th. After arriving, the POWs held at the first Mukden camp and they slept in dugouts. On August 3, 1943, they were transferred to the new camp when it was opened, and they were housed in a two story barracks. Each enlisted POW received two thin blankets to cover themselves with at night. The officers got one blanket and a mattress. Meals were the same everyday. For breakfast they had cornmeal mush and a bun. Lunch was maize and beans, and dinner was beans and a bun.
The POWs worked in a machine shop or at a lumber mill and committed acts of sabotage so nothing they made would help the Japanese war effort. The work day started at 7:30 A.M and lasted until 5;50 or 6:00 P.M. To prevent the production of weapons, they committed acts of sabotage like pouring sand into the machine oiling holes. The Japanese usually blamed these acts of sabotage on the Chinese in the plant because they believed the Americans were not smart enough to commit the sabotage. POWs who died, during the winter, bodies were stored in a warehouse until spring. They were than buried in the camp cemetery
Since they were underfed, the POWs trapped wild dogs to supplement their meals of soy beans which usually came in the form of soup. They continued to trap dogs until, while marching to work, they saw one eating a dead Chinese.
The POWs were forced out into the cold and snow and made to strip when the Japanese searched for contraband cigarettes that the prisoners had bought from the Chinese while working in the factories. They were made to stand in the snow barefooted while the Japanese searched all 700 POWs.
Punishment was given for any infraction. Two POWs were knocked out and kicked in the ribs for violating a camp rule. At other times, the camp's food ration was cut in half because the Japanese believed a POW was not working as hard as he should have been, or someone had been caught smoking in an unauthorized area. They would also withhold Red Cross packages.
A U.S. Recovery Team was parachuted into the camp on August 18, 1945. They informed the Japanese that Japan had surrendered. The Russian Army liberated the camp and made the guards march before the POWs. After liberation, most of the POWs were taken to Darien, China, by train. From there, they were transported to Okinawa and the Philippines.
Paul Bruce returned to the United States on the S.S. Simon Bolivar which arrived at San Francisco on October 21, 1945. It was almost four years, to the day, since he had sailed to the Philippines. After receiving more medical treatment, he was discharged on March 9, 1946. He resided in Texas and died at Dallas, Texas, on June 8, 1972. He was buried at Gladewater Memorial Park in Gladewater, Texas.