Pvt. Grover Cleveland Brummett
Pvt. Grover C. Brummett was born April 9, 1920, in Garratt County to Joseph Brummett & Nellie Ashford-Brummett. He grew up on a small farm near Lancaster, Kentucky, with his three sisters and two brothers. As a child he attended school in Hubble where he was educated in a one room log school house. When he was ten, his family moved to Harrodsburg. In 1938, he graduated from Harrodsburg High School and worked on his brother's farm outside of Harrodsburg.
He had attempted to join the regular army, but his father refused to sign the papers. His reason for joining the army was that he wanted to get off the family farm. When he was nineteen, he joined the National Guard with his friends Maurice "Jack" Wilson, Bland Moore, Cecil Vandiver, Morris Collier and William Gentry. His father, once again, had to sign the papers. His father believed that if he signed the papers, Grover would be home to help him harvest, but Grover failed to tell his father that the tank company was going to be federalized.
On November 25, 1940, the tank company was called to federal service. Traveling to Fort Knox, three days later, the members of the tank company were now members of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. Grover recalled that this tour of duty was suppose to be for one year. It was at Ft. Knox that Grover was trained to drive a half-track. He believed that the training he and the other men received was basic training for every soldier. He would later become a half-track commander.
It was also there that Grover was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created in January 1941. In his opinion, the men selected for transfer, to the company, were the troublemakers in each of the letter companies.
One day, Grover looked down at the PX from the hill top where the 192nd's tank park was located. He noticed 50 to 60 men in front of it. He went down to take a look and found that a fight was going on between some D Company men and members of 19th Ordnance. One member of his company was taking a pretty good beating, but Grover managed to stop the fight.
Later that same day, each letter company of the 192nd sent a truck load of soldiers down to the PX looking for a fight with 19th Ordnance, but the fight never took place. Kenneth Hourigan pulled a knife out and put it against one of the troublemakers stomach. This seemed to convince those involved to stop fighting.
In the late summer of 1941, Grover traveled to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from September 1st through 30th. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of retuning to Ft. Knox. Grover learned that the battalion was being sent overseas.
The 192nd Tank Battalion received orders for duty, in the Philippines, because of an event that happened during 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, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island several hundred miles to the north. When the squadron landed he reported what he had seen. By the time 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.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Two members of each tank crew had to remain with the tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks. Being assigned to a half-track, Grover was sent to the airfield
During the attack, Grover ran to his half-track and manned a .30 caliber machine gun on his half-track. He soon realized that the Japanese planes were making a figure eight and simply left the gun in one position. He believed he shot down several planes. In the heat of the battle, Grover saw a plane off to his side, he began shooting at it. The pilot began to wave his wings to indicate that he was an American attempting to take off.
On December 21, 1941, the battalion was sent north toward Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops. During the Battle of Luzon, Grover is credited with shooting down two Japanese Zeros and a "Photo Joe" reconnaissance plane. In his opinion, the U.S. 26th Calvary, Philippine Scouts was slaughtered by its own officers by sending them into battle against tanks. As the Filipino and American forces fell back into Bataan, Grover's tank covered five retreats. During one of these retreats, Japanese troops ran into Grover's encampment at about 2:30 in the morning. Grover and the other soldiers had about 600 grenades from World War I. They began throwing the grenades. Only about half of the grenades exploded. Grover radio headquarters and was told to get his tanks out of there.
During the Battle of Bataan, Grover lost a tank in his platoon. While the tank crew was sleeping, the Japanese dug a trench under the tank. The Japanese then raised the turret's hatch cover and dropped a grenade into the tank killing the four crewmen.
Grover recalled that the tanks were the last units to pull back during a withdrawal. The tanks would lay down intense fire as the Filipino and American troops withdrew. After the troops had withdrawn, the tanks would destroy anything that the Japanese could possibly use. This included warehouses, rice caches and banks.
On April 9, 1942, Grover became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered. The company remained in their encampment for three days before Japanese arrived. He and many of the other members of the company had their 45s on them with one bullet in the chamber. If the Japanese were going to kill them, they planned on killing themselves. The Japanese and ordered them to make their way to Mariveles.
The members of the company lined up along the road that ran past their encampment. In front of them, they put their possessions. About that time, a Japanese officer and 300 Japanese troops came down the road. The Japanese took what they wanted from the Americans.
Grover and the other men climbed onto trucks and road down toward Mariveles. Outside the barrio, they were herded onto an airfield. They were left there for several hours. As they sat, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form across from them. The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad. Many believed it was the end of the line for them.
As they prepared to die, a car pulled off and a Japanese officer ordered the soldiers not to harm the prisoners. As he pulled away in the car, they lowered their guns.
Later in the day, Grover and the other men were marched to a school yard in Mariveles. Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces. The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire.
Shells began landing around them and men attempted to take cover. Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it was hit. When the barrage ended, most of the Japanese guns had been destroyed.
It was from this school yard that Grover began the death march. He made his way from Mariveles to San Fernando. During the march he saw men who had fallen shot and bayoneted where they fell. At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars. Those who died in the cars did not fall down until the prisoners exited the cars at Capas.
Grover also recalled that he was marching with Bland Moore. The Japanese had these short whips and loved to hit the POWs across their butts with them. Having a bad temper, Moore told Grover that he didn't know what he would do if a guard hit him with one. A while later Moore was a little in front of Grover when a guard hit him across his butt with the whip. When Grover caught up to Moore, he told Moore said to him, "Bland, did I see that Jap whap you?" Moore looked at him and said, " You know I liked it too."
For Grover the worse thing about the march was the lack of food and water. At one point, a captain asked Grover for his canteen cup. At first Grover hesitated about giving it to him. The officer told Grover that he would get water and give him a cup. The officer ran up to one of the artesian wells and filled the cups with water. A Japanese guard came up behind the officer and stuck him in the butt with his bayonet but not deep enough to really hurt him. The officer ran back in line and handed Grover his cup of water.
General James Weaver was in Grover's group of POWs. Because of his age, Weaver was being carried in a chair. Two poles were attached to the legs of the chair so that four POWs could carry him. At one point, Grover had the job of carrying Weaver. Because of this, Grover did not think to highly of Weaver. In his opinion, he and the other POWs were barely able to make the march on their own, and they were given the additional chore of making sure Weaver survived it.
Just south of San Fernando a Filipino boy was selling rice cakes. The POWs had no money so they could not by them. Grover told the man next to him that he was going to get the boy to come over and grab his basket of rice cakes. He told the man to take as many as he could grab. When the boy came over Grover reached into his pocket as if he had money and than grabbed the basket. The other man grabbed rice cakes. The boy kept telling him he wanted his money. A Japanese guard finally chased the boy away.
It took Grover fourteen days to complete the march. During this period, he was only fed once. At one point, Grover saw two Filipinos who were going to boil some rice in a canteen cup. A Japanese guard told them to move on. The two Filipinos did not understand what the soldier was saying so the Japanese soldier bayoneted them.
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.
Grover also spent time on the Bachrach Garage Detail with Pvt. Jim Langford, HQ Company, and Pvt. Judson Simpson who was one of the original members of D Company. Grover next was sent to Manila where he worked as a stevedore loading and unloading 55 gallon drums from ships.
Grover was then sent to Bilibid Prison to be processed for shipment to Japan. It was at this time that he attempted to talk his best friend, John Cummins, into going to Japan with him. John refused stating that it was just a matter of time before the Americans would liberate the POWs. Grover was boarded onto the Nissyo Maru at 8:00 A.M. on July 17, 1944. The ship sailed but dropped its anchor by the breakwater in the bay. It remained anchored there from July 18th to July 23 while a convoy formed.
At 7:00 P.M. the same day, the ship sailed. From July 30 to August 2, it sailed through a storm. The POWs were issued new clothes on August 3 before it arrived at midnight August 4. The entire voyage to Japan took seventeen days because the convoy was attempting to avoid American submarines. The only source of light in the hold was one light bulb. In Grover's own words, "The hell ship was exactly what it was called, Hell."
The POWs were disembarked at 8:00 A.M., and put in a pitch black theater. They remained there until they were formed into detachments of 100 men and taken to the train station. They boarded a train and were dropped off at camps along the line. In Grover's case, he was taken to Nagoya #2 and became POW 514.
The camp was built on the side of a hill with local lumber with a 8 foot fence around it. The building - which was 40 feet long and 25 feet wide - was poorly built. During the winter the building was cold since it was not insulated. There were three charcoal pits in the building and two stoves in it, but the stoves were in poor condition and could not be used. The POWs slept on straw mats which were 3 feet wide and 6 feet long, and their pillows were canvas stuffed with rice husks.
The POWs, in the barracks, were assigned to groups of four men which shared a sleeping area. It was also in these small groups that the POWs received their meals, which consisted mostly of rice and a soup, and they were fairly well fed.
The amount of food given to the POWs also was also reduced. This resulted in the POWs, in the little free time that the POWs to sit around and talk about food and the meals they would have when they got home. He and the other prisoners would actually feel as if they had eaten after each of these sessions.
The clothing the POWs wore was the clothing they had when they were taken prisoner. Red Cross clothing sent to the camp was misappropriated by the Japanese who were seen wearing it. This also was true for Red Cross medical supplies. The camp doctor, who was a POW, worked with a Japanese enlisted man. The Japanese soldier had control of all medicines and overruled the doctor on which POWs were too sick to work. Sick POWs were sent to work since they were needed at the mill.
When the POWs learned of the surrender, they pulled their earnings so the could purchase a bull that the Japanese had used as a work animal. The negotiated with the Japanese, who let the former POWs have the bull for the equivalence of $5000.00. They ate the meat for six meals, which was tough, but they refused to share it with the guards.
It should be mentioned that while Grover was a POW at Narumi, his father, Joseph Brummett, passed away on January 25, 1945. He learned of his father's death after he had been liberated.
Grover returned to Kentucky and married Mary Will Moore in November 1945. Together they had two sons, James and Ronald. Ronald died as an infant. The couple also had two daughter. It is known that he later married Evangeline Wiser and worked as a salesman and lived in Louisville.
Grover C. Brummett passed away on February 7, 2002, in Louisville, Kentucky.