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.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled over different railroad routes to San Francisco, California. HQ Company was routed along the Gulf Coast and through New Mexico and Arizona before traveling up the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. There, they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, where they were given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment. From Angel Island, Grover left the United States for the Philippine Islands.
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. 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.
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, another transport, the 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, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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.
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
Having heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the were brought up to full strength around the perimeter of Clark Field to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers. Around lunchtime on December 8, 1941, Grover lived through the attack on the airfield. Grover and other soldiers were coming out of the non-com club. 1st Sgt. Willard Swift pointed to the sky at the planes. He pulled out his binoculars and began counting them. It was only when the bombs began exploding that they knew the planes were Japanese.
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.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. Other POWs worked in rice paddies. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as "Zero Ward," which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier.
At some point, Grover went out on a work detail to collect scrap metal. The detail to the POWs became known as the Bataan Detail. While on the detail, the POWs hunted water buffaloes with the Japanese. The POWs put out salt and the water buffaloes came down from the mountains at night to eat it. They would turn on lights on two eighteen ton wreckers and the Japanese shot them. The POWs were allowed to eat the hind quarters. When the detail ended, he returned to Cabanatuan.
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.
Other documents indicate that he was also on a work detail at Balanga. The detail was referred as the Army Air Bu Detail. It appears that he was in a smaller detachment of this detail called the Av Bu Detail. The POWs were given the freedom of roaming Balanga but could not leave the barrio. It is believed the POWs built runways at an airfield.
Grover became ill and was sent to Bilibid Prison suffering from epilepsy on January 3, 1944. He was discharged on February 14, 1944, but readmitted on February 26 suffering from enteritis which is a swelling of the intestine. The records show he was discharged on February 29th and returned to the Av. Bu. Detail.
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 18 to July 23 while a convoy formed.
The convoy left Manila Bay on July 24 and hugged the coastline of Luzon to avoid American submarines. At 3:00 A.M. on July 26, the POWs in the ship's holds heard a huge explosion and, since the hatch covers were off, saw the flames shoot over the ship. The remaining ships made it safely to Takao, Formosa, at 9:00 A.M. on July 28.
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.
At this camp, the POWs worked for the Daido Electric Steel Company and were used as slave labor in the manufacturing of wheels for railroad locomotives. A work day lasted from six to eight hours. To get to and return from the mill, the POWs rode an electric train - with Japanese civilians - which took a half hour to and from the mill. The civilians would throw their cigarette butts on the floor of the train cars. The Americans who got on the trains first were able to collect the butts. At the mill, most of the POWs did common labor, but those who had machinist skills were put to work at finishing the wheels. Many of the employees were former members of the Japanese soldiers who had sustained wounds that prevented them from continuing in the military.
At first, the Japanese actually treated the POWs fairly well when they first arrived in the camp, until the area, including the camp was bombed in December 1944 resulting in casualties. From that time on, the treatment of the POWs changed. The roof of the barracks had been damaged during the air raid, but the Japanese did not repair it. The Japanese also became extremely brutal with the POWs, especially those caught stealing food. The common punishment given to the POWs was to be beaten, kicked, hit with sticks, clubs, and rifle butts, while standing at attention outside the guardhouse without food or water from hours to days. POWs also would be tied with rope, in a crouching position, and left in it for as long as 24 hours. During the winter, they also had their clothing stripped from them and made to stand at attention for long periods of time in the cold and were denied food and water.
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.
As the war went on, American bombs fell around the camp. The POWs saw craters on both sides of the camp from air raids to knock out the train station. As they went to work, the POWs counted the bomb craters.
One night, the bombers destroyed the factory that the POWs worked in. No prisoners were killed because the attack came at night. After the attacks, all work was stopped. Most of the POWs were put to work cleaning debris up at the mill.
It was also at this camp that Grover witnessed a prisoner put to death for stealing. One night, the man crawled into the camp kitchen to steal food. For whatever reason, the man did not get out. Realizing he would be caught, he attempted to kill himself. The Japanese allowed the man to heal and then made him stand naked in front of the other POWs. The Japanese then proceeded to starve the man to death.
The POWs knew something was up and were finally told that the war was over. One morning the camp's interpreter told the prisoners, "Between your country and mine we are now friends." The camp was turned over to the POWs and the guards vanished. The guards left behind their weapons so the POWs posted guards to protect themselves against any possible attack. The POWs also marked the camp so that it could be spotted by American planes. The B-29s began dropping fifty gallon barrels of supplies to the former prisoners. On September 2, 1945, American planes appeared and dropped food and clothing to former POWs. These missions continued until the POWs were officially liberated.
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.
The strangest experience for the former prisoners was the fact the Japanese now insisted on bowing to them. It also seemed a little strange to them that the Japanese brought all the food dropped by the B-29s to them without taking anything for themselves. This was strange to the men, because they knew that the Japanese civilians did not have much more to eat than the former POWs. The men assumed that the Japanese civilians had been told they would be killed if they were caught with American food. On September 4, 1945, American troops liberated the former POWs.
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.
On September 12, 1945, the former POWs received orders to move south. They boarded trains and went to southern Japan. There they boarded the U.S.S. Rescue for medical treatment. It was on this ship that Lewis learned that he weighed 95 pounds. Since it was determined that Grover was in pretty good health, he was boarded onto another American ship and taken to Yokohoma. From there, he was flown to Okinawa and returned to the Philippines. He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Joseph Dychman arriving in San Francisco, California, and taken to Letterman General Hospital.
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.
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