Pvt. James M. Bryant
was born on September 25, 1920, in Inman, South
Carolina, to William Bryant & Alma
Bridges-Bryant. He was one of the couple's
two sons. His parents divorced while he
was a child. With his mother and brother,
he lived in Beech Springs, South Carolina.
He was known as "Jack" to his family and
friends. His mother would later remarry,
and the family resided at 4404 First Avenue,
On February 4, 1941, Jack was
inducted into the Army at Augusta,
Georgia. He was sent to Fort Benning,
Georgia, for basic training. After basic
training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank
Battalion. What job he was qualified to do
is not known.
In the late summer of 1941,
the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk,
Louisiana. Maneuvers were taking place at
the fort but the battalion did not take part in
them. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had
taken part in maneuvers, was ordered Camp Polk
for further orders. The battalion learned
they were being sent overseas. Those men
29 years old or older were given the chance to
resign from federal service. Jack replaced
a National Guardsmen released from federal
service. He was assigned to C 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
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.
Many of the members of
the battalion were given furloughs so that they
could say goodbye to family and friends.
They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train
to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, and
were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on
the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.
On the island they were given physicals and
inoculated for tropical diseases by the
battalion's medical detachment. Some men
were held back for health issues but scheduled
to join 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. The ship 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
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 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 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 Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized
that the men had to live in tents along the main
road between the fort and Clark Airfield.
He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving
Dinner before he went to have his own.
Ironically, November 20 was the date that the
National Guard members of the battalion had
expected to be released from federal service.
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.
The tanks were
ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield
to guard against Japanese paratroopers on
December 1. At all times, two
members of each tank crew remained with their
tank. The morning of December 8th, the
tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor. When they looked up that
morning, the sky was filled with American
planes. At noon, the planes landed, parked
in a straight line outside the mess hall, and
their pilots went to lunch.
Around 12:45 in the
afternoon, the tankers noticed planes
approaching the airfield. When bombs began
exploding around them, they knew the planes were
Japanese. Besides their .50 caliber
machine guns, they had few weapons to use
against the planes. Most took cover and
waited out the attack. After it ended,
they saw the destruction done by the bombs.
On December 23
and 24, 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
On December 25, 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
The tankers were fell
back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on
December 27th, and December were at San Isidro
south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.
While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River
was destroyed, they were able find a crossing
over the river.
At Cabu, seven tanks of
the company fought a three hour battle with the
Japanese. The main Japanese line was south
of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of
the battle. The tanks were hidden
in brush as Japanese troops passed them for
three hours without knowing that they were
there. While the troops passed, Lt.
William Gentry was on his radio describing what
he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese
soldier tried take a short cut through the
brush, that his tank was hidden in,
that the tanks were discovered. The
tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on
the Japanese. They then fell back to
C Company was
re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the
tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten
tanks. It was at Baluiag that Gentry's
tanks won the first tank victory of World War II
After this battle, C
Company made its way south. When it
entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled
with Japanese guns and other equipment.
The tank company destroyed as much of the
equipment as it could before proceeding south.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Over the next
several months, the battalion fought battle
after battle with tanks that were not designed
for jungle warfare. The tank
battalions , on January 28, 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. The
Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding
the beaches prevented them from attempting
C Company 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.
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.
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.
The second method was simple. The tank was
parked with one track across the
foxhole. The driver spun the tank on
one track. The tank dug into the dirt
until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
The Japanese lunched an
all out attack on April 4.
On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine
Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore
the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented
this from happening. During this action,
one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks
successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th,
which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven
The tanks became a
favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire
on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and
could not fight back. The situation was so
bad that other troops avoided being near the
tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank
company's offer of assistance in a
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 were 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.
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."
About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the
tankers received the order "crash." They
destroyed their tanks and waited for the
Japanese to make contact with them. When
they did, the Americans officially became
Prisoners of War. They made their way, as
a company, to Mariveles at the southern tip of
Bataan. There, they started what they
simply referred to as "the march."
From Mariveles, the
POWs made there way north to San Fernando.
They received little food and almost no
water. At San Fernando, the POWs were
packed into a bull pin. In one corner was
a slit trench that was used as a washroom.
The surface moved from the maggots that covered
The Japanese ordered
the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.
They were marched to the train station and put
into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul
sugarcane. The cars could hold forty men
or eight horses and were known as "Forty or
Eights." The Japanese packed 100 men into
each car. Those who died remained standing
until the living left the cars at Capas.
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
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
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
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.
Meals on a daily basis
consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces
of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or
corn. Since the POWs were underfed, many
became ill and died of malnutrition.
The POWs were sent out on
work details to cut wood for the POW
kitchens. 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 to drive their faces deeper into the
mud. 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
The barracks used by the POWs
were built to hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put
from 60 to 120 POWs in each one. There no
shower facilities and the POWs slept on
bamboo strips. In addition no bedding,
covers, or mosquito netting was provided which
resulted in many becoming ill.
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. Most
of the POWs who died there died because their
bodies were too malnourished to fight the
diseases they had. It was only when Red
Cross parcels were given to the POWs that it
He was sent to Japan on the Nissyo
Maru, and loaded onto the ship on
July 11. The ship was moved from
Pier 7 to the harbor's breakwater where it
dropped anchor. It remained at the
breakwater from July 18 to 23 while a convoy
formed. On July 23, at 8:00 A.M., it
sailed to Corregidor where it dropped anchor
again at 2:00 P.M. It sailed the morning
of the 24 as part of a convoy.
The ships entered the
South China Sea where one ship was sunk at 3:00
A.M. by an American submarine. Since the
hatch covers were not on the holds, the POWs saw
the flames from the explosion shoot over the
ship. Three other ships were also sunk.
The convoy arrived at
Takao, Formosa, on July 28 at 9:00 A.M. It
remained in port until 8:00 P.M. when the ships
sailed for Moji, Japan. From July 30 until
August 2, the ships sailed through a
storm. The POWs were issued clothing on
August 3rd, but the ship did not arrive at Moji
until midnight of August 4.
The POWs were unloaded
at 8:00 A.M. and herded into a theater.
The POWs were organized into detachments of 100
POWs. They were marched from the theater
to a train station and rode a train, on the
Tobata Line of the West Railroad Line, to the
Jack was sent to Fukuoka
#3-B, where he
worked at the Yawata Steel Mills doing manual
labor shoveling iron ore and rebuilding the
ovens. The POWs were also sent into the
ovens to clean out the debris. Since the
ovens were hot, because the Japanese would not
let them cool off, the POWs worked faster on
this detail. If an air raid took place
while the POWs were at the mill, they were put
into railway cars and the train was pulled into
a tunnel. Those POWs further from the
tunnel took cover in two air raid
shelters. The POWs worked from 8:00 A.M.
until 4:00 P.M., and received a half hour
The barracks that the
POWs lived in were always cold since the
Japanese heated them on a minimal basis.
They were infested with bedbugs, lice, and
fleas. The food in the camp consisted of a
main meal of rice, wheat, flower, corn, and,
Kaoliang, a millet. At night, they hunted
rats, for meat, to supplement their diet.
Only the sick rooms had heat. All POWs who
died were reported to have died in the camp
medical supplies for the POWs were sent to the
camp by the Red Cross, the Japanese commandant
would not give the American medical staff the
medicine that was in the packages. Any
surgery in the camp had to be performed with
crude medical tools even though the Red Cross
had sent the proper surgical tools. To
meet quotas for workers, the sick POWs were
required to work even if it meant they could
possibly die from doing it. The Japanese
camp doctor made the sick stand out in the cold
for hours. He beat them and allowed the
guards to beat them.
Three days a month, the POWs
were allowed to exchange their worn out clothing
for new clothing, but a Japanese guard beat POWs
attempting to exchange their clothing. The
POWs went without clothing to avoid the beatings
which resulted in men developing pneumonia and
The POWs were beaten daily
with fists and sticks for violating camp rules,
and the guards often required them to stand at
attention, in the cold, while standing
water. In one incident an entire barracks
was slapped in the face, by the guards, because
some POWs had smoked in the barracks.
During the winter, POWs who were being punished
often had water thrown on them. A group of
about 60 POWs were made to crawl on their hands
and knees, while carrying other POWs, on their
backs. As they crawled, they were hit with
bamboo sticks, belts, and rifle butts.
There were two brigs in the camp which had as
many as 20 POWs in them at a time.
Another incident involved an
American soldier who traded with the Japanese.
The war was almost over and Japan was about to
surrender. The soldier traded for roasted
beans. As it turned out, the beans had
been tainted with arsenic. The soldier
died the next day. After going through all
he had suffered, the soldier died when freedom
was almost his.
Steel Mills were the primary target for the
second atomic bomb, but since the sky was
extremely overcast, the bomb was dropped on
Nagasaki. This time, they saw
Japanese workers facing in the direction of
radio speakers with their heads bowed. The
Americans thought that the emperor had passed
away. The truth was that the second atomic
bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki, and the
emperor was announcing Japan's surrender.
An American ensign, who could read and speak
Japanese, saw a newspaper with the announcement
of the surrender. He was the first person
to inform his fellow POWs that the war was
over. They were then told the same news by
a Japanese officer.
Jack was held in the
camp until he was liberated on September 13,
1945. He was returned to the Philippines
for medical treatment and then the United
States. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant
and discharged on February 4, 1946.
Jack married Doris A.
Turner and became the father of one daughter and
two sons. One son died when he was
four. The family resided in Columbus,
Georgia. According to Jack's daughter, he
never recovered from his experiences as a POW
and died from cirrhosis of the liver from acute
alcoholism on March 11, 1955. He was
buried at Riverdale Cemetery, in Columbus, in
Plot 30, Section 14.