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, Columbus, Georgia.
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 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
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
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
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on
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 Bayambang Province.
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 27.
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
against enemy tanks.
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.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town
of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were
on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt.
Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the
bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese
tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on
the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to
the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third
platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag
2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and
was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became
very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.
Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the
Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and
drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and
then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through
buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had
knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to
be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then
cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for
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 landings.
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.
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.
While the tanks were clearing out the Japanese, the Japanese sent
soldiers carrying cans of gasoline against the tanks. The soldiers would attempt to jump onto the tanks,
pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not
machine gun them before they reached the tanks, they would shoot them as they stood on the tanks. The
tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crews inside the tanks. The bullets hitting
the tank often popped the tank's rivets which hit the crew members and wounded them.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April
3. 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 tanks left.
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 6,000 troops who were sick or wounded and 40,000 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
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, where they started what they simply referred to as
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
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
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
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 they returned.
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
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 dropped.
He was sent to Japan on the
, 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 POW camp.
In Japan, Jack was sent to
, which was built on a side of a hill with a wooden wall around it. The POWs lived in flimsy wooden
barracks that were not heated and were always cold. Along the walls were two tiers of platforms on
which the POWs slept on with straw mats. One tier was located six feet above the floor and the other
was six feet above the floor that the POWs reached by climbing ladders. The baracks were infested with
lice, fleas, and bedbugs.
The POWS worked in the Yawata Steel Mills, where they shoveled iron ore and rebuilt
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. Two of
the things made at the mills were hand grenades and shell casings for the Japanese war effort. 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. They worked at the from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. and received a half hour lunch.
Food for the POWs consisted of a main dish of rice, wheat, wheat flour, corn, and,
Kaoliang, a millet for breakfast and supper. Their lunches, which was millet, was taken to work with
them with bento boxes. The only time meat was served to them was when rotten meat was discovered and
the Japanese decided to give it to the POWs.
Although 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. The only other member of A Company in
the camp was Thomas Samek who died in February 1945. All POWs who died were reported to have died in
the camp hospital.
Three days a month, the POWs were allowed to exchange their worn out clothing for
new clothing, but a Japanese guard in charge beat POWs attempting to exchange their clothing or shoes.
The POWs went without clothing and shoes, to avoid the beatings, which resulted in men developing pneumonia
and dying. After the war, warehouses were discovered containind Red Cross clothing and shoes, and
leather to repair shoes.
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.
The Yawata 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