| Pvt. J. C. Garrett was born on November 24, 1915, in Caddo County, Louisiana, to Charles & Mattie Garrett. With his two sisters and three brothers grew up in Panola County, Texas, on the family farm. He attended Greenwood High School, in Greenwood, Louisiana, but he left high school to work on the family farm. |
On February 12, 1941, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he attended school and qualified as a tank mechanic. After basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion and sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941.
When the maneuvers ended, the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion, which did take part in the maneuvers, remained behind at Camp Polk. The members of the battalion had no idea why they were being kept there. What they were told on the side of a hill was that they were being sent overseas. It was at this time that members of the battalion, 29 years old or older, were allowed to resign from federal service. Replacements for the released men were taken from the 753rd Tank Battalion. J.C. had his name drawn and was assigned to B Company of the 192nd.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco. Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T.
Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. 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 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, 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 20th 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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.
Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times. They received their meals from food trucks.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tankplatoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when they withdrew following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
On December 31st/January 1st, the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge. The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover. This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6th/7th, the 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross a bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan before the bridge was destroyed by the engineers at 6:00 A.M.
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 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back. According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.
When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
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.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd. On April 7th, 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 counter-attack.
The morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, the tankers received the order "crash." They circled their tanks. Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
After the Japanese made contact with B Company, the members of the company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They were now officially Prisoners of War. At Mariveles, the Japanese took blankets and other items from the POWs that they could use. The tankers striped anything from their uniforms that indicated that they were tankers. They heard the rumor that the Japanese were looking for them.
From Mariveles, the tankers made their way north toward San Fernando. They were given little food or water. On the march, J.C. carried Abner Humphrey, D Company, who had been wounded. The two men remained friends the rest of their lives. When they arrived at San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen. In one corner was a slit trench that was the washroom for the POWs. The surface of it moved from the maggots.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. They were taken to the train station and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as forty or eights since they could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put 100 POWs into each boxcar. Those who died remained standing since there was no place to fall. At Capas, the POWs disembarked and the dead fell to the floor of the cars. The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp. There was one water faucet for the entire camp. Disease among the POWs ran wild with as many as 55 POWs dying each day. It is not known if J.C. remained in the camp or went out on a work detail. The Japanese closed the camp and moved the healthier POWs to Cabanatuan. J.C. was sent to the camp when it opened.
After arriving in the camp, J.C. developed malaria and diphtheria. He was admitted into the camp's hospital on June 18, 1942. He remained in the hospital until he was discharged on February 1, 1943.
J.C. was still in the camp when names were posted of POWs being sent to Japan in July 1943. J.C.'s name was on the list. Trucks arrived at the camp and took the POWs to Bilibid Prison.
The POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded the Clyde Maru on July 22nd. The ship sailed on July 23rd to Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philippine Islands. Arriving there the same day, manganese ore was loaded onto the ship. Three days later, the ship sailed. This time it was headed for Takao, Formosa.
While at sea, 100 POWs, at a time, were allowed on deck form 6:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. The ship arrived at Takao on July 28th and remained there until August 5th, when it sailed at 5:00 A.M. as part of a nine ship convoy. It arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 7th, but the POWs remained in the holds until the next morning when they disembarked and formed 100 men detachments.
The POWs were marched to the Moji train station and boarded a train that departed at 9:30 A.M. on what was a two day train trip. At 7:30 P.M. the next day, J.C.'s POW detachment was disembarked at Omuta, Japan, and marched 18 miles to Fukuoka
#17. Those too ill to walk were driven by trucks to the camp. It should be mentioned that it was at this time that his family received a POW postcard from him. The postcard was the first word that they had from him since he was captured by the Japanese.
In the camp, the POWs were housed in 33 barracks that were 16 feet wide by 120 feet long with a washroom. The camp was 200 yards wide by 1000 yards long. In each of the barracks, there were ten rooms. Each room held four to six POWs. Around the camp was a ten to twelve foot high wooden fence that had three electrified wires. The first wire was about six feet off the ground.
The POWs were used as slave labor in a condemned coal mine owned by the Mitsui Coal Mining Company but operated by the Japanese Army. The POWs worked three shifts. 100 POWs were assigned to work on each shift for twelve hours in the mine.
Food for the POWs consisted of consisted of steam rice and vegetable soup that was made from whatever could be found. Every other day, when the POWs did not return from the mine to eat, they received three buns to each for lunch in the mine. The best meal they ever received in the camp was the day the Red Cross came to the camp. Then, they were received the most food they ever had in the camp. This was so the Red Cross Inspector would give a positive report on the camp.
In June 1845, another POW from a camp was allowed to make a shortwave radio message to his family. In the message,the man mentioned J.C. and asked whoever heard the message to send J.C.'s regards to his sister who resided in Carthage, Texas.
It is not known if J.C. was in camp or in the mine when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. Those POWs reported that they saw a marsh-room shaped cloud over the city. Many believed that American bombers had hit a major Japanese ammunition dump. None of the POWs knew that Omuta had been the primary target for the bomb, but the B-29's crew chose to continue on to Nagasaki because of cloud cover over the city.
Within days, the POWs were given a day off from work for the Emperor's birthday. This was the first day off the POWs had ever received. They knew something was up when they received another day off the next day.
One day, George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News arrived at the camp and told the POWs that American troops were on Honshu. Some of the POWs, many from B Company, left the camp and made contact with the troops. It is not known if J.C. was in the group.
J.C. was liberated in September 13, 1945 and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. He later returned to the United States on the S.S.
Simon Bolivar arriving at San Francisco on October 21, 1945. J.C. was discharged from the Army, but on July2, 1946, he reenlisted but this time in the Air Force. He was discharged again on July 1, 1950, but this time when he reenlisted again and rose to the rank of sergeant.
J.C. retired from the Air Force and returned to Texas. He married and became the father of two daughters and a son. On April 18, 1970, J.C. Garrett passed away in Panola County, Texas. He was buried at International Old Fellows Cemetery in Carthage, Texas.