Garrett_J

 

Pvt. J. C. Garrett



    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.  While there, he attended school and qualified as a tank mechanic.  After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he joined the 753rd Tank Battalion. 

    From September 1 through 30, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After they ended, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox as had been expected.  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 decision for this move -  which had been made on August 15, 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 the Philippines.
    The battalion's new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto flat cars on different trains.  The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust.  Over different train routes, the companies arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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 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 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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1, 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 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.   Later on the 24, 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 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, when they withdrew following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28 and 29.
    On December 31/January 1,  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 2 to 4, 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 5/6, 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 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.

    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 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 counter-attack.
    The morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, the tankers received the order, "crash," so 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 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.  The POWs worked on the camp farm from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening.  Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them.  Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
    The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting.  The result was many became ill.
   Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call.  While they stood at attention, it wasn't uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads.  In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. 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.  The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die.  Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each.  Each man had a two foot wide by six foot long area to lie in.  The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.

    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 22.  The ship sailed on July 23 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 28 and remained there until August 5, when it sailed at 5:00 A.M. as part of a nine ship convoy.  It arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 7, 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.


 



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