Hicks_J

 

Pvt. James Addison Hicks


   Pvt. James A. Hicks was born on October 26, 1920, in Salinas, California, to Albert J. Hicks and Mattie Barlow-Hicks.  He was known as "Jamey" to his family.  With his three brothers and three sisters, he was raised at 217 Alameda Avenue in Salinas, California and worked at a lumberyard.  At some point, his parents divorced.  To fulfill their military obligation, James, and his brother, Thomas,  joined the California National Guard's 40th Divisional Tank Company in Salinas, California.

    On February 10, 1941, at Salinas Army Air Base, Jim's tank company was called to federal duty as C Company, 194th Tank Battalion.  The battalion trained at Fort Lewis, Washington for nearly seven months.  During this time, Jim qualified as a half-track driver.

    On August 15, 1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.  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 for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. 
    The next morning, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    Receiving orders that they were being sent overseas, the 194th traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California.  On the U.S.A.T. Frank M. Coxe, the battalion was ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island and received physicas and inoculations from its medical detachment.  Men found to have medical conditions were replaced. 
    In September 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands.  Arriving, by train, at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, they were taken by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.  Those men found with medical conditions were replaced.
    The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8th at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands.  To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13th at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
    After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was its escort.  During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke.  Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
    The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several hours later.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field.  The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
    The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed.  They were met by  General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they needed.  On November 15th, they moved into their barracks.
    On December 1st, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field.  Their job was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers.  The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived in November guarded the southern half.  Two crew men remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.

    Jim and the other members of the battalion spent their time in the Philippines by  training and readying their equipment for use in maneuvers.  James was in the tank crew of 2nd Lt. Robert F. Needham.  

    The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor ten hours earlier.  The tank company was ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At 12:30, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.

    Around 12:45, the tankers were having lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north.  As the tankers watched the planes, they believed that the planes were American.  When bombs began exploding on the airfield, they knew that the planes were Japanese.  Enormous explosions filled the ears of the tankers while smoke seemed to be everywhere. Being that their weapons were not meant to fight planes, the tankers could do little more than watch.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    The night of the 12th/13th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge.  Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they finally arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13th.

   After the attack, the 194th was ordered to Mabalacat a few miles from Clark Field.  The battalion remained in the area until December 12th, when they were ordered to Fort McKinley.  From there, C Company was ordered to southern Luzon to support the South Luzon Force south of Manila.
    The company proceeded through Manila.  Since they had no air cover, most of their movements were at night.  As they moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares being shot into the air.  They arrived at the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time their attempting to catch 5th columnists.
    They remained in the area until December 24th, when they moved over the Taal Road to San Tomas and bivouacked near San Paolo and assisted in operations in the Pagbilao-Lucban Area supporting the Philippine Army.  One of the most dangerous things the tanks did was cross bridges with a ten ton weight limit.  Each tank weight 14 tons, so they crossed the bridges one tank at a time.

    As a member of Sgt. Keith Lewis' half-track the crew was given the job of escorting Brigadier General Albert Jones on a reconnaissance mission on December 25th.  During the mission, the soldiers ran into a Japanese patrol and were ambushed.  The members of the half-track fought off the Japanese and returned the general safely to American lines.  Each man was awarded the Silver Star.

    Later the same day, Lt. Needham's platoon of tanks received orders to proceed to Lucban because the Japanese troops were in the area.  Jim volunteered to drive Sgt. Glenn Brokaw's tank on the mission since Brokaw's driver had taken ill.  He is remembered as saying, "I'll go, I want another crack at those damn Japs."

    When the tankers got to the Lucban area, an American officer ordered the tanks up Route 3 to see how strong the Japanese forces were in the area. This road was in reality a jungle trail.  Part of the reason for the tanks being called to do reconnaissance was that the American command wanted to impress the Filipino troops.  Lt. Needham protested this move since no reconnaissance had been made of the area, and he believed that the tankers could be entering a trap.  In spite of his protests, he was ordered to proceed up the road.

    Needham's tank was the first tank in the column.  As they went down the trail, they reached a point where the trail made a sharp turn.  His tank made the turn and was hit by a shell from a Japanese .47 millimeter antitank gun.  The shell came through the front hatch and killed Jim immediately and blew off Needham's legs.  After being hit, the tank swerved off the road into a ditch.  The explosion caused the front hatches of the tank to be blown off.  This left the surviving crew members exposed to enemy fire.  As the surviving tank crew members attempted to escape the tank, they were machine gunned by the Japanese.

    The third tank, Sgt Glenn Brokaw's tank, was also hit by fire from the .47 millimeter gun.  The shell hit the tank and knocked it out.  The driver was killed, as was Pvt. Jim McLeod.  Brokaw was wounded when he attempted to climb out of the turret.  The surviving tank crew member, Pvt. Harry Siebert, killed the Japanese and got Brokaw to a village in the jungle.  Siebert was also wounded but made his way back to American lines.  He later died of his wounds.

     Pvt. James A. Hicks was Killed in Action outside of Lucban, Philippine Islands, on Friday, December 26, 1941.  Since his final resting place is unknown, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.

    After the war, a United States Recovery Team was sent to the Barrio of Piis in the Philippine Islands to recover remains.  Local residents claimed that the remains of two Americans were still inside an American tank which had been destroyed during a tank battle in December of 1941.  One man was found in the tank driver's side of the tank and the other was found in the assistant tank driver's position.  The residents did not bury the soldiers but filled the tank with dirt.  When the bodies were removed, remains of both men were found in each position.  They were buried at Batangas as Unknowns X-7 and X-8.

    The remains of one soldier were exhumed from  Plot: 1, Row:  11,  Grave: 323 and reburied in Plot: 4,  Row:  8,  Grave:  999, as Unknown X-3677 at Manila #2 on August 13, 1947.  He was designated as Unknown X-4702 when the remains were moved to the new American Cemetery at Manila.

     Pvt. James A. Hicks was also awarded Silver Star and Purple Heart.


 


 

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