Tec 4 James W. O'Brien
T/4 James W. O'Brien was born on July 15, 1923, at Schofield Barracks, Honolulu, Hawaii, and was one of the three sons of Patrick & Amanda O'Brien. He was raised in Port Clinton, Ohio, where the family resided at 517 West Fifth Street. He was called "Jimmy" by his family.
Jim joined the Ohio National Guard's H Tank Corp with his best friend from high school, Bob Gerding, while they still were in high school. In the fall of 1940, Jim and Bob were given the choice to stay in school or go to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with their tank company. Bob chose to stay in school, while Jim went with the company to Ft. Knox when the company was called to federal duty on November 25, 1940.
At Ft. Knox, the company was designated C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. It was at this time that Jim was trained as a motorcycle messenger. After ten months of training Jim took part in maneuvers with his tank battalion in Louisiana. After the maneuvers the tankers were informed that they were not being released from Federal service, but that they were being sent overseas.
The reason for
this decision - 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
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1 to guard against paratroopers. Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times. On December 8, 1941, Jim lived through the attack on Clark Field. He and the other members of the company could do little more than watch as the Japanese destroyed the Army Air Corps.
The tank battalion received
that it was to
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
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 behind.
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 waiting.
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.
When Bataan was
surrendered on April 9, 1942, James became a
Prisoner Of War. He took part in the death
march from Mariveles to San Fernando. On the
march, Jim carried another member of C Company who
was too ill to finish the march. At San
Fernando, Jim boarded a small wooden boxcar
and road a train to Capas. From there, he
walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell which
which was an unfinished Filipino training base
which the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a
POW camp on April 1, 1942.
While he was
out on the work detail, a new POW camp was opened
at Cabanatuan. The camp was actually three
camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured
on Bataan and taken part in the death march where
held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water
supply and was closed. It later reopened and
housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those
men captured when Corregidor surrender were
taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had
been hospitalized when the surrender came were
sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later
consolidated into Camp 1.
hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was
missed by the Japanese when they counted
barracks. The sickest POWs were sent there
to die. The Japanese put a fence up around
the building to protect themselves, and they would
not go into the building. There were two
rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of
the building. The sickest POWs were put on
the lower platform which had holes cut into it so
the they could relieve themselves. Most of
those who entered the ward died.
from the camp show that on Tuesday, June 30, 1942,
at approximately 2:00 P.M., Pvt. James W. O'Brien
died of dysentery at Cabanatuan POW Camp in the
Philippine Islands. He was 19 years
old. After he died, he was interred in Grave
1010, Row 0, Plot 10. He shared his grave
with fourteen other POWs. One of which was Russell
Simon of HQ Company who was also a National
Guardsman from Port Clinton.