Sgt. Jennings Bryan Scanlon Jr.
Sgt. Jennings B. Scanlon Jr.
was born on July 4, 1922, in Harrodsburg,
Kentucky, to Jennings B. Scanlon Sr. and Alma
Crews-Scalon. With his sister and brother,
he grew up at 957 Mooreland Avenue in
Harrodsburg. He was a 1938 graduate of
Harrodsburg High School and worked as a clerk in
the family store. While he was in high
school, he joined the Kentucky National Guard.
In September 1940, the company was designated D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 28th, the company traveled to Fort Knox. Upon arriving, the soldiers found themselves housed in tents since their barracks had not been finished. During his training at Ft. Knox, Jennings attended radio school and qualified as a radio operator. In January 1941, Jennings was reassigned to HQ Company when it was formed.
The battalion trained at Ft. Knox for nearly a year before being sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. At the end of the maneuvers, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk without being given a reason. They had expected to return to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
It was at this time, men 29 years old, or older, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Those who did were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to the fort but had not taken part in the maneuvers. The M3A1 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd.
The company traveled west over the southern train route through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. At Yuma, Arizona the train stopped, and Native Americans entered the train cars and sold beads to the soldiers. The soldiers knocked each other over attempting to buy the beads. After the train pulled out of the station. someone noticed that the genuine Native American beads were made in Japan. The battalion arrived in San Francisco and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals. Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The battalion sailed on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, on Monday, October 27th as part of a three ship convoy. After many of the members of the battalion got over their seasickness, they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ships arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover. The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island. The ships sailed again on Wednesday, November 5th, for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.
During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water, before sailing for Manila. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing 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 would soon be at war. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay and arrived at Manila later in the day. It was three or four hours before the soliders disembarked and boarded buses for Ft. Stotsenburg. The truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort, while the maintenance section remained at the pier to unload tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. After making sure they had what they needed, and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner, he went to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. The guns had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the trip. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts, as they prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
The morning of December 8th, all the tanks were brought up to full strength. During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.
All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl harbor, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. The members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelter since they had few weapons to be used against planes.
For the next four months, HQ Company worked to keep the tank companies operational. The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ Company's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
The soldiers proceeded to pile up their guns and ammunition and set the pile on fire. They stayed in their bivouac and waited for orders. At the same time that they were sad, they were also kind of excited and wondered what was going to happen to them.
The first contact HQ Company had with the Japanese was when a Japanese officer and soldiers entered their bivouac. They were now Prisoners of War and ordered to go to the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, they were made to kneel on both sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers passing them took whatever they wanted from the Americans. The POWs remained along the sides of the road for hours.
When the soldiers were ordered to move, they boarded trucks and drove to outside of Mariveles, where they were stopped and ordered out of the trucks. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
Sitting, watching, and waiting, the POWs wondered what the Japanese intended to do. It was at that time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car, and as he drove off the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where they were left sitting in the sun for hours without being fed or receiving water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum, which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide, and some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march, the POWs received no water and little food. It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it. In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two were still alive. When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried. At some point, the Japanese ordered the men to form ranks, and they were marched in detachments of 100 men to the train station.
At the train station, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcars and taken to Capas. The cars were known as "forty and eights" because they could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars because they could not fall to the floors. At Capas, the living left the cars and walked the last miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp, and to get a drink, men stood in line for days. Many died while waiting for a drink. Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves. The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep or the graves would flood. Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth. The next day, when the POWs on the detail returned, they found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
The Japanese finally acknowledged that the death rate at the camp had to be dealt with, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. Jennings was healthy enough to be sent to the camp.
According to Earl Pratt and Brand Moore, one day, they found Jennings lying partially in the slit trench that served as a latrine for the camp. The men bathed him to clean hi up and brought him back to the barracks. According to Jack Reed, Jennings had been spoiled when he was younger and was use to the food and candy he could get at his family store. Reed believed that because of this, Jennings could not make himself eat the rice that made up the main part of his POW diet.
Medical records kept at the camp indicate that Sgt. Jennings B. Scanlon Jr. was admitted to the camp hospital on Friday, June 18, 1942, suffering from dysentery and inanition. Other records, kept in the camp, indicate that he died on Monday, July 8th, at approximately 8:00 A.M. from dysentery. When he died, he weighed 80 pounds. He was buried in the camp cemetery in grave 1007, with 16 other POWs.
After the war, Sgt. Jennings B. Scanlon Jr's. remains were positively identified by the U.S. Remains Recovery Team. At the request of his parents, his remains were returned to Harrodsburg, and on October 28, 1949, Sgt. Jennings B. Scanlon Jr. was reburied at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.