Cpl. Philip Sidney Brain Jr. was born to Philip S. Brain Sr. & Marie Brain on June 24, 1915, in Libby, Montana. He was the second oldest son and had three younger brothers and two younger sisters. When he was a toddler, his family moved to Minneapolis. His family resided at 4027 26th Ave South in Minneapolis. His father was a longtime tennis coach at the University of Minnesota.
Philip attended Roosevelt High School and the University of Minnesota, where he played tennis. He graduated in 1939, and attended graduate school at George Williams College in Downers Grove, Illinois. He worked for a railroad as a stenographer.
In April 1941, Philip was inducted into the U. S. Army. He was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was assigned to HQ Company, 194th Tank Battalion. The company was created with National Guardsmen from Minnesota, Missouri, and California. Draftees were put into the company to bring it up to company strength.
On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, 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 a Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds 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, another squadron was sent to the area and found that 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.
In September 1941, the battalion, minus B Company, traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California. From there, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, they were ferried to Fort McDowell on Angel Island and given physicals and inoculated, and men who had medical conditions were replaced.
At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers were boarded onto the U.S.S. President Calvin Coolidge at 3:00 P.M. on Monday, September 8, 1941. The ship sailed at 9:00 P.M. the same day and arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii, at 7:00 A.M. on Saturday, September 13th. The soldiers were allowed ashore, but they had to be aboard ship two hours before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
The ship took a southern route away from the normal shipping lanes and was escorted by the cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria. Several times, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the cruiser took off in its direction. Each time it turned out the ship was friendly. Thirteen days later, after a stop at Guam, the ship arrived in Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M. on September 26. The soldiers disembarked the ship at 3:00 P.M. and most rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg. Some remained behind to unload the tanks with the help of 17th Ordnance.
The morning of December 8, the tankers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They were then ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. The entire morning, American planes filled the sky. At 12:30 the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch lining their planes up in a straight line outside the mess hall to be refueled. At 12:45. Philip and the other tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north and had time enough to count 54 planes. When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
The battalion was sent to the barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road and moved to an area just south of San Joaquin near the Calumpit Bridge. It would receive 15 Bren Gun carriers that were used to test the ground to see if it could support the weight of a tank. The battalion moved again to west and north of Rosario and was operating north of the Agno River the night of December 22/23.
The tank battalions formed the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas defensive line the night of December 26/27. They were holding a new line at the Bamban River the night of December 29/30 and were at the Calumpit Bridge the next night. On January 5, they were at Lyac Junction and dropped back to Remedios were a new defensive line was formed.
The night of January 6/7, the 194th withdrew over a bridge on the Culis Creek covered by the 192nd Tank Battalion and entered Bataan. The 192nd crossed the bridge before it was destroyed and entered Bataan.
The tank battalions were covering the East Coast Road on January 8th. It was at this time that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks each and HQ Company with the 17th Ordnance Company were able to do long overdue maintenance on the tanks.
The tanks continued to cover withdraws for the rest of January and February. In March, HQ Company was recovering two tanks that had been bogged down in the mud when the Japanese entered the area. Lt. Col. Miller ordered the tanks to fire at point-blank range and ran from tank to tank directing the fire.
Phil recalled: “There’s a real soldier. The boys had the highest respect for him. Col. Miller, ordering tanks and artillery to fire point-blank at the Nips, strode from machine to machine, cigar in mouth, giving the boys encouragement. The boys figured that if Col. Miller could do that they could fight. That’s what they did. The whole regiment of Japs was wiped out.
When rations got short near toward the end of the campaign, Miller refused to take more food than his men. He was a soldier’s soldier.”
On April 4, the Japanese launched an all-out offensive at 3:00 P.M. and the tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance. The tank battalion commanders received this order on April 8, “You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word ‘CRASH’, all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished.”
When it became apparent to Gen. Edward King that the situation was hopeless and he wanted to prevent a massacre since he only 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight, while approximately 6,000 troops were hospitalized from wounds or disease. In addition, there were approximately 40,000 civilians. The night of April 8, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms with the Japanese.
That night, after negotiations to surrender had been completed, Phil got the best sleep he had in months. He was awakened by the butt of a Japanese gun in his side when the Japanese had entered HQ Company’s bivouac. The Prisoners of War were told to remain in their bivouac until ordered to move to what had been the Provisional Tank Group’s Headquarters.
The Japanese arrived the morning of April 10 and ordered the Prisoners of War to the trail that ran near the headquarters. The trial the POWs were on ended when they reached the main road.
The first thing the Japanese did was to separate the officers from the enlisted men. The Prisoners of War were then left in the sun for the rest of the day. When Phil became a POW, he had his glasses, his ring, and his duffle bag taken from him by Japanese soldiers. Breakfast for the prisoners was a tablespoon each of raw rice, which they were allowed to cook. That night they were ordered north. The members of the 194th did receive orders to march until around 7:00 P.M. and were marched until 3:00 in the morning. At that time, the marchers were given a one hour break. At 4:00 A.M., they began to march again. They reached the barrio of Lamao at around 8:00 A.M. the morning of April 11th. There the POWs were allowed to try to find food, but little was found.
The POWs again were ordered to move at 9:00 A.M. and reached Limay at noon, where they joined the main march out of Bataan. It was at this time the Japanese put officers, with the rank of major and higher, in trucks and drove them to Balanga. These officers were then marched to Orani. For the lower-ranking officers and enlisted men, Limay was where they really started the death march. Up to this time, the guards, regular combat soldiers, had shown a great deal of respect for them. As they got further north, and the guards were changed, the treatment got worse.
They marched north through Orani and noticed they were being marched at a faster pace and that the guards seemed nervous. The POWs made their way north to Hermosa, where the road went from gravel to pavement. The change in the surface made the march easier on the men. When they were allowed to sit, those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets.
He walked much of the march with Bernard Fitzpatrick and Bill McKeon. At one point a Filipino boy shoved a small watermelon into his hand. The boy successfully escaped from a Japanese guard. When it was safe, he shared it with Fitzpatrick and McKeon.
The march for Phil was filled with atrocities. It seemed that the sound of gunshots filled the air. On one occasion he watched as a Filipino woman, who was holding a baby, flashed the “V” for victory sign to the Americans. Phil recalled what happened. “Without hesitation, a Japanese soldier went up to her and ran his bayonet through the baby. I’ll never forget the look on that mother’s face.”
The POWs were herded into a Filipino estate with a high wall. The Japanese had sentries on top of the wall. Since there were no washroom facilities, the ground soon became a giant latrine. The Japanese sent trucks to pick up the sick. The men who were put into the trucks were never seen again. It took Phil five days to reach San Fernando.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into a warehouse for the night. Again, since there were no latrines, the floor was soon covered in human waste. The next morning, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. In Philip’s own words, “When they slammed the doors closed, there was no room to move. When men died, they just stayed on their feet.”
At Capas, the POWs climbed out of the boxcars. As they did, the bodies of those who died fell out of the cars. From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell.
Camp O’Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp. The camp had only one water faucet for 12,000 men. Men died standing in line for a drink. When the POWs arrived at the camp, they were searched for anything they might have on them that was Japanese. One man had Japanese currency on him. He was beheaded on the spot.
During his time in the camp, Philip worked the burial detail. As many as fifty POWs died each day. “When a guy on the burial detail died, they just put him in with the others.”
To get out of the camp, Philip volunteered to go out on a work detail to rebuild the bridges that the Americans had destroyed as they retreated into Bataan. The commanding officer of the detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The Japanese commandant liked American western music and treated the POWs decently. With him on the detail was his friend Bernard Fitzpatrick.
The detail worked at Calauan where Phil developed dysentery. He worked because the sick were fed smaller rations. His job was to mix cement and load trucks. The detail was next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge. Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed. Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.
The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria. Once again, the people of the town did whatever they could to help the Americans. An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner. Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs to attend the dinner.
After the detail ended, Phil was sent to Cabanatuan which had opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O’Donnell. During the ten months that he spent there, he worked the burial detail and dug slit trenches for latrines. While he in the camp he suffered from dysentery.
In the camp, the Japanese instituted the “Blood Brother” rule. If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed. POWs caught trying to escape were beaten. Those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed. It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. While on these details they 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. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.
Several months after arriving at Cabanatuan, Philip was selected to go out on a work detail to Davao, Mindanao. The trip took three days. The entire time the POWs stood in the hold of the ship. Upon arriving at Mindanao, Philip went to work working in rice paddies. Philip remained on this detail until June 1944. It is known that he had malaria during this time.
As the American forces got closer to the Philippine Islands the Japanese began to send as many POWs to Japan or other occupied countries as possible. On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindanao, by truck. Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship’s front holds for six days before it sailed. The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindanao, for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17. The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse. The POWs were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship and arrived at Manila on June 25.
In August, Philip was selected to shipment to Japan. He was boarded onto the Noto Maru on August 25 and sailed on August 27, 1944, for Formosa. During the trip, Philip recalled that the POWs could not sit or lie down until enough men had died. On its way to Japan, the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa arriving and departing on August 10. It made it to Keelung, Formosa, the same day and sailed for Japan on August 31. It arrived in Moji, Japan on September 4 and rode a train to Hanawa. From there, the POWs made a short walk to the camp. It was because of this experience that he decided that if he survived the war, he would find a purpose to live his life by.
In Japan, he was sent to Sendai #6, where 500 POWs worked in a copper mine owned by Mitsubishi and under company supervision. The camp was approximately 200 feet wide by 350 feet long and had a 12-foot high wooden fence around it and was located at 4,000 feet. The POWs were housed in wooden barracks, with 30-foot ceilings, with two tiers of bunks, against each long wall, with straw matting, and a mattress stuffed with straw for sleeping. They also had a 4″ by 4″ by 8″ block of wood for a pillow.
The floors of the barracks were packed dirt with a center aisle. There were covered walkways, without sides, that connected the barracks. To heat the barracks, there was a small potbelly stove. If they were lucky, the Japanese gave them enough wood for an hour’s heat. The POWs – who worked in the foundry – stole coal knowing that if they were caught they would be beaten. The barracks were not insulated and the heavy snow – which was as deep as 10 feet – served as insulation.
Other buildings in the camp were two buildings that served as a hospital for the POWs and an “L” shaped building that was the kitchen and POW bath. The latrines were three low buildings, and there was one building that served as the camp office. The POWs spent several days setting up the camp.
In the camp, 500 POWs worked in the copper mine owned by Mitsubishi Mining Company and worked under company supervision. The POWs woke up at 5 A.M. and ate breakfast which was a small bowl of rice, barley or millet, and watery soup. Meals for the POWs were brought to the barracks, in buckets, and the POWs ate at tables in the barracks. After breakfast, at 5:30, roll call was taken and the POWs and the POWs left the camp. They arrived at the mine at 7 A.M., had a half hour lunch, and worked until 5:00 P.M. before returning to camp, usually after dark, and had supper. Afterward, they went to bed.
The clothing issued to the POWs was a combination of Japanese clothing, made of thin cloth and shoes, and captured American clothing. For the winter the POWs received a uniform made of burlap and long socks. Those who needed shoes were issued Japanese canvas shoes with webbing between two toes. They also received grass shoe covers so they could get through the snow.
Work details were set up for POWs who were machinists, electricians, mechanics. Those who did not have these skills were assigned to working at a foundry or mining. The POWs worked in a copper mine owned by Mitsubishi. Each day, the POWs were marched up the side of a mountain to the top and then down into the mine. To their amazement, their guards always seemed to be waiting for them. It turned out there was a tunnel into the mine which the guards used so they did not have to climb the mountain.
Each detail had a “honcho” who was employed by Mitsubishi and supervised the POWs. They carried a large stick which they used on the POWs when they felt they were not working hard enough. The mine had been abandoned because it had become too expensive to extract the copper, but Mitsubishi believed it could make it profitable with the slave labor provided by the POWs.
To get to work, the POWs had to often walk through two feet of snow and climb up the side of a mountain and descend 472 steps into the mine. The POWs noticed that the guards never seemed to be winded when they arrived at the mine. They later learned that the Japanese had cut a ground level entrance to the mine which the guards used to enter it.
The POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work them to death. At the mine, the POWs were divided among drillers, car loaders, and car pushers, with the miners having the worst job. The work in the mine was dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner received a carbide headlamp as his only lighting. A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the quota. The number of carloads mined by the men was never enough. The POWs were beaten for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to get to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding.
A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the quota. The number of carloads mined by the men was never enough. The POWs were beaten for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to get to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding. Lighting was poor and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt. There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.
Lighting was poor and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt.
There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.
Mitsubishi expected the Japanese Army to supply a certain number of POWs to work in the mine each day so men too sick to work were sent to work. The sick had to be carried between two healthier POWs to the mine. Since the Japanese found that the sick were too ill to work, the company came up with work for them to do in the camp like making nails or rope. If a POW still could not work, his rations were cut in half.
While working in the mine from November 1944 until August 15, 1945, the POWs were abused by the civilian foreman, Hichiro Tsuchiya, who was known to the POWs as “Patches.” Tsuchiya used any excuse to abuse the POWs. He was known to hit the POWs for no reason in their faces and to also use a wooden club or pickaxe handle. He also used a sledgehammer to hit the POWs on their heads.
In the camp, the Japanese withheld the Red Cross packages from the POWs and took the canned meats, canned fruit, canned milk, and cheese for themselves. Blankets and clothing intended for the POWs were used by the guards. If a POW violated a rule, the grain ration, for all the POWs, was reduced by 20 percent. At one point, 49 POWs were lined up – because one POW had broken a rule – and beaten with leather belts.
In September 1945, Philip was liberated from the camp. He returned to the Philippine Islands for medical treatment. Boarding the U.S.S. Rescue in late September 1945, he arrived at San Francisco on October 10, 1945. He was sent to Letterman General Hospital before he returned home to Minneapolis and learned that his brother, Stanley, who was a bomber pilot, was killed in a plane accident in Texas, in January 1945.
Phil was discharged May 24, 1947, and married Deloris Ellison the same day. The couple lived on the south side of Minneapolis and later in Edina, Minnesota. They were the parents of two daughters. He worked for the YMCA for 35 years. One reason was that, as a POW, he had decided to spend his life providing service to others.
On the Japanese treatment of POWs, he believed that they were attempting to break down the American spirit. In his opinion, “But they found they couldn’t do it. We always came back for more. We took beatings for three and a half years for failing to salute. But the minute the war was over, the Japs were howling to us in complete subservience.”
In 1990, Philip published his POW story in the Rotarian published book Soldier of Bataan. Philip S. Brain passed away on May 5, 2005, in Golden Valley, Minnesota.