Sgt. Glenn Dale Brokaw was born on April 4, 1921, in Lebanon, South Dakota, and was the son of Clarence D. Brokaw & Ethel M. Barrett-Brokaw. At this time, it is not known when he came to California. It is known that the family settled in San Buenaventura, California, sometime after 1924. He joined the California National Guard in Salinas in 1939.
On February 10, 1941, Glenn’s tank company was called to federal service as C Company, 194th Tank Battalion. The company traveled by train to Fort Lewis, Washington for training. At Ft. Lewis, Glenn was made a tank commander. He married Mary Lou Rochester on June 17, 1941. His residence was 109 Monterey Street, Salinas, California.
In the late summer of 1941, 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, whose plane was at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water. 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 a Japanese occupied island hundreds of miles away with a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day another squadron was sent to the area but the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way to shore. Since radio communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
In September, the battalion traveled to San Francisco, California, by train, for deployment in the Philippine Islands. The battalion arrived at Ft. Mason, California on September 5 about 7:30 in the morning. Most of the battalion took the ferry, the U.S.A.T. Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals from the battalion’s medical detachment. The maintenance section of the Bataan remained behind with the tanks to remove the turrets with the help of 17th Ordnance.
The soldiers were given physicals and inoculations. Those who found to have medical conditions were replaced. At 3:00 P.M. on Monday, September 13, the tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge for transport to the Philippine Islands. The ship sailed at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 A.M. The soldiers were allowed ashore but had to back on the ship before it 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, and an unknown destroyer that were its escorts. 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 ships crossed the International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16, and the date changed to Thursday, September 18. They entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26, 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.
Upon arrival at Ft. Stotsenburg, Gen. Edward P. King greeted the battalion and made sure they were fed. He also apologized that they would have to live in tents since their barracks had not been completed. They remained in the tents until November 15.
On December 8, 1941, Glenn lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Air Field. That morning, the soldiers were told about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. A little over two weeks later, he would see action against the Japanese.
The tanks of the 194th were ordered to Mabalacat. They remained there until December 12, when A Company was sent north to the Agno River area. It was at this time that C Company was ordered to support forces in southern Luzon. 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 there attempting to catch 5th columnists.
They remained in the area until December 24, 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 weighed 14 tons, so they crossed the bridges one tank at a time.
On December 25, the four tanks of the 2nd, under the command of 2nd Lt. Robert Needham, were sent to an area on the east coast of Luzon near Lucban. The Japanese had troops in the area, and the American Command wanted to see what the strength of the enemy was in the area.
The tanks were ordered by a major to proceed, without reconnaissance, down a narrow trail. Since the area was mountainous, the tanks had a hard time maneuvering. As they went down the trail, the tanks attempted to keep their spacing so that the driver of each tank could each see the tank in front of him. At one point in the trail, the tanks found that the trail made a sharp turn. Glenn’s tank was the third tank to make the turn.
As the lead tank made the turn, it was hit by a shell fired by a Japanese anti-tank gun. The shell killed Pvt. James Hicks and mortally wounded Lt. Robert Needham. The tank went off the road and into a ditch. As the surviving crew member attempted to leave the tank he was machine-gunned.
Sgt. Emil Morello’s tank was the second tank in the column. As it came around the corner, his driver realized he could not see the lead tank. He sped up in an attempt to find the tank which resulted in the Japanese gun missing it when it fired on the tank. The tank drove over the gun. Other guns at the roadblock were still intact.
Glenn was the commander of the third tank. All three tanks of the surviving tanks were hit by enemy fire before the gun was knocked out by Sgt. Emil Morello’s tank. Glenn was shot five times by the Japanese as he attempted to escape the tank from the turret. His tank crew members killed the Japanese and carried Glen to a nearby village. Pvt. Harry Sibert was wounded at this time, and the other members of his crew may have also been wounded. Brokaw would later state in interviews that he lost his entire tank crew.
Glenn and Sibert were loaded into a taxi and taken to American a hospital near Lucbam by a Filipino taxicab. It was there that he was captured by the Japanese. A few weeks after the surrender, he was taken to Bilibid Prison in Manila. During this time, he stated that the Japanese made him serve wounded Japanese soldiers at the hospital. He remained at the hospital until he was sent to Cabanatuan, where he was reunited other members of his company.
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.
On November 1, 1942, the Japanese drew 1500 POW names of men who were being sent to Japan. When the names were drawn, the POWs had no idea what was happening. Many came to the conclusion on their own that they were being sent to Japan. At 3:00 A.M. on November 5, the POWs left the camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan. Before they left the camp, each man was given his breakfast, to take with, which was a small issue of rice and what the Japanese termed “a large piece of meat.” The large piece of meat was two inches square and large next to a piece of meat they usually received at a meal.
After they arrived at the barrio, a Japanese officer lectured the POWs before they boarded train cars. 98 POWs were put into each car which allowed them to position themselves so they could move around. They remained on the train all day and arrived at Manila at 5:00 P.M. After they disembarked, they were marched to Pier 7 where they spent the night sleeping on a concrete floor in a building.
The POWs boarded the Nagato Maru at 5:00 P.M. on November 6. The POWs were pushed into the forward hold which the Japanese believed could hold 600 men without a problem. In an attempt to get the POWs into the hold the Japanese beat them. When the Japanese realized that beating them was not working, they concluded that the hold could not hold 600 men. It was at that time they lowered the number of men in the hold to somewhere between 550 and 560. This meant that nine men had to share an area that was 4 feet, nine inches, by 6 feet, 2 inches. All the holds on the ship were packed with men in the same manner.
The POWs had barely enough room to sit down if their knees were drawn up under their chins. The heat was also unbelievable, so the Japanese allowed small groups of POWs up on the deck at night in shifts. The Nagato Maru sailed on November 7, 1942.
The Japanese had set up two latrines for the POWs. One was at the on each side of the ship’s deck and since so many of the POWs had dysentery and diarrhea, it soon became obvious not going to work. The sick who tried to use the latrines were beaten and kicked by the Japanese for making too much noise passing through the Japanese quarters. When they reached the deck, they ended up waiting in line.
For the extremely ill POWs, the Japanese sent down, into the hold, tubs for the extremely ill to use. The sick crawled, rolled, and stumbled to reach the tubs. Because the POWs were dehydrated, the POWs urinated frequently. In addition, those with dysentery and diarrhea could not make it to the tubs which resulted in the POWs standing into several inches of human waste. If they did try to reach the tubs, the men had stepped on the bodies of other POWs.
The ship reached Takao, Formosa, on November 11. While it was docked there, the POWs could not leave the holds. The ship sailed on November 15 and arrived at Mako, Formosa the same day. They remained in the holds with the fleas, lice, and roaches. The ship sailed again on November 18. During this part of the trip, the POWs felt the explosions from depth charges.
The trip to Japan ended on November 24, when the ship reached Moji late in the day. At 5:00 P.M. the next day they disembarked the ship. As they disembarked, each POW received a chip of red or black colored wood. The color of the wood determined what camp the POW was sent to. In addition, once on shore, they were deloused, showered, and issued new uniforms.
By ferry, the POWs were taken to Shimonoseki, Honshu, where they were loaded onto a train and took a long ride along the northern side of the Inland Sea to the Osaka-Kobe area. There, the prisoners were divided into groups according to the color of wood they had.
From Moji, he was taken to Tokyo #3-B which was also known as the Stadium Camp. The camp was a baseball stadium converted into a POW camp. It is known the POWs worked at the Nisshin Oil Company doing heavy labor.
The POWs housing was described as cold, because of lack adequate heating and dirty. There were no barracks because the POWs lived under the grandstands of the baseball stadium.
Since a certain number of POWs were needed to work each day, the sick were forced to work. At the oil company, they were supposed to do “light work” since they were ill, but the reality they did heavy labor. Men who reported to sick call because they were ill were made to stand at attention for long periods of time. The final decision on who was too sick to work was made by a Japanese doctor. It is known 7 men died during their time in the camp.
Beatings occurred daily in the camp and frequently given for no reason. The POWs were hit with hands, shoes, belts, and clubs. During the beatings, the POWs stood at attention. If they fell, they were beaten on the ground. At times, the Japanese burned the POWs with cigarettes.
Red Cross supplies were misappropriated by the Japanese. The Japanese ate American canned foods, meant for the POWs, and wore clothing sent to the camp for the prisoners.
While Brokaw was in the camp, he was allowed to send home this note. Since it had to be approved by Japanese censors, he lied about life in the camp.
“A short letter to let you known that I an well and happy. I hope that peace comes soon so that I can come home to you. I love you more than ever. Give my love to the family. The Nipponese are very kind to us.
“If you wish to send something, contact Red Cross for instructions. I prefer cake, candy, and tobacco. Also, send concentrated food. I am very anxious to reach home because I think of you and the family very much. Very much love to you”
In December 1943, his wife, Mary Lou, received another POW postcard from him. In it, he said:
“I am well and happy. I love you and think of you every day. Please write to me often darling. Tell my parents I think of them often. Please pray that the war ends soon. Tell mother and father to write to me. Goodbye honey. I will see you soon. I am treated fairly.”
On May 1, 1944, the camp was closed and he was transferred to another camp. In the cold, wearing flimsy tropical clothing, they had to climb a mountain at night to reach Mitsushima POW Camp which also was known as Tokyo 12-B. After arriving in the camp, Capt. Sukeo Nakajima, the camp commander had them line up and stand in formation dressed in tropical clothing. The camp was located in the mountains. He made a lengthy speech in which he threatened to kill them for the slightest reason. The speech lasted an hour and a half. The next morning, the POWs were made to strip off their clothes and were given their first medical examination outside in the cold.
That night the POWs slept in cold barracks. The situation which was made worse by the fact they had tropical clothing and there were few blankets. The barracks were heated by 3 foot by 3-foot fire pits that were only used from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M., since each barracks received 10 inches by 4 inches by two foot long – pieces of wood each day which did not supply adequate heat. Since there were no flues for the smoke from the fire pits filled the barracks which irritated the POWs’ eyes.
Often, during the winter, the Japanese used excuses about rules having been violated so that they did not have to give the POWs firewood. In addition, the barracks were poorly constructed and the wind blew through the cracks at night. The floors were dirt and sand which meant the barracks flooded when it rained. He stated that the first winter in the camp almost killed him.
There were two latrines in the camp each of which could hold 30 men at a time. The latrines did not have a drainage system which meant that they had to empty the trenches by hand. Every POW had a turn doing this job.
The Japanese did not provide the Red Cross winter clothing or shoes sent to the camp for the POWs. After the war, a warehouse of clothing, shoes, and coats was found at the camp. Instead, the POWs wore their tropical clothing and straw shoes which were made by POWs too sick to work. The Japanese did supply rags so that the POWs could patch their clothes. The POWs also worked in the rain without raincoats or a change of clothes.
Collective Punishment was practiced in the camp. From post-war, war crime records, 45 POWs were punished because of the actions of a few. Eight Japanese guards repeatedly abused these POWs denying them – at various times – food, shelter, and clothing, between November 26, 1942, and his death. At night, POWs were called out into the cold and made to stand at attention. While standing there, they were slapped for no apparent reason. Eight Japanese guards repeatedly abused these POWs denying them – at various times – food, shelter, and clothing, between November 26, 1942, and August 5, 1944. Nine guards from this camp were executed for war crimes after the war.
It was common practice in the camp for the Japanese to call the POWs out of the barracks at night and make them stand at attention for no reason. One guard, Sgt. Masaru Mikawa would walk down the line and get in the faces of the POWs. If the man flinched, he walloped the man as hard as he could. Those POWs put in the guardhouse had no bedding and had their rations reduced.
The Japanese intentionally failed to give the POWs adequate food, and the Japanese supervisor of the POW kitchen, Tomotsu Kimura, also known as “The Punk,” was known to take sacks of rice – meant for the POWs – home. The food the POWs did receive consisted of under-cooked rice and barley, and a soup that was made from mountain greens and weeds. On very few occasions, the POWs received vegetables, meat or fish. To make the fish edible, the POWs boiled it until they could eat it. The portions given to the prisoners were smaller than they should have been because Kimura skimmed food from the POWs and gave it to the guards.
Red Cross packages which arrived at the camp were commandeered by the Japanese for themselves. If the POWs did receive packages, it was evident that they had been gone through. This was especially true from November 26, 1942, until August 5, 1944.
The camp hospital was a hospital in name only, and the POWs were given little to no medicine when they were sick. The medicine sent by the Red Cross for the POWs was used by the Japanese. In addition, there were no bathroom facilities for the sick. The POWs had to sleep on soiled blankets which could not be cleaned since there were no facilities to wash them.
Work in the camp varied and he stated he was in a detachment given the job of building a dam for the Japanese. Other POWs were divided into detachments and taken to different steel mills. The working conditions were extremely bad at the antiquated furnaces where the POWs shoveled coal into the ovens. The POWs frequently became ill and vomited from breathing in the sulfur fumes.
On April 16, 1944, he was transferred to Tokyo #16-B which was also known as Kanose Camp, where the POWs worked at the Showa Denko Company under dangerous conditions since it was poorly lit and direction and supervision were poor. During his time at this camp, he worked in a carbide factory which was in a mine shaft.
While in this camp, some of the POWs built a radio and hid it in the latrine. When it was discovered, the Japanese executed anyone they believed to be involved in building and hiding the radio.
The worse duty he had as a POW was on the burial detail. On this detail, the prisoners had to carry bodies of the dead up a hill. When they reached the top, they had to report to a Japanese guard who recorded the dead man’s name. The Japanese would then remove the anklebone and put it in a box with the prisoner’s name on it. After this was done, Glenn and the other men on the detail had to roll the bodies down the hill and either leave them there or burn them. This depended on the Japanese guard on duty.
Red Cross boxes and supplies were not issued to the POWs and guards were known to take the food, medicines, and clothing for their own use. One day, representatives of the International Red Cross came to the camp. Before they arrived, the Japanese handed out Red Cross boxes to the POWs but told them that if they touched anything in the boxes they would be severely punished. After the Red Cross left the camp, the Japanese confiscated the boxes.
Although they had suspicions that something was up with the Japanese, the POWs working at the camp had no idea how the war was going, until the day, the POWs were in the plant were suddenly sent back to the camp. This was the first sign that something was up. When the POWs were returned to the camp, they were informed that the war was over.
Glenn remained in the camp until he was liberated on September 7, 1945. After the Japanese announced the surrender, they suddenly wanted to be friends with the former POWs. Of this, he said, “We just laughed at them for we knew they wanted to be friendly because they were afraid we might seek vengeance for the way they treated us. The ones who been most brutal were the ones who made the most desperate efforts to be friendly when they found the tables turned on them.”
From the camp, the POWs were taken to Yokohama where they received medical treatment. Afterward, he was returned to the Philippines and for medical treatment before being flown to Hawaii. There, he was one of the former POWs feted at a dinner given by Gen. Robert C. Richardson; From Hawaii, he was flown to Hamilton Field north of San Francisco on September 25.
Glenn was discharged on March 26, 1946. He married Mary Lou Rochester and was the father of two daughters. The couple remained married until Mary Lou’s death in 2001. He worked as a public account in Salinas for 30 years.
Glenn D. Brokaw passed away on June 2, 2005, in Palm Desert, California, and was buried at Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas, California.