Pvt. Grover Cleveland Brummett
Grover C. Brummett was born April 9, 1920, in Garratt County to Joseph & Nellie Brummett.
He grew up on a small farm near Lancaster, Kentucky. As a child he
attended school in Hubble where he was educated in a one room log school house.
When he was ten, his family moved to Harrodsburg. In
1938, he graduated from Harrodsburg High School. In 1940, he was
working on his brother's farm outside of Harrodsburg.
He had attempted to join the regular army, but his father refused to sign the papers. His reason for joining the army was that he wanted to get off the family farm. When he was 19, he joined the National Guard with his friends Maurice "Jack" Wilson, Bland Moore, Cecil Vandiver, Morris Collier and William Gentry. His father, once again, had to sign the papers. His father believed that if he signed the papers, Grover would be home to help him harvest. Grover failed to tell his father that the tank company was going to be federalized.
On November 25, 1940, the tank company was called to federal service. Traveling to Fort Knox, the members of the tank company were now members of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. Grover recalled that this tour of duty was suppose to be for one year. It was at Ft. Knox that Grover was trained to drive a half-track. He believed that the training he and the other men received was basic training for every soldier. He would later become a half-track commander.
It was also there that Grover was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created in January, 1941. In his opinion, the men selected for transfer were the troublemakers in each of the letter companies.
One day, Grover looked down at the PX from the hill top where the 192nd's tank park was located. He noticed 50 to 60 men in front of it. Went down to take a look and found that a fight was going on between some D Company men and members of 19th Ordnance. One member of his company was taking a pretty good beating. Grover managed to stop the fight.
Later that same day, each letter company of the 192nd sent a truck load of soldiers down to the PX looking for a fight with 19th Ordnance. The fight never took place. Kenneth Hourigan pulled a knife out and put it against one of the troublemakers stomach. This seemed to convince those involved to stop fighting.
In the late summer of 1941, Grover traveled to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. After them, Grover learned that the battalion was being sent overseas. From Camp Polk the battalion traveled by train to San Francisco. HQ Company was routed along the Gulf Coast and through New Mexico and Arizona before traveling up the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. From Angel Island, Grover left the United States for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day, 1941, Grover and the other of the tankers were sent to Fort Stotsenburg. There they lived in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. In early December 1941, D Company was reassigned but never transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion.
Having heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks had been placed around the perimeter of Clark Field to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers. Around lunchtime of December 8, 1941, Grover lived through the attack on the airfield. Grover and other soldiers were coming out of the non-com club. 1st Sgt. Willard Swift pointed to the sky at the planes. He pulled out his binoculars and began counting them. It was only when the bombs began exploding that they knew the planes were Japanese.
During the attack, Grover ran to his halftrack and manned a .30 caliber machine gun on his halftrack. He soon realized that the Japanese planes were making a figure eight and simply left the gun in one position. He believed he shot down nine planes. In the heat of the battle, Grover saw a plane off to his side, he began shooting at it. The pilot began to wave his wings to indicate that he was an American attempting to take off.
On December 17, 1941, was sent north toward Lingayen Gulf. During the Battle of Luzon, Grover is credited with shooting down two Japanese Zeros and a "Photo Joe" reconnaissance plane. In his opinion, the U.S. 26th Calvary, Philippine Scouts was slaughtered by its own officers by sending them into battle against tanks. As the Filipino and American forces fell back into Bataan, Grover's tank covered five retreats. During one of these retreats, Japanese troops ran into Grover's encampment at about 2:30 in the morning. Grover and the other soldiers had about 600 grenades from World War I. They began throwing the grenades. Only about half of the grenades exploded. Grover radio headquarters and was told to get his tanks out of there.
During the Battle of Bataan, Grover lost a tank in his platoon. While the tank crew was sleeping, the Japanese dug a trench under the tank. The Japanese then raised the turret's hatch cover and dropped a grenade into the tank killing the four crewmen.
Grover recalled that the tanks were the last units to pull back during a withdrawal. The tanks would lay down intense fire as the Filipino and American troops withdrew. After the troops had withdrawn, the tanks would destroy anything that the Japanese could possibly use. This included warehouses, rice caches and banks.
On April 9, 1942, Grover became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered. At Mariveles, Grover started the death march. During the march, Grover watched as the Japanese buried a Filipino soldier alive.
For Grover the worse thing about the march was the lack of food and water. At one point, a captain asked Grover for his canteen cup. At first Grover hesitated about giving it to him. The officer told Grover that he would get water and give him a cup. The officer ran up to one of the artesian wells and filled the cups with water. A Japanese guard came up behind the officer and stuck him in the butt with his bayonet but not deep enough to really hurt him. The officer ran back in line and handed Grover his cup of water.
General Weaver was in Grover's group of POWs. Because of his age, Weaver was being carried in a chair. Two poles were attached to the legs of the chair so that four POWs could carry him. At one point, Grover had the job of carrying Weaver. Because of this, Grover did not think to highly of Weaver. In his opinion, he and the other POWs were barely able to make the march on their own, and they were given the additional chore of making sure Weaver survived it.
It took Grover fourteen days to complete the march. During this period, he was only fed once. At one point, Grover saw two Filipinos who were going to boil some rice in a canteen cup. A Japanese guard told them to move on. The two Filipinos did not understand what the soldier was saying so the Japanese soldier bayoneted them.
He was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. Men in the camp were dying at a rate of forty to fifty men a day. There, he worked on the burial detail. To bury the dead, Grover would take a wooden pole and push the body down into the grave. The water table was so high that when a grave was dug, it would fill with water. The burial detail would put two more bodies into the grave which would hold down the first body.
Grover also spent time on the Bachrach Garage Detail with Pvt. Jim Langford, HQ Company, and Pvt. Logan Sampson who had been one of the original members of D Company. Grover next was sent to Manila where he worked as a stevedore loading and unloading 55 gallon drums from ships. This was the worse job he had while a POW.
Grover was then sent to Bilibid Prison to be processed for shipment to Japan. It was at this time that he attempted to talk his best friend, John Cummins, into going to Japan with him. John refused stating that it was just a matter of time before the Americans would liberate the POWs. Grover was boarded onto the Nagato Maru on November 7, 1942. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa on November 11th. It stayed at Takao for three days and then sailed for the Pescadores Islands arriving there same day. Two days later the ship sailed for Kelung Island arriving on the same day. On the 24th, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan.
The entire voyage to Japan took seventeen days because the convoy was attempting to avoid American submarines. The only source of light in the hold was one light bulb. In Grover's own words, "The hell ship was exactly what it was called, Hell."
Explosions from the torpedoes from American submarines added to the terror. Some men went crazy in the dark and fights broke out among the prisoners. Still other men attempted to get out of the hold by climbing the ladders to the deck. Other POWs pulled them off the ladders so that the guards would not shoot them.
Those prisoners who went out of their heads would attack the weaker prisoners and drink their blood. If American planes appeared, the guards would cover the hold's opening which was the only source of light and fresh air. All this succeeded in doing was to add to the terror of the prisoners as they heard the explosions outside. To keep himself from going crazy, Grover thought of home and his life before the war.
The Nagato Maru arrived in Formosa. It remained there for two days before sailing for Japan. In Japan, Grover was pt to work building a dam. While on this detail, he was held as a prisoner at Mitsushima. He recalled that many of the POWs doing the work died. He and the other POWs had to carry eighty pound bags of cement. He remained on this detail for a year and a half before being transferred to a carbide plant.
At this new camp, Grover worked firing furnaces of a factory at a carbide factory. With him at the camp was Paul Grassick. He also met British prisoners who were captured by the Japanese at Shanghai, China. The POWs smuggled newspapers into the camp that the Japanese workers left in the factory. Since many of the British prisoners could read Japanese they provided the POWs with news of the war.
Grover was transferred to Narumi Camp. At this camp the POWs produced wheels for the Nippon Wheel Manufacturing Company. One morning the camp's interpreter told the prisoners, "Between your country and mine we are now friends." Grover and the other prisoners were liberated by American forces on September 4, 1945. He returned to the United States in late October, 1945.
Grover returned to Kentucky and married Mary Will Moore in November 1945. Together they had two sons, James and Ronald. Ronald died as an infant. The couple also had two daughter. It is known that he remarried and worked as a salesman and lived in Louisville.
Grover C. Brummett passed away in February 7, 2002, in Louisville, Kentucky.