Cpl. Philip Sidney Brain Jr.
Philip Sidney Brain Jr. was born in Libby, Montana, to Philip S. Brain
Sr. & Marie
Brain on June 24, 1915. 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
as 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.
In early September 1941, the members of the 194th were informed that they were being sent overseas. The tankers were sent to San Francisco. There they were sent by transport to the Philippine Islands. After arriving in the Philippines, the soldiers were house in tents since their barracks had not been finished.
The morning of December 8th, 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. At 12:45. Philip and the other tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
After the Japanese landed troops at Lingayen Gulf, the tankers of A Company were sent north. For the next several months Philip and the other tankers fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
On April 9, 1942, Phil became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. From Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, Philip started what became known as the death march. He walked much of the march with Bernard Fitzpatrick and Bill McKeon.
The march for Phil was filled of atrocities. It seemed that the sound of gun shots filled the air. On one occasion he watched as a Filipino woman, who was hold a baby, flashed the "V" for victory sign to the Americans. She was seen by a Japanese guard who responded by bayoneting her baby. The look on her face was something that haunted Philip the rest of his life.
During a portion of the march, Phil was with Bernard Fitzpatrick and Bill McKeon. A Filipino boy ran into the POWs and put a small watermelon into his hands. The boy outran the Japanese guards. Phil broke the watermelon into three pieces and each man had something to eat.
At San Fernando, 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 he detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The Japanese commandant liked American western music and treated the POWs decently.
After the detail ended, Philip 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.
Several months after arriving at Cabanatuan, Philip was selected to go out on a work detail to Davao, Mindano. The trip took three days. The entire time the POWs stood. Upon arriving at Mindano, 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.
On June 12, 1944, the Yashu Maru left Lasang for Cebu City. It arrived at Cebu City on the 17th. The POWs were transferred to the Teiryu Maru which sailed on the 21st. The trip to Manila took three days. The ship docked in Manila on June 24th. After being unloaded, the prisoners were taken to Bilibid Prison.
In August, Philip was selected to shipment to Japan. He was boarded onto the Noto Maru which 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 and Keelung, Formosa. It arrived in Moji, Japan on September 4th. 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, Philip was sent to Sendai #6. The POWs were used as slave labor in a copper mine owned by Mitsubishi. The POWs were forced to climb up the side of a mountain and down into the mine. Each day he and the other POWs descended 472 steps into the mine. The POWs noticed that the guards never seemed to be winded when they arrived at the mine. The POWs later learned that the Japanese had cut a ground level entrance to the mine which the guards used to enter it.
In September 1945, Philip was liberated from the camp. He returned home to Minneapolis and was discharged April 21, 1946. He married Deloris Ellison. Philip and his wife lived in Edina, Minnesota, and were the parents of two daughters. He worked for the YMCA for 35 yeas. One reason was that, as a POW, he had decided to spend his life providing service to others.
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.