Pfc. William Edwin Brown
Pvt. William E. Brown was
born August 12, 1919, in Hodge, Louisiana He
was the son of Leslie &
Zora Brown. He was raised at 527 Fourth Street in Jonesboro,
Louisiana. His family called him, "Edwin."
On July 30, 1940, he was inducted into the U.S. Army in Jackson, Mississippi. He was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training. There, he was assigned to the 753ed Tank Battalion. In the late fall of 1941, his battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana. While he was there, the Louisiana maneuvers took place. His battalion did not take part in the maneuvers.
After the maneuvers, replacements were sought to fill the ranks of the 192nd Tank Battalion. This battalion made up mainly of National Guardsmen from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky had been ordered overseas. Those National Guardsmen considered too old to go overseas were released from federal duty. William volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to C Company which had originally been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company.
At Camp Polk, the tanks of the 753rd were given to the 192nd, and the 753rd received the 192nd's M-2 tanks. The equipment of the battalion was loaded onto flat cars and the companies of the battalion were sent west by trains to San Francisco,
On Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, the soldiers were inoculated and boarded onto transports. After stops at Hawaii and Guam, the ships arrived at Manila. There, the soldiers were took a train to Fort Stostenburg and assigned to tents along the main road between the army base and Clark Airfield. William and the other soldiers spent the next two weeks loading ammunition belts for the maneuvers they were going to take part in.
The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attacked Clark Field. That morning the soldiers were told about Pearl Harbor and ordered to the perimeter of the airfield. There job was to guard against Japanese paratroopers.
All morning as William and his company watched, the sky was filled with American planes. B-17's were loaded with bombs and fueled. After noon, the planes that had filled the sky landed and the pilots went to lunch.
At around 12:45 in the afternoon, William and the other tankers were lining-up near a truck for lunch when they saw planes approaching the airfield from the north. The soldiers counted 54 planes. At first, they thought the planes were American. It was only when they heard the screams of the bombs that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The tankers could do little more than watch as the planes attacked the airfield since they did not have the weapons to fight them. After the attack, they saw the damage done during the attack.
For the next four months, William took part in the delaying action against the Japanese. He most likely took part in the Battle of the Pockets. The Japanese had landed marines behind the American lines in two locations. These troops were soon cut off and surrounded. In an attempt to wipe the pockets out, tanks of the 192nd were sent into the pockets.
To do this, the tanks drove over the Japanese foxholes. On their backs were soldiers with bags of hand grenades. As the edge of the foxhole appeared from under the tank, the soldiers would drop hand grenades into the foxhole. Another method the tankers used to kill the Japanese was to park the tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver would then spin the tank around grinding the Japanese soldier into the dirt.
On April 9, 1942, William became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He and the other soldiers destroyed their tanks and weapons. They then made their way to Mariveles. It was from there that William started what became known as the death march.
William and the other prisoners made their way north to San Fernando. The Japanese denied them water and gave them very little food. Those men who dropped had to be left to die.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars. The cars could hold eight horses or forty men. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Many died during the trip to Capas. When the living disembarked the cars, the dead fell to the ground. The living made their way to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Training Base. There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. Men died at a rate as high as fifty a day. Conditions in the camp were so bad, that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. When the camp opened, William was sent there.
It is not known if William went out on any work details, but it is known he was still in the camp later in 1942. According to U.S. Army records, Pfc. William E. Brown died of dysentery at Cabanatuan on October 20, 1942.
After the war, the remains of Pfc. William E. Brown were returned to the United States. He was buried at Antioch Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Quitman, Louisiana.