Pvt. Tansell Ezell Bruce
Tansell E. Bruce was the son of Connie & Mettie Bruce. He was
born in Lynnville, Kentucky on October 13, 1915. With his four
sisters and brother, he attended
school in Fairbanks, Kentucky. He attended high school, but he did not graduate.
After leaving high school, he worked as a farmer. Tansell was known as "Pete" to his family and friends.
On January 22, 1941, Tansell was inducted into the United States Army. Upon arriving at Fort Knox, he was assigned to D Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. This was done since the company had originated as a Kentucky National Guard Tank Company from Harrodsburg. He trained with the 192nd and took part in the maneuvers of 1941 in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, he and the other soldiers learned that they were being sent overseas. He received a leave home to say his goodbyes to his family and friends.
Traveling west by train D Company arrived in San Francisco. From there, they were ferried to Angel Island. After receiving inoculations Tansell and the rest of the company traveled west by ship to Manila. Arriving there, they were taken to Fort Stostenburg. For a little over two weeks, he and the other men lived in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.
On December 8, 1942, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Tansell lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. He spent the next four months fighting the Japanese until he an the other Americans on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. He took part in the death march which took him five days to complete. He was a member of the first group of Prisoners of War to arrive at Camp O'Donnell.
Tansell described Camp O'Donnell as being a series of wooden huts with bamboo floors. He and the other POWs slept on the floors of the huts. According to him, at night the mosquitoes would eat the men alive, while the heat was unbearable during the day. Conditions in the camp were so bad, as many as fifty men died each day. The POWs stood in line for hours to get a drink of water from the only water faucet in the camp. One meal was composed of 350 grams of rice. Three meals were served each day. During this time, his family had no idea that he was alive. They had been told by the army that he was Missing in Action. It was only when they received POW postcards from him that they knew he was alive.
Tansell was next held as a POW at Cabanatuan. He remained in the camp until late 1944. At that time he was sent to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Noto Maru. The ship sailed on July 1, 1944 and took 62 days to reach Japan.
Tansell remembered the trip to Japan. He recalled that 500 men were packed into the ship's hold. They were packed in so tightly that no one could sit down. The trip to Japan took from July 23, 1943 until July 7, 1944. The POWs disembarked the ship at Moji and taken to Omine Machi. Of the POW camps, this was the camp the Japanese showcased as a "model" camp.
The POWS in the camp worked in a coal mine. Cave-ins were a common occurrence. Tansell remained at Omine Machi until he was liberated on September 15, 1945. He was returned to the Philippine Islands until it was determined that he was healthy enough to return to the United States. He was discharged, from the army, on April 11, 1946.
After the war, Tansell returned to Kentucky. He married, Helen Foy, and was the father of two children. He also returned to farming. According to his family, he never spoke to anyone, except his father, about what he had gone through as a POW.
Tansell E. Bruce passed away in April 22, 1982, in Sedalia, Kentucky. He was buried at Lynnville Baptist Church Cemetery in Lynnville, Kentucky.