Pfc. Field McLeod Reed Jr.
Field M. Reed Jr. was born on February 24, 1920, in Indiana and raised in Harrodsburg,
Kentucky. He was the son of Field M. Reed Sr. and Mertie Mae
Woodward-Reed. His grandfather, who did not want his
first born grandson to be named Field gave him the
nickname of "Jack" by which he was known.
Jack grew up in the country and attended a one room school house with all eight grades in one room. His family would later move to Harrodsburg where he attended Harrodsburg High School. In high school, he played football and basketball. He also got married before he graduated.
After high school, Jack started school at Western Kentucky University. He also soon learned that he was going to be a father and married Joanna. The longer he was in school, the more depressed he became, so he dropped out and bought a truck and started to haul materials. In 1939, he became the father of a son. In 1940, he was working as a director for the W. P. A.
Jack joined the Kentucky National Guard and became a member of the Harrodsburg tank company. The reason he joined the Guard was that his wife's cousin, Bacon Moore, convinced him to join. Moore was also the company commander.
On November 25, 1940, he was called to federal duty. His National Guard company was now D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. After a five day stay in Harrodsburg, the company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky for one year of federal duty. It was at this time that Jack qualified as a truck driver. According to Jack, after the company arrived at Ft. Knox, and an officer asked them who could drive a truck. Several men raised their hands and were given the job of hauling gravel to the 192nd's tank park.
In early 1941, Field was transferred to Headquarters Company when the company was created. Since he was now officially a driver, he did not have to drill as hard. He often drove Col. Moore to meetings.
Being assigned to HQ Company meant that Jack met the National Guardsmen from the other companies who also had been transferred to the company. He recalled that the soldiers from Janesville, Wisconsin loved to drink beer. They would go out and buy a case a beer, but instead of putting the empties in the case, they put the bottles in the attic of the barracks. By the time they left for Louisiana, the ceiling was ready to cave in from the weight of the bottles.
Jack also recalled that after a few beers, M/Sgt. Osborne McDonald would start to tell stories. In the nine months Jack lived in the barracks, he never heard McDonald tell the same story twice.
The equipment that the 192nd received was the 1st Armor Divisions throw offs. Jack recalled that they often had to drag tanks, behind a truck, down the road in their tank to get park to get them started.
In the fall of 1941, Jack took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that the members of the 192nd learned they were being sent overseas. Jack received a leave home and then returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana.
By train, along the Gulf Coast, Jack and the other soldiers traveled to San Francisco through New Mexico and Arizona. At Yuma, Arizona the train stopped. Native Americans entered the train cars and sold beads to the soldiers. The soldiers knocked each other over attempting to buy the beads. After the train pulled out of the station. someone noticed that the genuine Native American beads were made in Japan.
The train then made its way north along the Pacific Coast arriving in San Francisco. They were taken by ferry to Angel Island. On Angel Island, the battalion received physicals and shots. They were boarded onto a ship and sailed for the Philippine Islands.
In the Philippines, Jack lived in a tent along the main road between Ft. Stotsenburg and Clark Airfield. For the next two weeks, the tankers prepared their tanks for maneuvers. During this time, Jack was assigned as Capt. Ruben Schwass's driver at this time and drove him to meetings.
On December 8, 1941, Jack remembered that all the American planes took off and filled the sky. At about 12:30 they landed. Fifteen minutes later the airfield was bombed. Jack was at lunch, in the mess hall, when planes appeared over Clark Field. When he heard the sounds of explosions, he ran to the area that his company was assigned. The building he left was hit by a bomb.
Jack recalled watching the pilots of the American planes attempt to get their planes off the ground. As they roared down the runway, Japanese fighters strafed the planes causing them to crash and burn. Jack manned a .50 caliber machine gun and fired at the Japanese planes. He watched as the tracer shells hit the planes but the planes kept flying.
After the attack, Jack could not believe the carnage. Bodies of the wounded and dying were everywhere. Smoke seemed to be everywhere, and the entire base seemed to be burning.
Jack being a truck driver spent the next four months attempting to get supplies to the tanks to fight the Japanese. He often worked with Mule Henderson who was a member of B Company. Doing this job often put his own life in jeopardy since the front lines were fluid. While trying to deliver ammunition and gasoline to the tanks, Jack often only had an idea where the tanks might be. While delivering gasoline and ammunition to A Company, he heard the sound of shelling. He knew that this meant the frontline was not too far away.
Jack remembered that he and Mule pulled up to an A Company tank and saw Capt. Walter Write lying on the back of the tank. A landmine he had been planting exploded in his hands. According to Jack, Write said to his men, Be careful fellows. There' isn't a damn thing out there worth giving up your life for." Write died of his wounds soon after Jack saw him.
On several occasions, doing his job resulted in Jack found himself behind Japanese lines. His only means of escape was to give the truck the gas and smash through Japanese roadblocks until he reached the American lines.
On one occasion, Capt. Arthur Burholt gave Jack and Mule a bottle of scotch for C Company. Burholt told them where the tanks were suppose to be. When they got there, the two soldiers realized that they were a half mile behind enemy lines. Jack told Mule to drive and that he would man the machine gun on the jeep. They made it back to their own lines without incident.
Jack also recalled that he and Mule Henderson had become friends with a Naval Chief. While they were in Mariveles, the chief took them into tunnels and showed them cans and cans of food. He allowed them to take what they could carry.
The longer the Americans fought food became the major issue for them. Jack recalled how one day, a truck arrived in their bivouac with a hindquarter of meat on it. They realized that this meat came from one of the horses of the 26th U. S. Calvary of Filipino Scouts. They were happy have the meat.
According to Jack, the soldiers also would attempt to catch wild chickens. They would dig a hole and put the chicken in it as bait. When an iguana crawled into the hole, they would catch it. They would then cook and eat its tail.
On April 9, 1942, Jack and the other members of D Company were told of the surrender. He and the other men made their way to Mariveles. While they where they were making their way to the barrio, they were strafed by Japanese planes.
Jack remembered that at Mariveles, there was a pen that had been used to house captured Japanese soldiers. He watched as the Japanese, upon occupation of the barrio, machined gunned 125 of their own men for having surrendered.
From Mariveles, Jack started the death march. On the march, Jack and the other Prisoners of War went without food or water for days. He also witnessed Americans mistreated by the Japanese. Often, the abuse came from Japanese soldiers heading south in trucks toward Corregidor. As they passed the POWs, the Japanese would hit the POWs in their heads with the butts of their rifles. During the march, the only member of the 192nd from Harrodsburg with him was Lonnie Gray.
At one point, the POWs had to pass Japanese artillery that had been set up to fire on Corregidor. As Field neared the artillery, the Japanese fired on the island. A few minutes later, shells from Corregidor began hitting the Japanese guns.
One of the shells exploded near Jack killing the Japanese officer who was directing the fire of the Japanese guns. A piece of shrapnel from the shell hit him in the leg and wedged itself against the bone. When his group was given a break, another POW gave Jack a mess kit knife that he had hidden from the Japanese. Jack used the knife to cut the shrapnel out of his leg.
Not too far from San Fernando, Jack was stabbed with a bayonet by a guard because the guard believed that he had not followed orders. The wound was meant to send a message and not kill him. Jack now had to continue the march bleeding.
At San Fernando, Jack was reunited with Lt. William Gentry and Pvt. Lyle Harlow. Seeing them made him feel better. It was also at San Fernando that Jack was selected to return to Bataan to rebuild bridges and fill in craters from shells. In Jack's opinion, he was treated very well on the detail and actually put on weight.
A Jack remained in Bataan and was joined by other POWs. This included Grover Brummett from Harrodsburg. At one point the POWs were building a bridge over a river. Jack and Mule Henderson had the job of using poles to push away junk that would slam into the pilings and knock them loose. The Japanese guard watching them was called, "Pick handle Pete". Jack and Mule caught him off guard and drowned him in the river by holding him under with the poles. When the other guards came looking for him, they said he had gone into the jungle and they had not seem him since he had left.
On one occasion, Jack was the last man in line for lunch. Because of this, he was punished. One guard hit him with the handle of a pick in the back. Another used his belt on Jack. A third guard punched him in the mouth, He soon passed out. The one permanent result of the being beaten so badly was that he suffered hearing loss. This was all done while the other guards and POWs ate their lunches.
While he was at Cabanatuan he and Ben Devine were bunk mates. Devine was so ill from dysentery and malaria that Jack attempted to nurse him back to health. He could tell by the look on Devine's face that he had given up and wanted to die. Field attempted to keep Devine alive by getting him to think of his wife.
One evening, after working Jack went to see Devine to feed and clean him. Nothing that Jack could do got Devine to change his attitude. It was not too many days after this that Jack returned from work to find that Ben had died. The one image Jack remembered was of the maggots attempting to work their way into Devine's mouth. Devine was buried in the camp cemetery.
On December 12, 1942, Jack went out on a work detail to Las Pinas to work on runways at Nichols Field. With him on the detail were Ancel Crick, James Choate, Grover Whittinghill, and Robert Cloyd. This detail quickly became known as a "death detail" by the POWs in the camps.
While on this detail, Jack received a beating because he was the last man to finish his work. This was a common practice. Whoever was the last man to get in line received a beating.
Jack was punished a second time while on this detail. A friend of his was ill and fell to the ground. The Japanese guard bayoneted the man. Seeing this caused Jack to lose his temper. Jack punched the guard in his mouth breaking his jaw. The other guards around field grabbed Jack and beat him. They returned Jack to the school that was being used as a barracks for the POWs and put him in the sweatbox. He remained in the box for two weeks.
When Jack was taken out of the box, he was in such bad shape that the Japanese sent him to Bilibid Prison. This was the closest thing to a hospital. Jack put on enough weight to be returned to Cabanatuan.
One of the worse things Jack witnessed at Cabanatuan was Americans preying on other Americans. These POWs took advantage of the weak by selling food to the weak at extremely high interest rates. Those who accepted the terms of these scavengers found themselves repaying their debt with most of their food ration.
The Japanese must have determined that Jack was too ill to be transported to Japan, because Jack was still a POW at Cabanatuan on January 30, 1945, when U. S. Rangers liberated the POWs from the Japanese. He recalled that he and other POWs were sitting inside their barracks talking when a shot rang out. A second later another shot was heard. Then, all hell broke out. Jack and the other men hit the floor covering his head. How long he did this was something he did not know. When he heard a voice shouting "Head for the main gate!" he did what he was told. There was some confusion when doing this since there was a main gate and a front gate. When Jack arrived at the correct gate, Jack saw a sergeant with the Rangers slit the throats of eleven Japanese guards who had surrendered.
Jack and the other POWs safely made it to American lines. Those who could walk did so, but the majority of freed POWs rode in carts pulled by caribou. Jack returned home to his wife and children in Harrodsburg. He was discharged on September 12, 1945. After he was liberated, he told his story of life as a Japanese POW.
Jack and Charlie Quinn were asked to tour with John Wayne and Anthony Quinn on a promotional tour for the movie, 'Back to Bataan." Jack declined but Charlie went on the tour.
Jack returned to Harrodsburg but decided it was time to get on with his life. He moved to Louisville where he sold truck tires. Finding this to cutthroat, he attempted other jobs before going to work for International Harvester. He remained with the company for 38 years. When he retired, he was assistant superintendent of the plant.
Field M. Reed Jr. died on August 28, 2003, in Louisville.