|Sgt. James Anthony Bird|
Very little is known about Sgt. James A. Bird. It is known that he
was born on October 21, 1908, and raised in Geneva, Illinois. His
mother, Mary, remarried, and he was the step-son of Richard
McElligott. He would later reside in DuPage County, Illinois.
As an adult he moved
to Oak Park, Illinois, and lived at 1007 South Ridgeland Avenue.
He was a member of the
Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company from Maywood,
James trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941. After the maneuvers, James was given the opportunity to resign from federal service because of his age, but he chose to remain with his company. He was sent to the Philippines with his unit, which was now known as Company B, 192 Tank Battalion.
From Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, Jim and the other members of the 192nd sailed for the Philippine Islands. Arriving in Manila on Thanksgiving Day, the battalion was rushed to Fort Stostenburg. There they were housed in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Air Field.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the tanks were deployed around the perimeter of the air field. Just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jim lived through the attack on Clark Field.
Jim fought with his unit to hold the Japanese as long as possible. This include the withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American troops were surrendered to the Japanese.
Jim took part in the Death March and was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. He was next held as a POW at Cabanatuan. On December 12, 1942, Jim was sent out of the Las Pinas word detail. The POWs were held at Camp #10 at Lipa Batangas. They would spend the next seventeen months building runwyas.
In April 1944, the detail ended and Jim was returned to Cabanatuan. He would only remain in the Philippine Islands until June, 1944 when was sent to Manila for transport to Japan.
Jim, with other prisoners, was boarded onto the Canadian Challenger II. On July 1, 1944, the ship sailed for Japan. Because of the constant attacks by American planes, it took the ship 60 days to reach Japan. In Japan, Jim was held at Omine Machi on Honshu Island. There he was given POW number 373. He and the other POWs were used as slave labor in a coal mine. While a POW there he had no idea how the war was going.
Jim remained a prisoner at this camp until Japan surrendered to the United States in September of 1945. He and the other liberated men left that camp by train on September 15, 1945. He returned to the Philippine Islands and then the United States. He would remain in the military and earn the rank of Sergeant First Class. He retired form the military on April 30, 1960.
James A. Bird lived in Anaheim, California. He passed away in California, on March 1, 1969, and is buried in Section F, Grave: 612, at Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper, Virginia.