Thursday, December 09, 2021

Brooks Field dedicated in 1942 to a heroic
African American tanker

 of kentucky 
 in the house of representatives 
 Tuesday, December 7, 2021

 Mr. GUTHRIE. Madam Speaker, today, on the 80th anniversary of the attacks on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor, we remember poignantly the courage and sacrifice of America's Greatest Generation. That legacy of service is rich in Kentucky's Second District, exemplified by the seemingly insurmountable challenges faced by Company D of the 192nd Tank Battalion, which included the Harrodsburg Tankers. 

On December 8th, across the international dateline and just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers descended on Company D and other U.S. forces who were stationed in the Philippines at Clark Field. A young private and Kentuckian by the name of Robert H. Brooks attempted to sprint to his station to fight back against Japanese forces. Sadly, he lost his life during his heroic action. He was the first casualty of the U.S. Armored Forces in World War II. The fighting in the Philippines was relentless for the U.S. service members and Company D. All of the remaining 66 Mercer County natives-- known today as the Harrodsburg Tankers--survived the initial conflict. However, 29 soldiers were lost to the unimaginable conditions during the three years they were held at prisoner-of-war camps. 

 At Fort Knox there is a parade field named after Private Brooks, called Brooks Field, and we will never forget him and those brave soldiers. The bravery of Private Brooks, Company D, and its tankers from Harrodsburg are an indelible reminder of the price of freedom for all that we must never forget.

👉This is the text that was submitted to Congressman Brett Guthrie's (R-KY) office to use. It is interesting to see what history was cut out by the congressman.

Madam Speaker, I rise today to remember the life and sacrifice of Private Robert H. Brooks, an American hero from Kentucky, who gave his life defending liberty on December 7, 1941. He did not perish at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, but during a same-day attack by Imperial Japan on the American territory of the Philippines. Brooks, 26, was the first American tank battalion member to be killed in World War II and possibly the first African American.

We cannot forget that on December 7, 1941, December 8th across the international dateline, Japan descended upon not only Pearl Harbor but also upon the Philippine Islands, Guam, Wake Island, Howland Island, Midway, Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Whereas the attack on Pearl Harbor was to discourage U.S. action in Asia, the other strikes served as preludes to full-scale invasions and brutal military occupation.

Pvt. Brooks was a member of the 192nd Tank Battalion, Company D, which originated as the 38th Divisional Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard from Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The 192nd arrived in the Philippines in late November 1941 and was sent immediately to guard Clark Field at Fort Stotsenburg. Soon after Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack, waves of Japanese bombers appeared over the air fields in the Philippines.

Brooks was killed running to his M3 Half-track hoping to man its .50 caliber machine gun. When the news of Pvt. Robert H. Brooks, the first battle casualty of the Armored Force, reached Fort Knox, the Commanding General, Jacob Devers, ordered that the main parade ground at the base from that day on be named after the young tanker.

In inviting Brooks’ parents to the naming ceremony, it was discovered that they were Black tenant farmers from rural Kentucky. At the time, the Army’s Armored Force was segregated.

When this was reported back to General Devers, he said, “It does not matter whether or not Robert was Black, what mattered was that he had given his life for his country.” At the dedication of Brooks Field on December 23, Major General Devers said “In death, there is no grade or rank. And in this greatest democracy the world has ever known, neither riches nor poverty, neither creed nor race, draws a line of demarcation in this hour of national crisis.”

Pvt. Brooks was not alone in his determination and dedication to service. His Company D and 192nd Tank Battalion held out in the Battle of Bataan with dwindling supplies, rampant disease, and little rest until they were surrendered by their commanders on April 9, 1942. Rescue did not come nor was it planned. What followed was the infamous Bataan Death March, capricious abuse, starvation, hellships, and slave labor in Japan. By war’s end, barely half of the men and women surrendered on Bataan had survived. Only 37 or the 66 men from Harrodsburg returned home.

So today, I ask you to remember the bravery of both Pvt. Brooks and General Devers who defied convention to do what was right to advance democracy and equality. I invite you to visit Brooks Field at Fort Knox in my district to pay your respects to them. And I ask you not to forget the brave men of the 192nd Tank Battalion who withstood fascism in battle and in captivity, half of whom did not return home.

From the Congressional Record [Page S8959]


December 7, 2012

Ms. DUCKWORTH. Mr. President, I rise today on Pearl Harbor Day to remind my colleagues that on December 7, 1941, Imperial Japan attacked not only Pearl Harbor but also the Philippine Islands, Guam, Wake Island, Howland Island, Midway, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Bangkok.

In the Philippines that day, 89 men from Maywood, IL, who made up Company ``B'' of the 192nd Tank Battalion--federated National Guard units from Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Ohio--defended Clark Field from invading Japanese forces. They had arrived in the Philippines less than 3 weeks earlier.

These Illinois tankers watched helplessly as Japan's modern planes flew beyond the reach of their guns and destroyed the airfield. They then fought valiantly on the Bataan Peninsula with antiquated weapons and dwindling supplies. Relief from the United States never came. Though they held out for months, the men, overcome with fatigue, starvation, and disease, were surrendered by their commanders on April 9, 1942.

What followed was the infamous Bataan Death March 100 miles up the peninsula to a makeshift prison camp. Thousands died. Maywood, a hamlet outside of Chicago, had the greatest number of men from any single American town on the Death March. They would not all make it home. Those who survived the initial march endured 3 and a half years of death camps, brutal forced labor, and unimaginable abuse. More than half the Americans taken prisoner on Bataan died before they could see the war's end. Of the 89 Maywood men of Company ``B'' who left the U.S. in 1941, only 43 returned home in 1945.

For 79 years, Maywood has celebrated and remembered its heroes of Bataan with an annual September Memorial. Like many important celebrations in COVID, this was the second year that the memorial had to be postponed. But we do not forget the men of Maywood. From the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge in Chicago to Maywood's Bataan Memorial Park, my home State of Illinois recalls daily their sacrifice for liberty.

As a retired member of the Illinois National Guard myself, today is a solemn day--a day that will forever live in infamy--when we are reminded of the sacrifices made and the brave lives lost in service to our Nation. I am proud to have served with my Illinois National Guard family and work to continue to bring respect, remembrance, and honor to such a strong legacy.

Therefore, I ask my fellow Senators to join me on this 80th anniversary of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and to remember the other Americans who fought and died throughout the Pacific that day. Although the aim of the December 7 surprise attack on Hawaii's Pearl Harbor was to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet in its home port and to discourage U.S. action in Asia, the other strikes served as preludes to full-scale invasion and brutal military occupation.

I further ask my colleagues to join me in commending the hard work and dedication of Maywood Bataan Day Organization President Col. Richard A. McMahon, Jr., and his board of directors, as well as Ms. Jan Thompson, president of the Illinois-based American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, who are committed to honoring and preserving the history of the men and women of Bataan who gave so much in the fight against tyranny and fascism. They, too, are the part of the story of Pearl Harbor Day and in keeping the memory of the men of Maywood alive to this day.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Eighty Years Ago, Japan Assaulted More Than Pearl Harbor

Kota Bharu

On December 7, 1941, Japan expanded its war on the Asian mainland south and eastward into the Pacific.

by Mindy L. Kotler

National Interest, Dec 7, 2021

Eighty years ago today, December 7, 1941, critical airfields and ports across Southeast Asia and the Pacific were ablaze and in ruin. In just seven hours, Imperial Japan’s surprise attacks cripled British and American forces in the Far East, exposed the Dutch East Indies to invasion, and pushed Thailand into submission. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was but one of many that day. Casualties of the “Associated Powers,” likely exceeded those in Hawaii. One result of these unprovoked attacks was the creation of alliances that endure to this day.

Japan coordinated attacks on the U.S. territories of Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Howland Island, and Midway and the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Japanese forces invaded and bombed Thailand’s airfields. In Shanghai, Japan took control of the International Settlement after blowing up the last two British and American gunboats on the Yangtze, the HMS Peterel and the USS Wake.  

The first attack, 70 minutes before Pearl Harbor, was on British-Indian forces at Kota Bharu, on the eastern side of Malaya. Hours before, a British flying boat was shot down by Japanese aircraft while monitoring the progress of the Japanese fleet. The British Royal Air Force crew and their Royal Australian Air Force observer became the first Allied casualties of the war. The ensuing defense of northeastern Malaya was fierce and savage with high casualties on both sides. 

Soon after, Bangkok was bombed and Japanese troops landed to its south and at various points along the Kra Peninsula on the southeastern coast of Thailand. Again, the invaders met with stiff resistance. Despite determined Thai forces, the fighting lasted only five hours. Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram agreed to a ceasefire and formed an alliance with Japan. The Kota Bharu landings were a prelude to the drive down the eastern side of the Malay peninsula, while the Japanese troops landed in Thailand advanced with Thai soldiers down the western side to seize Singapore and its naval base--the cornerstone of British power in the Indo-Pacific. Japanese planes bombed Singapore that day in warning.

Japan’s early morning attack on Pearl Harbor on Hawaii’s Oahu, was followed by the bombardments of the American airfields on Midway and Howland Island in the equatorial Pacific. Two of the four Hawaii settlers on Howland were killed. For his selfless defense of Midway, First Lieutenant George H. Cannon became the first U.S. Marine in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor.

Guam was shelled, bombed, and invaded. The American territory fell two days later. Of the nearly 500 American military personnel taken to Japan from Guam as prisoners of war, five were female nurses. Japanese troops occupied Batan Island above Northern Luzon in the Philippines before mounting a full-scale invasion. This approach on Aparri on the coast of Cagayan Valley, believed by American war planners as impractical, caught the defenders off-guard and unprepared. The success of the surprise assault was played out just this past fall when U.S., Filipino, and Japanese forces held their first joint amphibious exercises near this Northern Luzon town.

Six hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese bombed Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport and pushed the defending British and Commonwealth troops to the defensive Gin Drinkers Line. The territory, however, was long regarded as indefensible. Nevertheless British, Indian, Canadian  units along with the Auxiliary Defence Units and Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) held out for two weeks against a Japanese force twice its size.

The Japanese attacked Wake Island about the same time as they bombed Hong Kong. The Americans on Wake Island were composed of 400 Marines, a handful of soldiers and sailors, 45 Chamorro Pan Am employees,  and 1,146 unarmed civilian contractors building an airfield. They proceeded to do what had never been done before or after, hold off an Armada for nearly two weeks. They did not surrender until December 23rd.

The last Japanese actions on December 7th were the bombing of the Iba and Clark airfields in southern Luzon, the Philippines. As in Hawaii, the Japanese caught the American planes on the ground and the defense weak. The guns of neither the ageing artillery batteries nor tank battalions defending the fields could reach the high flying Japanese planes. Whereas the attack on Pearl Harbor damaged the Pacific Fleet, the attack on the Philippines and other U.S. territories destroyed the Far East Air Force. 

The first battle casualty of the Armored Force in World War II, Pvt. Robert Brooks of Kentucky’s Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion, took place on Clark Field. Back at Fort Knox, the home of the newly formed Armored Force, the Commanding General Jacob Devers responded to the news by ordering that the main parade ground at the base be named after the young tanker. This distinction was particularly significant as Brooks turned out to be African American.

On December 7, 1941, Japan expanded its war on the Asian mainland south and eastward into the Pacific. The primary objective was to knock out American and British opposition to its advance into Southeast Asia. The ultimate goal was occupation of the Indo-Pacific, control over  its valuable natural resources, and supremacy over the region's seas. As the sun set, Japan's success seemed possible.

Instead, the day’s debacles forged alliances with a resolve to fight fascist expansionism East and West. The “Associated Powers” (Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States) became the Allies and expanded to include India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and free forces from Japan’s occupied territories. The shared bitter experience of Imperial Japan’s wanton brutality and deceits provided the emotional bond to this warfighting coalition. Ironically, these very alliances are what Japan today looks to in defending its homeland.