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.

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