PFC James George Barna

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Service Number: 280701

Birth and Early Life:
Jimmy Barna was born around the year 1923; he was residing in Detroit at the time of his enlistment.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Barna joined on January 15, 1940. After finishing his training at MCRD San Diego, he was assigned to Company C, First Battalion, Sixth Marines; he served with them until November, when he transferred to the regiment’s Company L.

Wartime Service:
In 1941, Barna was promoted to Private First Class and joined Company M, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines. After fighting in the initial defense of the Philippines, Barna may have been one of the men detailed to Fort Hughes as crews for the defensive machine guns set up at key points around the island.

Date Of Loss:
James Barna disappears from American rolls on May 6, 1942, when his regiment surrendered to the Japanese. (1)

Glenn McDole, another member of Company M and a prisoner of war at Puerta Princesa camp at Palawan, mentioned encountering Barna in 1942.

The Japanese discovered some American prisoners were making contact with the Filipinos while working on the airfield. They learned that the Filipinos were not only giving them news, but food as well. The passing of information and the food drop-off center was an old abandoned shack near the work site…. One day the Filipino left a note telling the prisoners the Japanese were watching him and he wouldn’t be able to help them any longer. One of the prisoners, Jimmy Barna, wanted more information and left another note asking for information about the Japanese garrison on the island – how many soldiers there were, where they were located and any other information concerning the garrison. Japanese guards found the note in the shack and, as Mac said later, “all hell broke loose.”

- Bob Wilbanks, Last Man Out pg. 91.

The Japanese reacted furiously. The prisoners were called into formation, and the Filipino man – with his son by his side, threatened by Japanese rifles – was forced to identify the men with whom he had been communicating. Barna and another man were yanked out of the ranks; four more men, accused of stealing food, were also pulled forward.

Camp commandant Kishamoto ordered that the six prisoners be publicly flogged for their offenses. The ordeal of marine Jack Taylor was typical of what happened, as related by McDole:

They didn’t tie him to the tree, but made him face it and put his arms around the trunk…. [Camp guard Nishitoni] ordered one of the other guards to beat Taylor across the small of the back with a small wire whip. It tore into his flesh, ripping his skin away from the bone. When the guard tired, Nishitoni ordered still another guard to take his turn. Slowly, they turned Taylor’s back into raw, bleeding meat…. The guards seemed to enjoy the beatings. They laughed as the ships and clubs smashed into raw, shredded flesh. As for the victims, most of them stood there, heads unbowed and making no sound as they were beaten.

When the guards were finished, the six men were dragged away to the brig, where they were beaten unconscious and thrown into cells, where they received one half ration of rice every three days. Each day, they were made to exhibit their wounds and bruises to the prisoners going on work details. Shortly thereafter, all six were taken to Manila.

This Army Signal Corps photo shows the palm trees where Barna and the other prisoners were brutally beaten.

Later, the Palawan prisoners heard that Barna and a sailor named Laidlaw (2) had been executed. The date is unknown; McDole believed that the beatings had occurred in December of 1942.

McDole’s account is corroborated by PFC Walter Ditto (M/3/4) in a post-war affidavit.

James Barna, USMC, a man named Taylor, USMC, Bob Yoder, Navy, and a man named Smith, USN, in about February 1943, were mistreated by Kisamoto, Ogeri, Mishatani and Masido for stealing food. They were held in a cell for many days without food, taken out and tied to a cocoanut tree, and beaten with long clubs until they passed out. Then revived with water and beaten again. Their backs and kidneys were injured.

Barna was declared dead on January 23, 1946.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs Barbara Samborec

Status Of Remains:
Unknown.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
____
NOTES:
(1) Barna evidently was not reported as a POW; he does not appear on the National Archives records of prisoners, though he was awarded the Prisoner of War Medal.
(2) Probably Machinist’s Mate Third Class Robert John Laidlaw of Thiensville, Wisconsin.

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