Johnnie William Bottoms Sr. (P2, C1, L9)
Technical Sergeant Johnnie William Bottoms Sr., 26, of Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky, died of malaria on 1 June 1942 while being held a prisoner of war in the Philippines serving on federal active duty during World War II.
Bottoms was one of the first men to join the Kentucky National Guard’s 38th Tank Company in July 1932 when the unit was moved from Covington and established in Harrodsburg. He left the unit in September 1935 to join the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) but returned to the unit in June 1936. Bottoms listed his civilian occupations on his various enlistment documents as farmer and truck driver and after the CCC tour, as a cook. This became his duty in the Tank Company as well. He was married to Anna Mae Spoonamore and had one son, Johnnie William Bottoms, Jr., born in May 1939. The 38th Tank Company was the first Kentucky unit ordered to active duty in Kentucky on 25 November 1940 and was redesignated as Company D, 192nd Light Tank Battalion at Fort Knox. Bottoms was assigned to the Headquarters Company in January 1941. By 19 October 1941 Bottoms was back in Fort Polk, Louisiana after his last military leave and visit to his home and family before the unit boarded a train for California and eventually set sail for the Philippines.
Moving under secret orders, Company D arrived in the Philippines by Thanksgiving Day, 1941. War came to them when the Japanese attacked Clark Field just a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Harrodsburg Tankers along with the allied forces fought the Japanese valiantly without reinforcements or resupply until they were ordered to surrender in April 1942. They had delayed the Japanese Army's timetable from 50 days to four months, giving the allies vital time to protect Australia and recover from the attack on Pearl Harbor. Members of the unit either escaped to Corregidor or were in the infamous 90 mile Bataan Death March. However, they were all eventually taken prisoner. Bottoms was taken prisoner on 9 April 1942 and survived the Death March which began for him at Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan ending at Camp O’Donnell. Bottoms went out on a work detail to repair bridges to escape the horrible conditions in the camp. He died of malaria on 1 June 1942 at Calauan Camp #3.
Bottoms was buried in Calauan's cemetery. Phil Parish, of Janesville, Wisconsin's A Company, of the 192nd Tank Battalion remembered that several days after Johnnie's burial, a Japanese guard was escorting the prisoners of war (POWs) as they left for a work detail. As the detail passed the front of the cemetery, the guard ordered the POWs to halt and pointed to Johnnie's grave. He then called out in English "Attention" and the POWs and the guard saluted. After saluting Johnnie, the guard and detail continued on their way. Bottom’s remains were returned to Kentucky after the war and he now rests next to his wife, in the Richmond Cemetery.
SEE Also: Bataan Commemorative Research Project Website Bottoms Bio
T/Sgt. Johnnie William Bottoms Sr. was born on September 23, 1915, in Mercer County, Kentucky. With his brother, he was raised in Harrodsburg and Richmond, Kentucky, by his grandparents. He was known as “Johnnie” to his family and friends. It is known that he was married to Anna Mae Spoonamore and was the father of a son, John William Bottoms Jr. When he was called to federal service, he was working as a truck driver and farmworker.
Johnnie Bottoms’ son continued the family tradition of military service. Chief Warrant Officer Four (Ret) Johnnie William Bottoms Jr. (1939 – 2006) served in U. S. Army from 1960 to 1964 and the Kentucky National Guard from 1964 until his military retirement in 1999 with 39 years of service. He was laid to rest at Camp Nelson National Cemetery.
Cooking in the field, Mess section, Co D. Mess SGT Johnnie Bottoms, Cook Leo Reed, KPs Miller Hurst, and Paul Bussell Courtesy Maurice E. Wilson.
Johnnie Bottoms and Lt Graham of Harrodsburg, riding train going to Wisconsin Maneuvers, 1939 Courtesy Maurice E. Wilson.