James Oscar Bennett
as told through the memories of his son

My father grew up as an only child (he had lost an older brother that had died as a baby) but living in the home with his grandparents for a few years.   

His nickname was Boxcar - relative to his size when he played High School football.  He was almost 21 when he graduated from High School due to having to help work on the farm and make ends meet during the 30's. His POW buddies called him Job - his initials - J. O. B. for James Oscar Bennett. 

Dad left Wynne, AR in 1939 when he joined the CCC - Civilian Conservation Corps. He spent some time in the Cody, Wyoming area working on various building projects. Dad enlisted in the Marine Corps when the US joined the war in Europe.
Dad was in Shanghai, China before his duty on the isle of Corregidor. Dad spent 42 months as a guest of the Japanese, being liberated in September 1945 from the Japanese Fukuoka Camp #17. Dad came home, built a small house and married our mother - Fannie Caubble. He planted a small peach orchard within rock throwing distance of his father and mother, his grandfather and grandmother from his mother's side of the family, his father-in-law and mother-in-law, and one of his wife's brothers and sister-in-law. Literally rock throwing distance! They were all engaged in raising peaches. 

Dad had everything paid for in cash - new house, farm, and a new Allis-Chalmers B model tractor - all from his back pay and money that he had sent home over the years. The meddling from his 'neighbors' into his farming practices and family raising, coupled with his nerves, encouraged my Dad to sell out and move a few miles across town to a 160 acre wilderness farm into a two room tar paper shack with no running water, indoor plumbing, or electricity.  All of these were added relatively soon as well as over 5,000 peach trees. He raised four children - Janis born in 1947, Vicky born in 1948, Jim born in 1949, and Kathi born in 1951 (had a warm winter in 1950!).  The tender limbs from a peach tree at the corner of the house and his Marine Corp discipline guided four children on their life's journey.

Dad added another 30 acres to his farm in the early 60's and planted more peach trees, apples and a grape vineyard. He also took a job with the USPS from which he eventually retired in 1978.

Dad sold out the big farm and divided the 30 acres into building lots and exited his farming business in the early 70's. Upon his retirement, he moved to Hardy, AR where he and my mother had built a log house.  

Dad loved traveling and camping. Our camping started back in the early 60's in the hay-covered bed of a 2-ton Dodge truck. Camping vehicles over the years progressed all the way from a Camel tent trailer to a nice motor home that he owned when he passed away in 1986. Dad's favorite place to camp was anywhere around Bull Shoals Lake in North Central Arkansas.

Dad had a variety of hobbies, mainly turning rocks into gems and woodworking. Much of his woodwork is still in use today as he built cabinets and signs for many of the Baptist churches he attended. Dad was a deacon in several Baptist churches over the years.

One of the most memorable stories I remember is Dad's trip home from Japan. When the war ended, Dad and his buddies made their way to the coast on a commandeered Japanese train.  Being in an emaciated condition, standing at 5'-11" and weighing only 96 lbs., our Government wanted to strengthen and add some weight to these soldiers before letting them get home.  He said it was a very slow ship ride from Japan to Seattle, WA. with lots of beer to drink. From Seattle, after a short hospital stay, it was a long train ride across to Chicago and then down to Memphis, TN. Dad had a bus ticket from Memphis to Forrest City, AR, but he had arrived in Memphis in the early afternoon and the bus wasn't leaving until the next day. Since he was only 60 miles from home and had not seen his parents or my mother for over 6 years, that long wait was just too much. He started walking to Arkansas. As he was hitchhiking across the Arkansas-Tennessee Bridge over the Mississippi River, a fellow on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle stopped and picked him up.  My Dad said, as they were flying across the bridge, he had one arm around the motorcycle driver and the other holding on to all the possessions he had in a small bag.  His number one thought was that he had been gone from home for over 6 years, endured 42 months of Hell at the hands of the Japanese, and was going to die in a motorcycle wreck 60 miles from home.  He made it safely to West Memphis, AR and then started hitchhiking on US70.  Sometime during the night, a car picked him up and carried him to Forrest City, AR.  He was still 20 miles from home and walked the rest of the way in, arriving early in the morning as his mother was fixing breakfast and his dad was heading out to milk the cows.  Among his possessions were his Japanese 'Ban' #1201, and the Gideon New Testament that he had concealed from the Japanese.  

Dad wrote several stories for the local newspaper that my niece in California has today.  I am trying to get a copy of those.  I was pulled over by an Arkansas State Trooper one time for speeding and mentioned my Dad to him.  He said he enjoyed his stories and wrote me a warning ticket.

My dad loved his Country.  His heart was broken when the Challenger shuttle blew up on takeoff January 28, 1986.  He sat for hours watching all the news and then watched over and over the recordings he had made. The USA was the greatest country in the world and a tragedy like that should not have been allowed to happen. He loved his God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was a Democrat most of his life, but I think he would have been voting Republican today. He loved children. He drove a school bus for years and always took the longest bus route. He treated blacks and whites the same. He was always the Marine!  His rank at discharge was Gunnery Sergeant.

Dad kept in touch with many of his POW buddies over the years. Roy Hays' web site contains a piece of parachute that my dad signed. For the amazing Parachute story and picture click here.

When he passed away, he was survived by his mother Ludelle, his wife Fannie, 3 daughters, 1 son, 5 grandsons, and 2 granddaughters. One grandson enlisted in the Air Force, one in the Marine Corps, and one in the Army National Guard.

James Oscar Bennett died December 23, 1986.

Dad is buried in a country graveyard in the Ozark hills outside Hardy, AR.

Bennett's Account of the Slave Labor in the Coal Mines of Camp 17
Click here

James Oscar Bennett Photo Gallery
Click on links below to view

Bennett's Ban Number Photo      Bennett's Wedding Photo
Bennett's Marine Photo                 Bennett's Civilian Photo

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