Sgt. James W. Griffin was born in 1915 to Municipal Judge John J. Griffin and Alice McCabe. He grew up on the northwest side of Chicago with his four brothers and a sister. He attended Campion Catholic Prep. High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and upon graduation he completed one year of college before becoming a Chicago Police Officer. He worked his way up to becoming a Detective at the 40th District Summerdale Police Station on the north side. Jim enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 7, 1941 and sent to Fort Knox where he was assigned to Company B, 192nd Battalion and trained to operate all equipment used by the battalion.
In October of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to the Philippine Islands and Jim arrived there just a little over two weeks before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On December 21st, Jim took part in the first action by American tanks in WWII. Jim’s tank took several hits, and his machine gunner was killed. The tanks were lost to enemy fire and the American and Filipino forces were eventually surrendered to the Japanese. Jim took part in the infamous Bataan Death March and survived. He was held as a prisoner in Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan Prison Camp where he worked on a farm and did construction work. It is believed that because of illness he was sent to Bilibid Prison outside of Manila where he was eventually shot and killed by a Japanese guard and died on May 20, 1944.
Jim’s rank at the time of his death was Sergeant and he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He was survived by his parents and four siblings: John A. Griffin, Robert E. Griffin, Lt. Edward E. Griffin and Mrs. Alice Johnson.