R. Neil Brittan was a native of Waukomis and a 1932 graduate of Oklahoma A&M College, where hw was a 4-H leader and member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Following graduation, he joined the Army and was commissioned as a sec on lieutenant.
Rising quickly in the Army, he had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and was stationed in the Philippine Islands by the time Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. Brittan initially avoided capture on Bataan, walking hundreds of miles in making his way to a small U.S. unit still operating on Mindanao Island, to continue the fight. On May 8, 1942, all allied troops, by men without a supply line for ammunition and food, were ordered to surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army.
More the 17,000 American and Philippine troops were brutally murdered by Japanese soldiers on the Bataan Death March alone. Lt. Col. Brittan spent 925 days as a prisoner of war in the Bilibid Prison in the Philippines. He died on Oct. 24, 1944, on a Japanese prison ship which was sunk in the South China Sea.
It was on Sept. 6, 1945, that General MacArthur made the statement, "Lieutenant Colonel Robert N. Brittan,... along with his comrades in arms, who died on Bataan and Corregidor and in prison camps, gave his life for his country... I have lost a gallant comrade..." Lt. Col. Brittan's service and ordeal have inspired the movie, "Sleep My Sons: The Story of the Arisan Maru," by Shawnee Brittan which preserves the history not only of the thousands of U.S. service members who fought to defend the philippines, but those who died on Japanese prisoner war ships.