Alford

 

Sgt. William Clinton Alford


    Sgt. William C. Alford was born on October 1, 1921, to George Alford and Sadie May Miller-Alford in Danville, Kentucky.  He attended school in Danville from kindergarten through eighth grade.  For high school, he traveled to Burgin, Kentucky.  

    In July 1939, he joined the Kentucky National Guard's 38th Tank Company from Harrodsburg.  His reason for doing this was that his best friend, Cecil Mills, was joining, and William liked the spending money he earned each week.  For drilling one evening each week for two hours, he earned a day's pay.  Since he was seventeen years old when he joined the Kentucky National Guard, his mother signed an affidavit stating that he was eighteen.

    In 1940, the fall of William's senior year of high school, he was called to federal service when his tank company was federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  He left high school to go with the company to Fort Knox, Kentucky.

    When Headquarters Company was formed in early 1941, William was transferred to the company and assigned to the reconnaissance platoon.  He recalled that he and the other men received ten weeks of intensive training.  After the training was completed, the battalion received new equipment.  It was also about this time that the battalion became receiving draftees to fill out its roster.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  He recalled that HQ Company really did not do much during the maneuvers.

    The battalion was next sent to Camp Polk and told that it was being sent overseas.  No one knew for sure were they were being sent, but the rumor was that they were going to the Philippine Islands.

    William received a one week leave to say his goodbyes.  While he and the other men were home the army was bringing the battalion up to full strength.

    After returning to Camp Polk, the soldiers boarded trains and headed for San Francisco.  HQ Company took the southern train route through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and through California to San Francisco.  There, they rode a ferry to Angel Island.  What William remembered about Angel Island was receiving complete physicals and more needles.
    After receiving physicals and inoculations, they were boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott  The ship sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. 
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    In late October 1941, the 192nd sailed for the Philippine Islands.  After stops at Hawaii and Guam, the battalion arrived in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day.  They were immediately taken to Clark Airfield where they lived in tents along the main road between the airfield and Ft. Stotsenburg.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, William and his platoon were ordered to the end of the main runway at Clark Field.  Since they had two half-tracks with machine guns, their job was to join the tanks  in guarding the field against Japanese paratroopers.

    William recalled that the planes at the airfield were parked wring-tip to wring- tip on both sides of the runway.  There was no sign of activity on the ground or in the air.  As he watched, planes approached the field around 12:45 in the afternoon.  When the bombs began exploding chaos broke out everywhere.

    After the attack, 89 of the planes that had been sitting along the runway were destroyed, and there were 236 casualties.  From this point out, William and his platoon guarded the airfield during the day against paratroopers, and at night they enforced blackouts in the villages around the airfield.

    During the Battle of Bataan, it was William's job as a reconnaissance sergeant to scout out positions for the tanks to hide in during the day when not engaged.  It was also his platoon's job to provide perimeter guard for HQ Company.

    The morning of April 9, 1942, William received word by a messenger from group HQ of the surrender.  His orders were to destroy everything except his vehicles.  His platoon burnt everything they could and damaged everything else beyond use.  At least he hoped the things could not be repaired and used by the Japanese.

    William and his platoon drove to Mariveles, from there he started what became known as the death march.  He started the march with many of the men from HQ Company, but as he marched he became separated from them.

    For William, the two hardest things about the march were the hunger cramps and the useless killings of men who could not keep up with the column.  Those who could no longer walk were left behind.  He witnessed many men shot, bayoneted or get their heads crushed because they no longer could keep moving.

    From Mariveles, William made his way to San Fernando.  He and the other Prisoners of War were packed into small steel boxcars and rode a train to Capas.  At Capas, they climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    He recalled that during his time in the camp, meals consisted of two watery cups of rice a day.  Death was something that the POWs lived with since men were dying from sickness, starvation and the stress of making the march.  He estimated that 40 to 50 Americans and 200 to 300 Filipinos were buried each day.  The dead were buried 30 to 30 per grave.

    To get out of Camp O'Donnell, William was in the first work detail to go back to Bataan.  This detail lasted almost a year.  During that time, William cut up scrap metal.  He was then sent to the motor pool near Manila for six months.  When the detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan #1.

    In July 1944, William was selected for shipment to Japan.  On July 4, 1944, he was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor.  The ship sailed but returned to Manila for boiler repairs.  On July 16th, the ship sailed again.  This time it fell behind the other ships in its convoy until it was left behind.  

    The Canadian Inventor arrived at Takao, Formosa on July 23rd.  It remained in port for ten days while salt was loaded.  On August 4th, it sailed along the west coast of Formosa for Keelung Harbor arriving there the next day. It remained there for twelve days while more repairs were made to its boiler.  On August 17th, the ship sailed nut neat the Ryukyu Islands, north of Formosa, it once again had boiler problems.  This time it made its way to for Naha, Okinawa.  Again repairs were made before the Canadian Inventor arrived at Moji, Japan on September 1st.  

    What William remembered about the trip to Japan was that he was very hot and hungry, and that the conditions inside the hold were filthy.  After arriving at Moji, William was sent to Fukuoka #5 which was also known as Omine Machi.  The POWs in this camp worked in a coal mine.

    William recalled that during his time in the camp there were always filled with rumors of how the war was going.  At times, the guards were the ones who started the rumors.  In his opinion, the best information came from Korean civilians working in the mine.

    On the night of August 13, 1945, the camp guards vanished.  William and the other POWs knew that something was up.  The POWs raided the store house and took all the food.  For the next several days nothing happened.  Then, B-29s flew over the camp and dropped food, medicine and leaflets to the men telling them that the war was over.

    After William was liberated, he was taken to Wakayama, Japan, and returned on the U.S.S.Hopping to Manila.  In the Philippines, he was promoted to First Sergeant.  He sailed, from the Philippines, on the U.S.S. Marine Shark and arrived back in the United States on November 1, 1945, at Seattle, Washington.  It was a little over four years since he had left the United States.  William remained in the army until April 7, 1949, when he was discharged at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

    William married Mary Ellen Lucas and became the father of two children.  He later moved to New York state to work at a Chevrolet dealer in Trumansburg, New York, where he resided for the rest of his life.  William C. Alford passed away on January 14, 2006, at a hospice in Ithaca, New York.  He was buried at Grove Cemetery in Trumanburg, New York.

    The photo at the bottom of this page was taken of William while he was a POW at Omine Machi.


 

 

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