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.   Hhe attended school from kindergarten through eighth grade in Danville, but 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.  For each day he drilled, 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.  in all likelihood, he completed high school at Ft. Knox.

    When Headquarters Company was formed in January 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.  After the maneuvers, the 192nd was ordered to report to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Those men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.

    William received a one week leave home to say his goodbyes.  While he and the other men were home, the army was bringing the battalion up to full strength by selecting men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.

    After returning to Camp Polk, the soldiers boarded trains and headed for San Francisco, California.  HQ Company took the southern train route through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and through California to San Francisco.  There, they rode a ferry to Ft.McDowell on Angel Island.  What William remembered about Angel Island was receiving complete physicals and more needles.  Men with minor medical conditions were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some men were simply replaced.
    After receiving physicals and inoculations, they were boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, and sailed  on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy which arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  Since the ships had a two daylayover, the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.    
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila.  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.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 later that day and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Ironically, it was the day the National Guard members of the battalion had originally been scheduled to be released from federal service.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field
, but he had just learned of their arrival days earlier.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  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.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.    

    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.  As the tankers looked up, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon the planes landed to be refilled and the pilots went to lunch.

    William recalled that the planes at the airfield were parked wing-tip to wing- 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.  The tankers had enough time to count 54 planes in formation.  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 approximately 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 wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as "Forty or Eights" since each could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men in each car and closed the doors.  Those men who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall to the floor.  The POWs rode the train to Capas, where they climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp. 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 35 men 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 and than sent to the motor pool near Manila for six months.  When the detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan. 
    It appears that William was relatively healthy during his time in at Cabanatuan.  His name does not appear on any of the medical records kept at the camp.  He most likely worked on the camp farm.  There, the POWs grew crops that the Japanese ate leaving scraps for the POWs.

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

    The Canadian Inventor arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23rd and 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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