Sgt. Albert Leroy Allen Jr.
Sgt. Albert L. Allen Jr. was
born on February 26, 1920, in Mansfield, Ohio, and
was the son of Albert L, Sr. and Beulah Allen and
lived at 21 Linden Road in Mansfield. He was a 1938 graduate of Mansfield
Albert was attending Wooster College in Wooster,
Ohio, when he received his draft
notification. On January 21, 1941, he was
inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Hayes,
Columbus, Ohio. Three days later he had
been sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and assigned
to C Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
The reason this was the army was attempting to
fill vacancies in each of the battalion's
companies with men from the home states of the
company. C Company was the smallest, in
number of National Guardsmen, and had to be
brought up to full strength.
During his training at Ft. Knox, Allen was made
a motorcycle messenger. From September 1st through 30th,
Albert took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the
battalion learned they were being sent overseas,
and most members received a ten day furlough
home. Those twenty-nine and older were
given the chance to resign from federal service.
was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L.
Scott and sailed on Monday, October
27th. During this part of the trip,
many tankers had seasickness, but once they
recovered they spent much of the time
training in breaking down machine guns,
cleaning weapons, and doing KP.
They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday,
November 2nd and had a two day layover, so
the soldiers were given shore leave so they
could see the island.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent
much of their time removing cosmoline from their
weapons which had been greased to prevent them
from rusting while at sea. They also spent
a large amount of time loading ammunition
belts. The plan was for them, with the
194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
During the Battle for the Philippines, Albert was a witness to one of the first tank battles of the war. C Company tanks were given the job to keep a road open in the Bulacan Province. While doing this job, the tanks defeated Japanese tanks which allowed American supply trucks to bring needed supplies into Bataan.
After the Japanese landed troops on Luzon, Albert went on several reconnaissance missions with General Jonathan Wainwright. During these missions, Albert drove the general's staff car to the front lines. Albert recalled often sharing soggy biscuits for lunch with Wainwright.
During the Battle of Bataan, Albert directed reconnaissance missions against the Japanese. His recon crews job was to supply information to Headquarters on terrain and routes that the Japanese were using.
One of the memories of fighting the Japanese which stayed with Albert his entire life was the courage of the 26th U. S. Calvary of Filipino Scouts. Albert recalled that these soldiers went into combat against Japanese tanks knowing that in all likelihood they would die. On several occasions, the he watched the Filipino Scouts withdrawing from a battle with both men and horses shot up by Japanese tanks.
On April 9, 1942, Albert became a Prisoner of War when Filipino and American Forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. After the surrender, he and the other members of C Company made their way to Mariveles. It was from there that he started what became known as the Death March.
Before they started the march, Albert recalled that the POWs were stripped of everything except their clothing and canteens of water. On the march, Albert recalled that the Japanese enjoyed making the Americans do double time in 110 degree heat. He believed that this was done to cause the weaker POWs to fallout. When they did, they killed them as examples to the healthier prisoners. In recalling the march, he said:
"The worst part of the death march was being compelled to sit all day in the open field with the tropical sun beating down upon our unprotected heads and bodies.
The total mileage would not have been difficult. But we were permitted to go only a few miles during the day. and we would spend most of the time in some field at the mercy of the hot Philippine sun. There was little food or water.
At night we would not be permitted to rest for any length of time. Frequently we were moved as many as a dozen times, and many times we would end up in the same from which we started. Once one of our boys slept through all of these movings, and in the morning he found himself with his original outfit not knowing it had been moved a half a dozen fields during the night.
We were told by the Japanese that the lowest Japanese enlisted man was better than our four star generals. One night I came into a field where our men were resting very close together and wormed myself down between two men who grumbled considerably on being moved and pushed about. The next morning I discovered that I had slept between two generals."
Not too long after starting the march from Mariveles, Albert realized that he and the other POWs were in trouble. From the very beginning the Japanese soldiers abused the POWs. In his own words, "We thought Bataan was hell, we had no idea of the hell that was ahead of us."
Albert recalled that the Filipino people attempted to throw rice to the POWs as they marched passed them. They would make balls out of the rice and throw them to the men hoping they would catch them. Most of the rice balls fell to the ground. He recalled that a Filipino boy had two of his fingers cut off by a Japanese guard after the boy had thrown food to them.
As it turned out, this was the only food or water any of the men in Albert's group saw for days. Albert recalled that at one point, he and the other POWs were allowed to drink water from a stream. They later learned that upstream from the road, the stream was filled with the bodies of dead POWs and animals. He and the other men who had drunk the water came down with dysentery.
In recalling the march Albert said, "You get almost use to seeing the dead men along the road on the march, seeing them shot, and die of hunger and thirst."
At one point, a Japanese guard noticed Albert's high school ring. He motioned for Albert to take the ring off. When Albert had difficulty removing the ring, the guard nearly tore his finger off to get it. The guard bit the ring and discovered that it was not gold. He then threw the ring on the ground and dug it into the ground with the heel of his boot. As the guard turned away, Albert bent down to pick the ring up. Through the corner of his eye, the guard caught him doing this. The guard turned around and hit Albert with his rifle butt. The guard then buried the ring in the ground with his boot heel.
Sometime on the march Albert was struck by a Japanese truck injuring his ankle. Having a hard time walking, Albert fell further and further behind his column until Albert sat down alongside the road. "While I was sitting by the side of the road nursing a badly ranched ankle a Japanese soldier, hurrying his captives on, bayoneted two of my companions. It didn't take me long to get about 50 yards from the vicinity even with a bad ankle. At the next stop I suffered a sun stroke and was unconscious for a time. A Japanese soldier gave me some goat's milk and told me that the next Jap down the line would take care of me. He was the one who had bayoneted the two soldiers, so I moved on."
At one point on the march, Albert noticed that in the road there was something that popped up and fell back down as trucks ran over it. When he got closer, he realized from its shape that it was the flattened body of a POW. The body had dried out and was like a piece of wood. Each time a truck rode over it, It popped up and fell back down.
On his ninth day on the march, Albert reached San Fernando. He remained there for two days waiting for a train. During this time, he and the other men were held in a pen. At night they slept in human waste. During this time, Albert traded his underwear with another GI for penicillin pills because he was running a fever. He believed that the pills saved his life.
When the train arrived, the Japanese forced the POWs into boxcars that were used for hauling sugarcane. The cars were eight feet wide, seventeen feet long, and seven feet high. The doors on the cars were shut and locked.
Allen recalled that the smell and heat in the car were oppressive. Men who died slowly slid down to the floor. Other men screamed in agony. Being near the door, he was able to get air, but those in the corner of the car usually died.
At Capas, Allen and the surviving POWs walked the last seven miles to Camp O'Donnell. At this time, an captain from headquarters fell. He was bayoneted before he could get up. Upon arriving in the camp, the POWs had to listen to the camp's commander lecture them. Albert recalled: "About 5000 of us were lined up on the field beneath a boiling sun. We were hungry and thirsty. The Jap captain talked to for two hours from a shelter. When he was through about two-thirds of the men had collapsed. I was one of them."
Life in the camp was not easy for the POWs. There was only one water faucet for 12,000 POWs. He was next sent to Cabanatuan when the camp opened in an attempt to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell. On May 6th Albert went out on a work detail to rebuild the bridges that the Americans had destroyed as they retreated.
Albert went out on the bridge building detail to Las Pinas but returned to Cabanatuan September 8th. Albert believed that this new camp was not much better than Camp O'Donnell. In describing Cabanatuan, he said, "Cabanatuan was the worst, though. Men died by the hundreds there, and the graves made you sick. Some of the men that the Japs buried weren't dead yet, but they were probably so far gone that they never knew it. There wasn't anything that you could do. Medical supplies were nil, and everyone was too weak to care much."
Sometime during this time, Albert violated a camp rule. The result of this violation was that he was hit in the mouth with a crowbar by a Japanese guard. This resulted in his losing a front tooth.
Fifteen days after arriving at
Cabanatuan, Albert was selected to be used
as a slave laborer to aid the Japanese war
effort. 800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on
October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow
rice, and a big rice ball. After eating
and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of
the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as
they marched through the gate to the barrio of
Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M.
There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the
small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about
9:00 A.M. The trip to Manila lasted until
4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars,
many POWs passed out.
Recalling the train ride, Allen said, "When we got there it was 40 below and we lost over 200 men the first winter. I contracted pneumonia in February 1943, and because of an American doctor in our tank battalion, was the first patient to pull through." Why Albert pulled through was because the doctor stole medicine to save his life.
Albert was held in was a model camp and used to
make propaganda movies for the Japanese
public. During one visit by Japanese big
shots, Albert remembered receiving meat in the
soup served to the POWs.
It was while Albert was in this camp that his parents received a message from him through short-wave radio operators. The operators had picked up a message the Albert was allowed to broadcast by the Japanese. This was the first news that they had that he was alive. In the radio broadcast he said:
"Dear Folks. May this short message find you both well and waiting for the day we will be together again. As the summer comes to a close my thoughts of home become stronger. This along with your wonderful letters make me feel the future will be happier and richer time of our lives then ever before. I am feeling fine and full of pep except for being a bit lonely. I'm sure that things there are well. Be sure to say hello to all my friends and let them know I have them on my mind always. That has helped me along while I am away, so be sure I will always remember them.
God bless you all and keep your chins up. All my love. Albert."
At one point, four POWs escaped
from the camp and made their way to the Russian
border. They were recaptured because
Chinese peasants turned them over to the
Japanese. The men were returned to the
camp and put in cells until they were taken to a
cemetery and shot.
According to Albert the camp was extremely isolated. " We had no idea that the war had ended - not even the Japs knew it. Even with the rumors we didn't know for certain until the 19th when the Russians moved into the camp and relieved the Japanese of their guns."
In his opinion, "The Russians thought the world of the Americans. They couldn't do enough for us, and I don't think I'll ever forget them."
Albert described what it was like when American B-29's began dropping food to the POWs. "They flew so low that we could almost shake hands with them. They even took off some of the chimneys on our barracks and we were sorry that we had filled in our fox holes. The whole place was littered with everything from fruit cocktail to vegetables, but were we ever glad to see them."
In the first letter he wrote to his parents after being liberated, Albert said, "It's over and were coming home soon. For 45 months we waited and put up with a lot, especially with the 44 month enlistment (forced draft) into the Imperial Army of the Nip.
We've been we look a lot older and tired looking, but I assure you a little State-side chow will do a lot. Have no gray hairs as some do. I can use a little more weight, but that's natural. When I wrote my first card to you, sometime in March of 1943, I was just beginning to recover from pneumonia, my only serious illness.
The first time I received mail from you was on January 20, 1944. Your mail was all from July of 1943 on. I have received some 60 letters from you, the last one written in March of 1945. I have received scatterings of mail from various friends of mine, except for one or two letters, so I know very little of them. When you have a chance to answer this, please tell me who's married, who's gone, and who I can have my first beer with.
There are members of the 192nd Tank Battalion here, some of the 194th, and the 17th Ordnance.
I presume you know that even with all the action in the Philippines, our casualties were very small, but after our surrender we lost we lost over half of our men and most of our officers."
Albert returned home married and raised a family. After being discharged on April 10, 1946, from the army, Albert enlisted in the reserves. During this time, he enrolled in college and received a degree from the College of Rooster in 1948. He spent 24 years in the reserves and rose in rank to Lieutenant Colonel. He also campaigned for the rights of former POWs.
In 1952, over ten years after Albert had been chased on his motorcycle by a Japanese Zero, Albert was awarded the Silver Star. In spite of the passage of time, he was still proud to receive the medal.
Albert L. Allen Jr. passed away on August 14, 2004, in Mansfield, Ohio. He was buried at Mansfield Cemetery.