Bensing

 

Cpl. Elmer John Bensing Jr.


    Cpl. Elmer J. Bensing Jr., was the son of Elmer J. Bensing Sr & Lenore Wilson-Bensing.  He was born on December 12, 1918, in Louisville, Kentucky, and had three younger brothers and two younger sisters.  He resided was a high school graduate and lived at 1452 South Hemlock Street.  He worked in payroll at a auto body shop before he was inducted in the Army. 

    On January 22, 1941, Elmer was inducted into the army at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He did his basic training,  qualified as a radioman, and was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. 

    In September of 1941, Elmer took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  After the maneuvers ended, Elmer and the rest of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  He returned home to say his goodbyes and married Thelma A. Weidner on October 5, 1941.

    Over different train routes, the 192nd traveled to San Francisco.  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.

    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed Clark Field.  The tankers fought back the best that they could, but their weapons weren't of much use against planes.

    During the Battle of the Philippines, Elmer fought to slow the Japanese advance as long as possible.  Since no help was coming, it was just a matter of time before the battle would be lost.

    The Japanese liked to use snipers.  The snipers would climb high into the tree.  They then would tie themselves onto a large branch of the tree with a vine.  On one occasion, being in an area where several soldiers had been shot, Elmer took his sub-machine gun and began shooting at a vine running up a tree.  He followed the vine up the tree until he cut it with his fire.  The Japanese sniper fell from the tree.

    On April 9, 1942, Elmer became a Prisoner Of War.  At Mariveles, Elmer started what became known as the death march.  The lack of food and water made the much unbearable.

    As a POW, Elmer was held at Camp O'Donnell and then Cabanatuan #1 and #3.  He was assigned to Barracks 12 in the camp.  While he was a prisoner, he contracted malaria, berberi and dysentery. According to medical records kept at the camp. he was admitted to the camp hospital on January 14, 1943.  He remained in the camp until July 1943. At that time he was sent to Manila and boarded onto the Clyde Maru. The ship sailed on July 23, 1943.

    Elmer was later sent to the Port Area of Manila for shipment to Japan.  He and the other POWs were put into the holds of a ship and spent 12 days in the holds on the trip to Japan.  The only washroom were buckets that were lowered down by ropes.  During the trip, many of the prisoners died.  The bodies were pulled from the hold on ropes and thrown overboard.

    In Japan, the ship docked at Moji.  From there, Elmer was taken to Fukuoka Camp #3-B.  There he worked in a Yawata Steel Mills which were 75 miles from Nagasaki.  The POWs did manual labor.  They shoveled coal and cleaned the blast furnaces.  Being that the Japanese placed little value on the lives of the prisoners, they were expected to clean the furnaces while they still hot.

    When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the prisoners were returned to the camp early.  They did not return to work for days.  When they did go back to the mills, they again came back to the camp early.

    As they returned, they saw Japanese facing speakers and listening.  An American who could speak Japanese told them that the war was over.  When a Japanese officer repeated this, the prisoners knew that it was true.

    On September 20, 1945, the former POWs were rescued by American troops.  Elmer was returned to the Philippines.  He was boarded onto the U.S.S. Marine Shark arriving at San Francisco on November 1, 1945.  His journey back to the U. S. had ended where it began a little over four years earlier.

    Elmer was discharged on February 26, 1946.  He returned to Thelma and the couple raised a son and daughter.  To support his family, he worked as a payroll clerk at K.A. Barker Construction Company. 
    Elmer was awarded a number of medals.  Among them were the purple heart and bronze star.

    Elmer J. Bensing passed away on December 23, 1998, in Louisville, Kentucky.  After a memorial service at Chapel Hill United Church of Christ, he was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Louisville.


 

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