Cpl. Elmer John Bensing Jr.
Cpl. Elmer J. Bensing Jr.,
was the son of Elmer J. Bensing Sr & Lenore
Wilson-Bensing, and was born on December 12, 1918,
in Louisville, Kentucky. With his three
younger brothers and two younger sisters, he
resided at 1452 South Hemlock Street. He was a
high school graduate and
worked in payroll at an 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 there and qualified as a radioman. He was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion during his basic training.
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.
The 192nd 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. The ship
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
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, the members of the tank group
were informed of the surrender to the
Japanese. On April 10th, the Japanese
arrived and ordered the HQ personnel onto the
road. When the POWs were ordered to move,
they found walking on the gravel trail
difficult. When the
trial ended, the POWs and the POWs were on the
main road, the first thing the Japanese did
was separate the officers from the enlisted men.
As a POW, Elmer was held at Camp O'Donnell which
unfinished Filipino Army training base
that the Japanese put into use as a POW
camp. There was only one water
faucet for the entire camp. Men
stood in line for days to get a drink of
water. Disease in the camp ran wild
because they had no medicine to treat the
sick. The death rate among the POWs
rose to as many as 50 men a day.
The POWs were taken to the Port Area of Manila for shipment to Japan. He and the other POWs were put into the holds of the Clyde Maru 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
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 awarded a number of medals. Among them were the purple heart and bronze star.
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
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.