Camfferman

Cpl. Martin William Camfferman Jr.


     Cpl. Martin W. Camfferman Jr. was born on November 22, 1920, to Martin W. Camfferman Sr. & Clasine Godee-Camfferman and was the youngest of their five children.  The family resided at 1500 South 56th Court in Cicero, Illinois,and attended local schools.  While he was still a child, his mother passed away which resulted in his sister quitting school to take care of Martin so that their father could work.  

    Martin attended Morton High School where he was a member of the Class of 1938 and a member of the swimming team.  After high school, he worked as a truck driver for an automobile parts wholesaler.

    Like many young men of his age, Martin knew that with the new draft act it was just a matter of time before he would be drafted into the army.  To avoid this, Martin joined the Illinois National Guard in Maywood, Illinois, on September 24, 1940, since the news that the company was being federalized had been in the paper.  On November 25, 1940, Martin was inducted into the regular army when the National Guard unit was federalized and rode a train to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28th.

    As a member of the B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, he trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  There he was taught to operate all the equipment used by the company.  In January 1941, Headquarters Company was created and Martin was transferred into the company.  In April 1941, he received leave home and married his grade school sweetheart, Catherine Gray, on April 6, 1941.

    Next, Martin participated in the maneuvers of 1941 in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, his battalion was informed that they had been selected by General George S. Patton for duty overseas.  He and the other members of the battalion received leaves home so that they could take care of unfinished business and say goodbye to family and friends.  He last saw his wife on October 6, 1941, before he returned to Camp Polk, as his company prepared to leave for overseas duty.
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, over different train routes.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  On the island at Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy that arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  The ships had a two day layover, so 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 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.   
    Arriving at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water 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 at 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those assigned to trucks drove to the base, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained at the pier to unload the tanks.  Ironically, this was the date the National Guard members of the battalion were suppose 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 Airfield, but he had only learned of their arrival days before their ship docked.  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.  

    When war came on December 8, 1941, Martin lived through the Japanese bombing of Clark Field.  Having received word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks of the Provisional Tank Group were at full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.

    During the Battle of the Philippines, the battalion was used as the rear guard to slow the Japanese advance and to allow the Filipino and American Forces to withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula.  Being with HQ Company, Martin's job was to insure that the letter companies received the necessary supplies they needed to fight the Japanese.  At times doing this was difficult because the tanks moved frequently to plug leaks in the defensive positions.  To demonstrate how bad the situation was on Bataan, the last time Martin's family heard from him was in a letter dated February 2, 1942. 

    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.                                        
    HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.         

    As they prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
  
     Later in the day, the POWs were order to moved to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. 
Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit.  When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.      
    It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. 
The first five miles of the march were uphill which made it more difficult for the POWs.  They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell. 
    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military base with only one water faucet for the entire camp. As many as fifty POWs died each day.  The situation was so bad that the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan. 
    When the new POW camp opened at Cabanatuan, Martin was transferred there.
  It is known that he was admitted to the camp hospital and assigned to Barracks 1 on June 22, 1942, suffering from malaria and dysentery.  The camp hospital was also known as "Zero Ward" since most of the men sent there died. 
    According to medical records, Cpl. Martin W.  Camfferman died of dysentery and malaria on July 27, 1942, at Cabanatuan POW Camp, at approximately 10:00 A.M.  He was buried in Plot 2,  Row 0,  Grave 225, in the camp cemetery with five other POWs.

    After the war, Cpl. Martin W. Camfferman Jr.'s remains were disinterred on August 31, 1948, and identified.  At the request of his wife, he was reburied in Plot N, Row 12, Grave 70, at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila on October 18, 1949.


 


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