Hensley

 


Pvt. Emmett Edward Hensley


    Pvt. Emmett E. Hensley was born on August 25, 1918, in Downs Township, Sumner County, Kansas, to Robert Hensley & Clara Barrows-Hensley.  He had seven sisters, a twin brother, Elmer, and four other brothers.  The family moved to Danes, Oklahoma, and later in Cedar Vale, Kansas.  He worked as a salesman.
    Emmett was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24, 1941, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  He was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he did his basic training.  His family never saw him again after he had left for basic training.  After completing his training he joined the 753rd Tank Battalion.  It is believed he joined the unit at Camp Polk, Louisiana. 
    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion had been taking part in maneuvers at Camp Polk.  Afterwards, on the side of a hill, the members of the battalion were told by General George Patton that they were being deployed overseas.  Members of the battalion, who were 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  After these men were transferred out of the unit, replacements were sought from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  At this time, Emmett volunteered to join the battalion and assigned to C Company.
   
From Camp Polk his company traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.   
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and 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 November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  They sailed the same day for Manila.  The ships 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.
    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.
    
  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The letter companies were ordered to the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. 
    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.  During the attack, the tankers were under orders to remain hidden and not fire on the planes.  After the attack they witnessed the carnage from the attack. 
In the evening, the tankers returned to Clark Field.  There Emmett watched the trucks carrying the dead.  He also heard that many of the American pilots were killed in the mess hall.  Others had been killed attempting to get to their planes.
 
   For the next four months Emmett fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.  On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  His company made its way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  In the barrio, the Japanese took what they wanted from the Americans.
    The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march was uphill.  At one point they had to run past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor.  The island had not surrendered and returned fire.
    The POWs made their way north to San Fernando.  There, they were put into a bull pen.  In one corner was a pit that served as the washroom for the POWs.  The pit actually appeared to be moving.  This was because it was covered in maggots.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns. They were moved to the train station where they were put into
boxcars.  The cars were known as forty or eights.  This was because each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  When the POWs left the cars at Capas, those who had died fell to the floor of the cars.  Emmett and the other POWs made their way to Camp O'Donnell.
    The camp was an unfinished Filipino Training Base.  There was one water spigot for the entire camp.  Disease ran wild in the camp.  The burial detail worked long days to bury the dead.  The situation got so bad that the Japanese finally concluded they needed to open a new camp.
    Cabanatuan opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.  The healthier POWs were sent to the camp.  The sick remained behind at Camp O'Donnell.  Emmett was sent to the new camp.  He remained there until late in 1942. 
    Emmett was selected for the Bachrach Garage detail which was housed in a garage on an island off the Manila.  The POWs on the detail repaired cars and trucks.  He was most likely became ill on the detail and was sent to Cabanatuan.  He was still there in July 1944 when his name appeared on a list of POWs who were being sent to Japan.
  On July 15, 1944, at 8:00 P.M., trucks arrived at the camp.  The POWs were boarded onto the trucks and taken to Bilibid Prison.
    The POWs arrived at Bilibid seven hours later.  Their dinner was rotten sweet potatoes.  Since it was night, they had to eat in the dark.  They remained at Bilibid until July 17th at 8:00 A.M. and walked to Pier 7.  They were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru.  The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of the POWs were put into the read hold.
    The ship remained outside the breakwater from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy.  The POWs were fed rice and vegetables, which were cooked together.  They also received two canteen cups of water. 
    The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island at 2:00 P.M.  It remained off the island overnight and sailed at 8:00 A.M. the next day.  The ship sailed north by northeast.  On July 26th at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large  fire off the ship.  It turned out that the one of the ships, the Otari Yama Maru had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack.  On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M.   The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. and continued its northward trip all day and night of July 29th.  On July 30th, the ship ran into a storm.  The storm finally passed by August 2nd.  The POWs were issued clothing on August 3rd and arrived at Moji on August 4th at midnight. 
    At 8:00 in the morning, the POWs disembarked the ship. They were taken to a theater and were held in it all day.  They were than taken to the train station.  They were divided into different detachments bound for different camps.  The train left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at the camp at 2:00 A.M., they were unloaded and walked the three miles to the camp.
    In Japan, Emmett was taken to Fukuoka #23 and arrived in the camp.  The camp consisted of a mess hall, a hospital, six unheated barracks located on top of a hill with a ten foot high wooden fence around it. In the barracks, the POWs slept in 15 X 15 foot bays.  Six POWs shared a bay.  At 6:00 A.M., 6:00 P.M., and 9:00 P.M., the Japanese took row call.  For the first two weeks in the camp, the POWs learned the Japanese words for mining equipment. 
    The POWs received their jobs from the camp commandant who spoke adequate English.  The POWs were divided into two groups of miners.  The "A" group mined during the day, while the "B" group mined at night.  Every two weeks the groups would swap shifts.  When the POWs arrived at the mine, they were turned over to civilian supervisors.   The POWs quickly learned the more they did the more these supervisors wanted from them.  After awhile, the supervisor and POWs came to a reasonable agreement on how many cars they would load each day.  The one good thing about working in the mine in the winter was the temperature was about 70 degrees. 

   
    During 1945, things got worse for the POWs, so they knew the Japanese were losing the war.  At 5:00 P.M. on August 15th they learned the war was over.  The POWs did not believe it.  The next day the camp commandant, at 9:00 A.M., informed the POWs that the war was over.  He also told them that they had to stay in the camp.  On August 24th, the Japanese gave the POWs paint and canvas and told them to paint "POW." on the canvas and put it on the barracks roofs.
   On August 28th, B-29s appeared over the camp. Two of the planes circled and dropped fifty gallon drums to  the POWs.  For the first time, the POWs knew they were now in charge.  Most of the guards quickly disappeared.  On September 15th, Americans arrived in the camp.  The POWs were taken by truck to the train station.  They road the train to Nagasaki.  Once there, they were given physicals, deloused, and the seriously ill were boarded onto a hospital ship.  The rest were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to Okinawa.  They were than flown back to the Philippines for additional medical treatment.  From Manila, he returned to the United States.
    Emmett returned home and was discharged from the Army on March 18, 1946.  He married Marie Margaret Nickerson and became the father of her four children.  He worked as a postal worker until he retired. 
    Emmett E. Hensley passed away on June 24, 1996, in Wichita, Kansas.  He was buried at White Chapel Memorial Gardens in Wichita.


 

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