Pvt. James Carey Henson Jr.
| Pvt. James C. Henson Jr. was
born on June 17, 1920, in Starkville, Mississippi, to
James Carey Henson Sr. and Nancy Irene
Morton-Henson. With his two sisters and a
brother, he grew up in Washington County,
Alabama. At some point he married, but records
indicate he was widowed.
James enlisted into the U.S. Army on March 13, 1939, in Flushing, New York. His military records indicate that he was a widower and had completed post-graduate work. He was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he completed his basic training. At some point, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
In the late summer of 1941, the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, but did not take part in the maneuvers that were going on there. It was after the completion of the maneuvers, that volunteers were sought to join the 192nd Tank Battalion which was being sent overseas. The battalion was mostly National Guardsmen and those 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service. James volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to HQ Company.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco and were ferried to Angel Island. There, the men were given physicals and inoculated. On Monday, October 27, 1941, they boarded the U.S.S. 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.
After arriving at Ft. Stostenburg, soldiers were assigned to the headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group. James was one of these soldiers. What he did as a member of the the unit is not known.
On April 10th, the Japanese arrived and ordered the HQ personnel onto the road. If a prisoner fell, he was kicked in his stomach and hit in the head with a rifle butt. If he still did not get up, the Japanese guard determined that the man was exhausted.
When the trail the POWs were on reached the main road, the first thing the Japanese did was separated the officers from the enlisted men. The Prisoners of War were then left in the sun for the rest of the day. That night they were ordered north. The march was difficult in the dark since they could not see where they were walking. Whenever they slipped, they knew they had stepped on the remains of a dead soldier.
At one point, the soldiers saw Filipino civilians who were making their way down the road. He could not believe how thin they were. Yes, he and the other soldiers had been hungry, but these people had starved.
The POWs made their way north against the flow of Japanese troops who were moving south. At Limay on April 11th, they were put into a school yard and told that the officers would be driven to the POW camp. The enlisted members of the tank group walked the entire way to the barrio of Orani.
At 6:30 that
evening, they resumed the march. Men recalled
that this part of the march was different because
were marched at a faster pace. The guards also
seemed to be nervous about something. This
time they made the POWs make their way to
Hormosa. There, the road went from gravel to
concrete. The POWs found that this change of
surface made the march easier. When the POWs
were allowed to sit down, those who attempted to lay
down were jabbed with bayonets.
The POWs continued the march. For the first time in months, it began to rain, which to the POW felt great. At 4:30 PM on April 13th, James arrived at San Fernando. The POWs were once again put into a pin. At 4:00 in the morning, the Japanese woke the POWs and marched them to the train station. They were packed into small wooden boxcars and rode the train to Capas arriving there at 9:00 AM. There, they disembarked from the cars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
At the San
Fernando train station, the POWs were packed into
small wooden boxcars
used to haul sugarcane. The cars could hold
forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed
100 POWs into each car. Those POWs who died
remained standing until the living left the car at
Capas. The POWs walked the last miles to Camp
The death rate got so bad among the POWs
that the Japanese opened a new POW camp at
Cabanatuan. It is not known if James was
sent to the camp when it opened or arrived at the
camp after returning from a work detail. It
is not known if he remained in the camp until he
was selected to be sent to another Japanese