Pvt. Abner Lee Humphrey Jr.
| Abner L.
Humphrey Jr. was born on September 12, 1919, in
Comanche, Texas, to Abner L. Humphrey Sr. and
Repty Humphrey. He grew up on the family
farm with his three sisters and left high school
after completing his junior year. He worked
as a construction worker building Camp Bowie near
Fort Worth, Texas, when he received his draft
On March 13, 1941, A. L. was inducted into the U.S. Army after receiving his draft notice. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It was there that he was trained as a tank driver. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and joined the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion was sent there from Ft. Benning, Georgia, but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place there.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion had expected to return to Ft. Knox. Instead, they received orders to remain behind at the fort. It was on the side of a hill that the tankers learned that they were being sent overseas. It was at that time men 29 years old or older or married were allowed to resign from federal service.
It was at this time that A.L. volunteered to replace a National Guardsman who had been released. He was assigned to D Company which had been a Kentucky National Guard tank company. The tank he was assigned to was named "Shirley" after the wife of its commander. A.L. received leave home for two weeks.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco and ferried to Angel Island. On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals. Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload the battalion's tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King. King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
The morning of December 8th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.
All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. The members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelters since they had no weapons to be used against planes.
On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company and C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese. A.L. Described many
of the engagements against the Japanese as running battles since the tanks would drop back quickly after engaging the Japanese.
The tankers were next assigned to guarding the
Bataan and Cabcaban Airfields. They also
guarded against beach landings and
paratroopers. It was
around April 5th that A.L. was sent to
Hospital #1 suffering from malaria.
When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese
on April 9th, he was still in the
hospital. When the Japanese took over,
the doctors still had medicine, but it
quickly ran out.
recalled that the Japanese set up artillery
near the hospital and fired on
Corregidor. The Americans did not
return fire because they knew the artillery
was near the hospital.
A.L. recalled that as many as 33
POWs died each day. The worst
day was when 49 men died from
malaria, tuberculosis, beriberi, and
diphtheria. He recalled, "Those of us
who were able, or barely able,
were forced to carry the bodies
of our dead to a common grave
and then covered them."
recalled climbing down a steel ladder
into the hold. Once in the hold, it
didn't take too long for the floor to be
covered in human waste and vomit.
The ship sailed on September 20th and
arrived at Takao, Formosa, on September
23rd. It sailed for Moji, Japan,
on September 26th.
Humphrey spent the rest of his life in
Comanche, Texas. He passed away on
May 2, 2001.