King R.

 

Sgt. Ronald John King


    Sgt. Ronald J. King was the son of John & Berglioth King and was born on October 29, 1919, in Nebraska.  After his family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, he was raised at 331 North Franklin Street.  He attended both grade school and high school in Janesville.

    In 1938, Ronald joined the 32nd Division's Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville.  For him and the other National Guardsmen, much of the training consisted of drilling.

    In November of 1940, the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  On November 27, 1940, the company left Janesville for Fort Knox, Kentucky, by train.  Arriving at Ft. Knox, they found themselves housed in tents with stoves in them.  Ronald would train there for almost ten months, but it is not known what specific training he received.

    In January, 1941, Headquarters Company was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion.  It was at this time that Ronald was reassigned to the company.  The purpose of the company was to take care of the daily operations of the battalion and ensure that supplies are distributed to the letter companies.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  Ronald like the other men hoped that they would be released from federal duty upon completion of the maneuvers. Instead, they were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana,  on the side of a hill  they heard the news that they were being sent overseas instead.  Ronald received a furlough home to say goodbye to his family and friends.

    From Camp Polk by train, A Company traveled west to San Francisco, California.  It was there that they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island for physicals and inoculations.  Those men who had major medical conditions were replaced, while others were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The soldiers boarded the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott which sailed on Monday, October 27th and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd at 8:00 A.M.as part of a three ship convoy.  Since the ships remained in port for two days, the soldiers received shore leave.  The ships sailed on Tuesday, November 4th 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 there, the ships took on water, bananas, vegetables, and coconuts at 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 would soon be at war.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, at 8:00 A.M., and docked at Manila later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M. the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.    
    At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were greeted by Colonel Edward King who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  The truth was he had not learned of their arrival until just days before the ship docked.  He made sure that the battalion had everything it needed and remained with them until every member had had Thanksgiving dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.

    Most of Ronald's time after arriving at  Ft. Stotsenburg was spent making sure the tankers had what they needed to prepare their new equipment for use.  The soldiers spent most of the time removing the cosmoline from the tanks guns which had been greased to prevent them from rusting at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield.  Allmorning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks' machine guns, were useless against planes.  After the attack, the tankers saw the damage done to the airfield.  They remained at the airfield for a week before being sent north.
    The  battalion was sent to Lingayen Gulf,, on December 21st, were their job was to hold a position until the Filipino and American forces had established another defensive line.  They would then disengage and fall back.
    At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.  The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.         
    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 of the car 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 move and taken 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 was uphill.  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, an unfinished Filipino training base, which was pressed into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink of water.  The Japanese guard could and would turn off the faucet whenever he felt like it.  If a man wanted a drink, he would have to stand in place until it was turned back on again. 
   
The death rate in the camp began to climb.  As many as 55 POWs died each day.  For those assigned to the burial detail, the job was endless.  To bury a man, the POWs dug a shallow grave and held the body down with a pole.  This was done because the water table was high and the bodies floated in the graves.  The next day, when the burials continued, those on the detail found that wild dos had dug up the bodies or that the bodies were sitting up in their graves.  Seeing that something had to be done to lower the number of deaths, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan and sent the healthier POWs there.

   With most of the POWs, Ronald was sent to Cabanatuan #1 when it opened in May 1942.  It was ther that he became ill and admitted to the camp hospital on June 2, 1942 suffering from dysentery.  Medical records show he remained in the hospital the entire time he was a POW in the camp.

    Sgt. Ronald J. King died of dysentery and malaria on Monday, September 14, 1942.  He was buried in the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery.  After the war, his family requested that his remains be returned Janesville.  On October 22, 1949, Sgt. Ronald J. King was reburied in the military section at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville. 


 

 

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