Knox H.

 

2nd Lt. Henry Mortimer Knox


    2nd Lt. Henry M. Knox was the son of Ross & Nina Knox.  He was born in Fort Atkinson but raised in Beloit, Wisconsin, on September 12, 1914.  There he resided at 1408 Third Street in Janesville, and later, with his family, at 2229 Riverside Drive in Beloit.  He worked as a salesman for a roofing company.

    Henry joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company in Janesville on August 17, 1940.  On November 25, 1940, the unit was federalized and renamed A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. 

    After arriving at Ft. Knox, Henry was assigned to Headquarters Company when it was formed.  He remained with the company through the maneuvers in Louisiana. 

    In late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in the maneuvers in Louisiana.  While they participated in these maneuvers, they had no idea that they had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.  When the maneuvers were completed, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  It was there that the battalion was called together and its members informed that their time in the military had been extended.  It was at this time that Henry was commissioned a second lieutenant. 

    On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas.  They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton.  Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Men were  given leaves home to say goodbye to family and friends.
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were 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.  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. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that they 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. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    
   
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.
    The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the 192nd was ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  A week earlier, they had been given assigned positions around the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon and lined up near the mess hall while the pilots went to lunch. 
  
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American. As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.    
    Four days after the attack on December 12th, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it could protect highway and railroad from sabotage.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  There, the battalion, with A Company, 194th held the position so other units could withdraw from the area.

    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Reed.  The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.

    At some point, Henry resigned as an enlisted man and was commissioned an officer.  With his commission, he was put into command of one of A Company's tank platoons.      
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  They also took part in the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points.       
    The pockets was an extremely dangerous operation.  When tanks were sent into a pocket, they entered one tank at a time.  The next tank would not enter until the tank that had been relieved exited the pocket. 
    To wipe out the Japanese, two methods were employed. 
One had three Filipino soldiers sitting on the back of each tank.  When the tank passed over a foxhole the soldiers each dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  Being that the ordnance was from WWI, one of the three hand grenades usually exploded.
    The second method was to park the tank with one tread over foxhole.  The crew would give power to the other track causing the tank to spin and dig its way into the ground.

    On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and American forces were surrendered to the Japanese.  Henry was now a Prisoner of War.  Henry took part in what would become known as the "Death March."  As a POW, he was first held at Camp O'Donnell.  It was there that 2nd Lt. Ben Morin of B Company and Henry would renew their friendship.  As it turned out, the two men would spend the rest of their captivity together.

    Henry was next held at Cabanatuan Camp #1 and assigned to Barracks #29, which was an officers' barracks, until the autumn of 1942.  Then he was sent to Bilibid Prison for preparation for shipment to Japan.  There the prisoners underwent physicals to determined if they were healthy enough to be sent to Japan.  Henry was boarded onto the Nagato Maru for Japan.  Henry recalled that even though the Japanese still had plenty of ships, the POWs were crammed into the hold of the ship.

    Arriving in Japan, Henry was sent by train to Tanagawa where he was was held as a POW.  It was there that Henry helped Lt. Ben Morin cremate the remains of his high school friend.  On June 16, 1943,  he was sent to Yokaishi, Japan.  He was then sent to Zentsuji Camp near the City of Shikoku by train.  With him in each of the camps was Lt. Ben Morin.

    The POWs had a good idea of what was going on in the war from Japanese newspapers.  Among the prisoners were British officers who could read Japanese and tell the other men what was going on in the war.  On June 6, 1944, all newspapers were banned from the camp.  The POWs smuggled them into the camp and continued to read them.

    The final camp Henry was held at was Rokuroshi.  He was transferred there on June 25, 1945.  The camp was next to a great Buddhist temple.  This camp was for officers only and held 750 POWs. There Henry met officers from the British and Australian armies.  Four months after arriving in this camp, Henry was liberated by American forces.  Henry was the only officer of A Company who surrendered on Bataan to survive the war.

    Henry remembered that one time the Japanese left an airplane on a parade ground near the camp.  Three Air Corps officers came up with the idea of stealing the plane and flying it to Russia.  One night the three men climbed over the camp fence to steal the plane.  The problem was that they could not locate the plane in the dark.  Realizing that their plan was not going to work, the men attempted to climb the fence back into the camp.  Henry stated that the POWs had a harder time getting back into the camp than they had getting out of it.

    Henry and the other prisoners learned of the atomic bomb from Japanese newspapers.  He and the other men were liberated and left Japan on September 12, 1945.  Like many of the former POWs, Henry was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  While there, he was reunited with his brother, Forrest.  It was the first time that the brothers had seen each other in three and one half years.  

    Henry returned to the United States on the Simon Bolivar, at San Francisco,on October 21, 1945.  He received further medical treatment before he returned to Janesville and married.  He and his wife had two sons.  Henry remained in the army and rose in rank to captain.  When he retired from the army on October 31, 1960, he settled in Portland, Oregon, where he worked as a superintendent of building services for 17 years.  He retired in 1978 and spent the rest of his life in Portland.  Henry M. Knox passed away on June 19, 2000, and was cremated.  His ashes were interred at Willamette National Cemetery in Happy Valley, Oregon.

    The picture at the top of the page was taken while Henry was a POW in Japan.


 

 

 

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