LangfordJ
 

Pvt. James Monroe Langford


    Pvt. James M. Langford was born on June 12, 1915, to Emmet Langford & Minnie Stokes-Langford in Livingston County, Kentucky.  With his two sisters and six brothers he resided in Rockcastle County, Kentucky.  In 1940, he resided in Sycamore Ohio, and worked as a dairy farmer.
    On March 15, 1941, James was inducted into the U.S. Army at Port Thomas, Kentucky.  During his basic training, he was assigned to Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  During basic training James' attended tracked vehicle maintenance school and qualified as a tank mechanic.    

    The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers.  After the maneuvers, on the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  According to members of the battalion, General George Patton told them the news.  Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
    Many of the members of the battalion were given leave so that they could say goodbye to family and friends.  They returned to Camp Polk and 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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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.
 
    Jim was an early riser and heard the news of the Japanese attack.  He told Grover Bummett, Nick Marchese, and either Kenneth Engel or Elmer Engle that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.  One of his tent mates took his boot, threw it at him, and told him to, "Get out of here!"
   At six in the morning, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to move their platoons to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  The 192nd had been assigned to the southern portion of the airfield.  The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    As a member of HQ Company, James remained in the bivouac of the battalion.  The members of the company could do little more than take cover during the attack.  After the attack the tankers saw the carnage done by the attack.  The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps.  The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
    James
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had been caught off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I, and one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks.
    On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M.  The members of the HQ Company remained in their bivouac.  Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  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.  Somehow Bruni came up with enough food to have what he called, "their last supper."


    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  James 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.  They were told to put 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.

    The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  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 sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day,  the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  The POWs had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. 

    During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.

    At San Fernando, The POWs were put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.
    The rate of death among the POWs was so high that the Japanese knew they had to do something to lower it.  They opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  The Japanese sent the healthier POWs to the camp.  James was one of these POWs.  It is not known if he went out on any work details while a POW in the camp.  Medical records at the camp show that James was admitted to the camp hospital on July 16, 1942.  Why he was admitted and when he was discharged were not shown on the records.

   On December 12, 1942, James went out on a work detail to an airfield to build runways and revetments.  The detail fist was sent to Ft. McKinley.  What they did there is not known.  On January 29, 1942, the detail was sent to Neilsen Field.  There they extended runways and built revetments.  They remained there until October 23, 1942, when they were sent to Camp Murphy to build runways and revetments at Zablan Airfield.
    It is known that while on the detail James developed acute gastroenteritis and was sent to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison.  He was admitted to the ward on April 25, 1944, and discharged the next day. Records indicate he was sent back to the airfield.
    In July 1944, James' name appeared on a list of POWs being transferred to Japan.  He was taken to Pier 7 at Manila and boarded onto the Nissyo Maru on 8:00 A.M. on July 17, 1944.  The ship remained anchored outside the harbor breakwater from July 18th until July 23rd.  The morning of the 23rd the ship sailed and dropped, at 2:00 P.M., anchor off of Corregidor.  The ship sailed, as part of a convoy, on July 24th.  At 3:00 A.M. one of the ships, the
Otari Yama Maru, was hit by torpedoes from the American submarine, the U.S.S. Flasher.  The submarine was one of three subs stalking the convoy.  The other two were the U.S.S. Crevale and the U.S.S. Flasher.  The subs sank several ships.
    On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, at 9:00 A.M. and sailed at 7:00 P.M.  From July 30th to August 2nd, it sailed through a storm.  On August 3rd, the POWs were issued clothing.  It arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 4th at midnight, but the POWs did not disembark until 8:00 A.M. and were taken to a theater.  They were taken to a train station where they were divided into detachments to be sent to different camps.  The POWs in James' detachment were taken by train to the camp arriving there at 2:00 A.M.  They were marched three miles to the camp.
   
In Japan, James was held at Fukuoka #23.  The camp consisted of a mess hall, a hospital, six unheated barracks.  The camp was 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 at the Dejima Docks.  The rest were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to Okinawa, from there, they were flown back to the Philippines.  It was during his time in the Philippines that James was promoted to sergeant.  Near the end of September, 1945, he was boarded onto the S.S. Simon Bolivar for transport home.  The ship arrived at San Francisco on October 21, 1945.  The former POWs were taken to Letterman General Hospital for further medical treatment.
    James was discharged from the Army on November 25, 1946.  He returned to Kentucky and married Ruth.  The couple became the parents of a daughter.  He worked for the Marley Company.  James M. Langford died on April 29, 2003, at his home in Fairdale, Kentucky,  His funeral was held at Cole Baptist Church with his burial at Evergreen Cemetery.


 

                                     
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