Langley

Pvt. Alfred Raymond Langley


    Pvt. Alfred R. Langley was born on February 26, 1912, in Rector, Arkansas, to Walter W. & Alma Langley.  He was the third oldest of the four children.  His younger brother died as a child.  Alfred grew up in  Monette, Arkansas, and he worked as a truck driver.  He was known as "Ray" to his family and friends. 
    Sometime in 1940, Ray moved to Janesville, Wisconsin.  He most likely did this looking for work.  Knowing that he would be drafted into the Army, he enlisted in the local National Guard Company which was scheduled to be federalized in the fall of 1940.  After a year of service, the company was scheduled to be released from federal service.

    In September 1940, the National Guard unit was federalized and re-designated as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  On November 25th, the company readied itself for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  The company boarded the train for Ft. Knox on November 28th., and after a stop in Maywood, Illinois, to pick up B Company of the battalion.
    When the tankers arrived at Ft. Knox, they learned that their barracks were not finished.  The area of the fort that they were assigned to was brand new.  They found themselves living in tents with stoves in them.  They remained in the tents several months.  When they did move into their barracks, the roads in front of them were mud since the winter was extremely wet.
    Alfred, like all the other members of the battalion, learned to operate all the equipment of the battalion.  It is not known what he trained to do with the company.  It is not known what his exact duties were.
    In late August, the battalion was informed it would take part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well.  After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained at Camp Polk.  None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.  It is known that members of the company were given leaves home to say goodbye and get their personal business in order.
    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. 
    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 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. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
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.
    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
   The 192nd remained at Clark field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line. 
    On one occasion the company were in bivouac on two sides of a road.  The posted sentries and most of the tankers attempted to get some sleep.  The sentries heard noise down the road and woke the company.  Every man grabbed a weapon.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  The tankers opened fire with everything they had.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
    The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks.  Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets.  The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
    The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
    The POWs made their way north from Mariveles.  The first five miles of the march were uphill.  At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor.  They received little water and little food.  When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen.  In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom.  The surface of the trench was alive with maggots.  How long they remained in the bull pen is not known. 
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks.  They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese  packed 100 POWs into each car.  Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall.  At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
   
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink.  The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day.  The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead.  Often, when they returned the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.

    The death rate in the camp got so high that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  It is not known if Ray was sent directly to the camp, or if he was sent to the camp after he returned from a work detail.  It is known that he was in the camp in July 1943, when his name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan.  The POWs were taken by truck to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Clyde Maru.
    The Clyde Maru sailed from Manila on July 23, 1943, for Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philippines.  It arrived there on the same day.  The ship was loaded with manganese ore and remained in port for three days.  On July 26th, the ship sailed for Formosa.  During the trip, 100 POWs at a time were allowed on deck from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.  It arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 28, 1943.
    The ship remained in port until August 5th, when it sailed for Moji, Japan, as part as a nine ship convoy.  The convoy arrived at Moji on August 7th.  The next day, August 8th, the POWs were unloaded and formed detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the railroad station and boarded a train.  They rode the train for two days until they reached Omuta, Japan.  They left the train and marched 18 miles to
Fukuoka #17.  Those POWs too ill to walk were driven by truck to the camp.
    Fukuoka 17 was the worst POW camp to be held in as a prisoner.  The stronger American prisoners preyed on the weaker prisoners.  POWs would trade their food rations for cigarettes.  Around the camp was a ten foot high wooden fence.  On top of the fence were three electrified wires.  50 POWs were assigned to each barrack which were 20 feet wide by 120 feet long.  There were ten rooms in each barrack with four to six men in each room.  The POWs worked in a condemned coal mine.           

    One morning, the POWs who were not working in the mine saw a large explosion over Nagasaki. Those who witnessed it told the POWs who had been working in the mine about it.  Many believed that the Japanese main ammunition dump had been hit.  None knew that the town their camp was located in had been the primary target for the atomic bomb.
    One morning the camp commandant told the POWs that Japan and the United States were now friends.  They officially knew the war was over.  B-29s appeared over the camp and dropped 50 gallon drums of food and clothing to the POWs.  George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News arrived at the camp and told the men that their were American troops on the island.  Some of the POWs left the camp and made contact with them.
    Ray was liberated in September 1945, and returned to the Philippine Islands. After receiving treatment, he was returned to the United States on the S.S. Simon Bolivar arriving at San Francisco on October 21, 1945.  He was promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant and discharged on September 22, 1946.
    On August 3, 1951, Ray married Zella Marie Freeman in Sonora, Mexico. The couple resided in Snyder, Texas.  Alfred R. Langley passed away on September 22, 1987, in Snyder, Texas.  He was buried in Hillside Memeorial Gardens in Snyder, Texas. 




 

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