Tec 4 Ralph A. Madison
| Tec. 4 Ralph
A. Madison was born in South Dakota on March 21,
1918, but he grew up in Monona, Iowa, with his two
brothers and three sisters. He was the son
of Ruel & Anna Madison. He attended a
parochial grade school and went to high
school. In 1937, his family moved to Milton
In November of 1940, Ralph and his brother, Harold, joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 33rd Tank Company in Janesville. His reason for doing this was that the draft act had passed and he wanted to fulfill his military obligation. He also was aware that the tank company had been federalized and was to train in Kentucky for a year. During his tome at Ft. Knox, Ralph picked up the nickname of "Dimples."
At Fort Knox, Kentucky, Ralph was assigned to
ordinance for A Company. It was his job to
carry supplies to the tanks. Next, he took
part in maneuvers in Louisiana in the early fall
of 1941. After these maneuvers, he learned
that the 192nd Tank Battalion had been selected
for duty overseas.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter
Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had
been bombed by the Japanese. The tanks
were put on alert and took their positions
around the airfield. At 8:30 A.M.,
American took off to intercept any Japanese
planes. Sometime before
noon, the alert was canceled and the planes
landed and were lined up near the mess
hall. Their pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45. Many of the tankers counted 54 planes. The planes approached the airfield and watched hat was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.
Elmer lived through the bombing of Clark
Field. During the attack, he and the other
tankers could do little since their guns were
not made to use against planes.
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.
On one occasion, Ralph and Phil Parish were sent to get gasoline and ammunition from a supply depot. As they were driving, they were attacked by Japanese fighters. The two men jumped out of the truck and ran into the backyard of a home. In the yard, was a air raid shelter that the family had dug. Ralph and Phil jumped into the shelter joining the family. When the attack ended, the two soldiers climbed into the truck and drove to the depot. When they got there, they discovered that the Japanese had bombed and destroyed it.
The evening of April 8, 1942, Ralph learned that he and that other defenders of Bataan were to be surrendered to the Japanese. The next morning Ralph was a Prisoner Of War. With the other members of A Company, he walked to Mariveles where he began what became known as the Death March.
As a POW, Ralph was first held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan Camp #1. While a POW there, his brother, Harold, died.
Ralph remained at the
camp until he was
selected to go out on a
work detail. In
July 1943, he was
sent out on the Las
Detail. It was
there that he built
runways at Nichols
Airfield and worked
on a farm.
shown to the
commander of the
camp, a Lt. Moto,
was called the
because he wore
a spotless naval
He was commander
of the camp for
One day a POW
working on the
Moto was told
about the man
and came out and
ordered him to
When he couldn't
made to carry
the man back to
The welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese. They only concern they had was getting the runway built. If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury. Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.
"the Wolf" was
was hardest to
convince that a
sick. If a
man's arm or leg
was bandaged, he
would kick the
man's leg, in
the spot it was
see how the man
If the man
showed a great
deal of pain, he
was not required
In one case, a
man whose broken
wrist was in a
twisted by the
Wolf while the
man trembled in
Ralph was sent to Bilibid Prison which was the clearinghouse for POWs being sent to Japan or another occupied country. He was boarded onto the Hokusen Maru on October 3, 1944. Because of the conditions the POWs experienced, the ships became known as "hell ships." On October 11th, the ship arrived at Hong Kong before sailing for Formosa.
Ralph arrived in Formosa on November 9th and was held at Heito POW Camp. Upon arrival, the POWs were searched by 1st Lieutenant Tamaki the camp commandant. Tamaki took any medicine or medical instruments he found on the POWs and gave the items to a guard who followed him down the line. The POWs discovered this the next day when they had the chance to discuss what had been taken from them.
After five days in Heito Camp, the POWs were put to work and cleared rocks so that the land could be used to grow crops. The POWs worked in teams of five. Each team was expected to load three boxcars of ballast a day. Each car held ten tons of ballast. Ralph's team was expected to meet this quota. If Ralph's team or any other POW team did not meet the required quota, they were beaten.
The beatings took place as the POWs entered the camp. Those men selected, who the Japanese decided were "slackers" and selected for beatings, were pulled out of line as the POWs returned to the camp. Three or four guards dragged the POWs to a water trough. The man was thrown into the trough and held underwater. When the Japanese were done with this portion of the punishment, the POWs were taken into the guardhouse and beaten on their shoulders and backs and legs by Lt. Tamaki. After two or three days of beatings, the POWs were released.
Within days of arriving at Heito Camp, ten Americans came down with what was called by the British POW doctor as "brain fever." Since the doctor had no medicine to treat the sick, they died.
Lt. Tamaki called the British and American POWs together. He asked the POWs how many had a fever. About fifty or sixty raised their hands. He told the POWs that the camp cemetery was very large, and that he attended to put as many of them in it as he could.
The POWs at Heito suffered from beriberi and dysentery because of the poor diet. It is not known when Ralph came down with "brain fever." What is known is that T/4 Ralph Madison died on Formosa on Wednesday, January 17, 1945.
Sgt. John Massimino of B Company, who was friends with Ralph, was on the detail that buried Ralph at Tomon Cemetery in Takao, Formosa. The remains of the POWs were later disinterred by American Grave Registration and moved to another location. It was most likely it was the American Graves Registration Mausoleum in Shanghi, China.
Since T/4 Ralph A. Madison died on Formosa. After the war, his remains were buried at the American Military Cemetery at Honolulu, Hawaii.