Madison_R

 

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 Junction, Wisconsin.

    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 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 as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.

    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ralph lived through the Japanese bombing of Clark Field.  With the rest of his company, he spent the next four months fighting the Japanese as they advanced in the Philippine Islands.

   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 Pinas Work Detail.  It was there that he built runways at Nichols Airfield and worked on a farm. 
    The POWs were housed in the Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  30 men were assigned to each room and slept on the floor.  Each morning they got up and did exercises.  When they finished, they were fed breakfast and marched about a mile to the airfield.  As they marched, the Filipino civilians expressed their sympathy for the POWs whose clothing had deteriorated to rags.  Ralph remained on this detail until April 1944.   
    On this detail, the POWs had nothing but picks and shovels to build the runways.  At first the work was hard but not as hard as it was going to get.  About 400 yards from where they began working where hills.  The POWs removed these hills with picks and shovels.  The dirt was put into wheel barrows and carried to a swamp and dumped as landfill.  This turned out to be inefficient, so the Japanese brought in mining cars and railroad track.  Two POWs pushed each car to where it was to be dumped.  He would remain on this detail for almost seventeen months.
 

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.

    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.

    In particular, "the Wolf" was was hardest to convince that a man was sick.  If a man's arm or leg was bandaged, he would kick the man's leg, in the spot it was bandaged, and see how the man reacted.  If the man showed a great deal of pain, he was not required to work.  In one case, a man whose broken wrist was in a splint, was twisted by the Wolf while the man trembled in pain.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
   

    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. 


 

 

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