Moore_A

 

Pvt. Albert Bland Moore


    Pvt. Albert B. Bland Moore was born on July 15, 1920, in Mackville, Kentucky, to Robert L. Moore & Gertrude A. Roberts-Moore.  He was raised in Mercer County with his five brothers and three sisters and was known as "Bland" to his family and friends.  With his friends, William Gentry, Robert Brummett, Maurice Collier and Cecil VanDiver, he joined the Kentucky National Guard.

    In the fall of 1940, Bland was called to federal duty when his tank company was federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  During his time at Ft.Knox, he attended cook's school and qualified as a cook.  In January 1941, he was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion.  He was assigned to the company as a mess sergeant.

    In the late summer of 1941, Bland's battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  Before the maneuvers, Bland returned to Harrodsburg on leave and married Bessie Louise Carter on August 20, 1941.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion received orders to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the men learned they were being sent overseas.  Married men and those 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal duty.  It is believed that Bland chose to remain in the Army.

   Traveling west by train through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  While on the island, they were given physicals and shots for overseas duty. Men with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the company at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from on Monday, October 27th,as part of a three ship convoy that arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam. 
    During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.   
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later in the day.  At 3:00 P. M., the soldiers disembarked and most were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those assigned to trucks drove them to the fort, while maintenance section remained behind, at the pier, to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
    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 and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.  

    On December 8, 1941, Bland lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  During the attack, Bland was delivering lunch to members of the tank crews at their tanks.  As he drove, his truck was strafed by a Japanese Zero.  Bland got out of the truck with a M-1 Garand .  He took cover by a tree and leaned against it for leverage.  According to Bland, the Japanese planes made a figure eight over the airfield.  All anyone had to do was aim at a certain spot and keep the gun aimed there.  He took aim and fired at the plane.  To his own amazement, he hit the plane which went down in flames.

    After the attack, Bland looked around the airfield.  One of the sites he would always remember was the site of the trucks carrying men who had lost arms and legs during the attack.  The entire airfield looked as if it was on fire.

    Bland spent the next four months working to keep the tank crews fed.  The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   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.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."

    The soldiers proceeded to pile up their guns and ammunition and set the pile on fire.  They stayed in their bivouac and waited for orders.  At the same time that they were sad, they were also kind of excited and wondered what was going to happen to them.
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Lawrence 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 with 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.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.   

    HQ Company was ordered to go to Mariveles.  Since they had trucks, Bland and the other men road to just outside of the barrio, where they were ordered of of their trucks.  They were sent to the airfield and told to sit. 

    While Bland and the other men sat waiting at the airfield, Japanese soldiers began lining up across from them, the POWs quickly realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad.  Bland and the others waited to see what would happen.

    A Japanese officer in a staff car pulled up to the Japanese soldiers.  He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back into the car and drove away.  As he drove away, the sergeant ordered the Japanese soldiers to lower their guns.

    Bland and the other POWs were ordered to move.  They were taken to a schoolyard and again told to sit.  This time they found themselves n front of Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  The two American forts returned fire resulting with shells landing among the POWs.  Some of the prisoners were killed.

    Bland and the other POWs were ordered to move again and had no idea they had begun what was known as the death march.  Bland was in pretty good shape when he started the march and took it in stride.  He helped carry other men too weak to continue on their own.  For Bland, one of the worst memories he had of the march was watching Americans die.  Those men who fell were bayoneted.

    At one point on the march, Cecil VanDiver fell out and sat down on the side of the road.  VanDiver could not go on and had decided that he would sit and wait to be killed.  Bland came up to him, with Pvt. Earl Pratt, who was also assigned to HQ Company.  The two men picked VanDiver up and carried him between them until he could walk on his own.
    Recalling the march, Moore said,"If you got tired or got weak and had to sit down, they killed you.  I quit perspiring.....and I couldn't get any salt.  I was getting real weak and dizzy.  We were going through a little town, and some of the Filipinos were throwing rice balls out to us.  That was the last thing I wanted.  All I wanted to do is stay on my feet.  By that time, the men were a whole lot like animals.
    But ..... a little brown package landed in my hand, and it was salt. I ate the salt, and shared it with others, and finished the march.  I wasn't reaching for anything when it fell into my hand.  Nothing could tell ne otherwise that Jesus Christ had a hand in saving me."

    At San Fernando, Bland was put into a boxcar with other POWs.  The cars were known as "forty or eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese put 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing because they could not fall to the floors.  At Capas, the living disembarked and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    It is known that Bland went out on a work detail to escape Camp O'Donnell.  The detail rebuilt the bridges the Americans destroyed as they retreated into Bataan.  On this detail, he worked a jackhammer.  Because of the nature of the work and the poor diet, Bland lost wait and grew weak.  As time went on, he found it harder and harder to operate the jackhammer, so he attempted to get out of working.  Bland placed his arm between two blocks of wood and hit it with a crowbar.  All that happened was he injured the arm and had to continue to work.

    The commanding Japanese officer of the detail gave the POWs a great deal of freedom.  While at Balanga, they were allowed to go anywhere in the barrio, but they could not leave the barrio.  This was the situation until the CO left for three days.  When the detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan.

    Bland recalled that death was all around him in the camp, and that he did what he could for the sick.  "I fed men their last meals and gave them their last baths."  It is known that one of the men Bland was talking about was Jennings Scanlon from Harrodsburg.  According to Bland, he and Earl Pratt found Scanlon lying partially in the slit-trench that served as the camp latrine.  The two men pulled him out and bathed him until he was clean.  They pulled together their food rations and fed him their best food.  The next day Jennings Scanlon died.

    Bland recalled that the Japanese started putting the POWs into groups known as "blood brothers."  The idea was that if one man escaped the rest would be executed.  Because of this rule, he twice witnessed the execution of POWs because of escapes.

    Food became a issue for Bland and the other POWs.  "The one thing on your mind was survival.  You were like an animal. You would kill anything to eat - snakes, bugs whatever."  During this time, his weight dropped from 185 pounds to 118 pounds.

    At some point Bland violated a camp rule, he was tied to a tree for several days. He was then brought back into the camp and tied to a post.  When the POWs were assembled, Bland knew he was going to be executed.  Grover Brummett was falling in and realized that the man who was going to be executed was Bland Moore.  He went up to Bland.  Bland told Grover that he wanted him to tell his family that he had never begged the Japanese for anything.

    The commanding officer, Lt. Col. Seigeji Mori, came up to Bland and began shouting at him in Japanese.  Bland looked him in the eyes and smiled.  Bland said, "I just stared him in the eye.  And you know, just at a snap of a finger he told me -- Go to work."  This must have thrown Mori off because instead of executing him, he sent Bland out on the work detail.  Later when Bland was assigned to the POW detail that cleaned Mori's quarters, Mori told Bland that the reason he did not execute him was that Bland had never shown fear.

    In December, 1942, Bland went out on a work detail to Ft. McKinley arriving there on the twelfth.  There, the POWs did cleanup work clearing the grounds of junk from the battle.  When the work was finished, they were moved to Nielson Field on January 29, 1943.  At Nielson, the POWs lived in barracks that were 150 feet long by 20 feet wide.  One quarter of the space was used for sick wards which meant the POWs slept shoulder to shoulder again.  Tables for meals were in the center aisle of each barracks.  The POW compound were they could walk around freely was 500 feet by 200 feet and surrounded by barbed wire.  Each day, the POWs had to walk almost five miles to and from the airfield.
    The POWs on the detail worked at constructing a northeast to southwest runway.  The work day for the POWs was from 8:00 A.M. until Noon and 1:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M.  When they arrived at the airfield they were divided into two groups which alternated between working for a hour while the other and resting for a hour.  
    The work was hard and required the POWs to remove dirt and rock from one ares and dumping it onto the runways.  The dirt and rock was removed with picks and shovels and put into mining cars which were pushed by POWs to the area where they were going to be dumped.

    In May 1943, the work was sped up.  The POWs weren't sure if this was because they were behind schedule or if the airfield was needed because of the military situation.   The runway was built through rice paddies which made the work harder since they still had water in them. 
    POW work hours were changed in January 1944.   From that time on, the POWs started at 7:00 A.M. and worked until 11:00 A.M. to avoid the hottest part of the day.  In the afternoon, the POWs worked from 1:30 to 5:00 P.M.  They had their one day off a week cut to a half day a week.  On May 26th, the afternoon work hours were extended to 6:00 P.M.  At some point, some POWs were assigned to building a second runway about three miles from the camp.

    Bland apparently became ill and was sent to Bilibid Prison on August 20, 1944, and was sent to Bilibid Prison.  After Bland was considered cured, he was given a physical and sent to Japan on the Noto Maru.  The POWs were boarded on August 25th and sailed on August 27, 1944, from Manila.  After stops at Takao and Keelung, Formosa, on August 30th, it arrived at Moji, Japan on September 4th.  In Japan, Bland was first held a camp at Tanagawa.  He remained there until March 28, 1945.  During his time in this camp, the POWs built a dry dock  for submarines.  

     Bland was next sent to Mukashima Camp when the camp closed and worked in a coal mine.  It was from this camp that he was liberated in 1945 and returned to the Philippines.  He was promoted to staff sergeant and sailed for the Seattle, Washington, on the U.S.S. Admiral Hughes on October 9, 1945.  He was discharged from the Army on May 2, 1946.

    Bland returned to Kentucky and married Bessie Louise Carter.  He was the father of three children and worked as a sales representative in the steel industry.  Bland and Earl Pratt remained friends for the rest of their lives.  When Earl Pratt died, he took Pratt's death extremely hard.
    On December 2, 1990, a fifty year anniversary ceremony was held in Harrodsburg in honor of the Kentucky members of the 192nd from Harrodsburg.  Bland Moore was there.  He said, "The reason I was there was because of the my love of the guys didn't come back. I wish that everyone who has ever burned an American flag could go through the first three months of hell that these men went through."

    Albert Bland Moore passed away on April 27, 2006, in Nicholasville, Kentucky, and was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.


 

Bland Moore Interview


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