Pvt. Emerson Samuel Rex

    Pvt. Emerson S. Rex was born August 20, 1919, to Emerson A. Rex and Estella C. Crouse-Rex, in Mulberry, Indiana.  He was one of six children born to the couple.  He would later move to Frankfort, Indiana, where he lived at 603 Sims Street.  He graduated from Frankfort High School.  In 1937, he moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, and lived with his brother who ran the Rock County Jail. 

    In 1940, Emerson joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville.  His reason for doing this was to fulfill his military obligation and get on with his life.  Before he left for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he got married Genevieve Matheny on November 12, 1940, and started a home at 615 South Pearl Street.

    After training at Ft. Knox, Emerson took part in maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of 1940.  It was after the completion of the maneuvers that he learned that his time in the military had been extended from one to six years.  He also learned that additional training would be given to the battalion overseas.

    Receiving a ten day pass home, Emerson said goodbye to his wife, Genevive Manthey-Rex, and baby.  He then returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and prepared for shipment overseas.
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on October 29th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed. 
For the next four months. Emerson fought to slow the Japanese in their conquest of the Philippines.   

    The morning of April 9, 1942, Emerson with the rest of HQ Company received word of the surrender.  He and the other members of the company remained in their camp for three days before receiving orders that they were to go to Mariveles.  

    Emerson with his company  were made to kneel along the road that ran near their encampment.  As they knelt, the Japanese took whatever they wanted from the Prisoners of War.  The members of HQ Company boarded trucks and rode to Mariveles.  They then were held in a school yard.  Later they were moved to a field.  Behind them, the Japanese had set up artillery and were firing on Corregidor.  Corregidor returned fire and shells began landing among the POWs.

    As they sat, Emerson and the other Prisoners of War 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 there watching and waiting for their executions, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out.  He got out 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.  

    Emerson took part in the death march and concluded that although they were treated poorly, the Americans were treated better than the Filipinos.  He watched as Filipino prisoners were bayoneted or roughed up by the guards.  It was his belief this was done because they had chosen to fight alongside the Americans against other Asians.

    On the "Death March," the only water that Emerson and the other Prisoners Of War were allowed to drink was from the wallows of caribou or from the ditches alongside the road.   The water in the ditches often had dead soldiers floating in it.  Unlike many of the POWs, Emerson had iodine that he used to disinfect the water and make it safe to drink. 

    At San Fernando, Emerson and the other prisoners was were crammed into small wooden boxcars.  When the train arrived at Capas, the POWs disembarked and marched the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.  Camp O'Donnell was a death trap.  

    To get out of the camp, Emerson went out on a work detail to rebuild bridges that the retreating Filipino and American forces withdrew into the Bataan Peninsula.  This detail lasted several months.  When the detail ended, Emerson was sent to Cabanatuan.  

    In October, 1942, Emerson was among POWs selected to be transferred to the Port Area Detail in Manila.  This detail was designated as Camp #11.  The POWs worked as stevedores loading and unloading ships at pier #7.  It was while he was a POW there that his family received the first word that he was a Prisoner of War in February, 1943.  

    On July 17, 1944, Emerson was sent to Japan on the Nissyo Maru.  The POWs were crammed into the ship's holds and remained in them during the 21 day trip to Japan.  Emerson was sent to a Kamioka POW camp eighty miles north of Osaka.  The camp was renamed Nagoya 1-B on April 6, 1945.  The camp's name was changed to Nagoya 7-B in August, 1945.  

    Emerson was the only member of A Company in the camp, but there were other members of the 192nd present.  At this camp, Emerson worked in a lead mine.  Working as a miner, he came down with lead poisoning and developed sores on his arms and legs.  The soars left scars on his arms and legs. The last six months he spent in the camp he was so ill that he could not work.

    Conditions in the camp were poor.  During his time in this camp, he only received two new uniforms, rubber shoes and no socks.  The men slept, four to a bed on straw mats, in a unheated barracks.  To keep warm during the extremely cold winters, the men sewed all their blankets together and slept with their clothes on.
    The civilians that the POWs worked with were more unfriendly then the guards.  Occasionally,  the POWs were able to trade something with a civilian and in return receive a special food the man's wife made.

    The main diet for the POWs in the camp consisted of rice and soybeans.  Since the diet in the camp was not adequate, Emerson also suffered from beriberi and dysentery.  He lost his vision in his right eye because of the poor diet.  It would return with a better diet and treatment.  By the time he was liberated, he had lost 112 pounds.  "Occasionally we would get a little horse meat or mule meat." When asked if it tasted good, he said, "It is - if you're really hungry."

    Emerson and the other POWs had no idea how the war was going.  They were told by the Japanese that New York, Chicago, and San Francisco had been bombed and destroyed.  Emerson and the other men never accepted these stories as true, but the longer that he was in the camp he began to lose his spirit.  He even reached the point that he no longer cared who won the war.

   The morning after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the POWs were made to do close order drill before they went to work,  The next day, they were given a day off.  It was only when American planes began dropping food to them that the POWs began to believe the war was over.  A day later the POWs awoke to find the guards were gone.  When the Americans did not liberate the camp,  the POWs sent men out to contact them.  

    Emerson was liberated on September 15, 1945.  He was promoted to corporal and a week later he was promoted to sergeant.  He was flown to Hawaii by the Air Transport Command and then to Hamilton Airfield north of San Francisco arriving on September 20th.  After this, he was sent to Vaughan VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois, to recuperate.  This hospital was next to Maywood which was the hometown of B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. 
    After a few weeks at the hospital, Emerson was promoted to corporal.  The next day he was told he was being promoted to sergeant.  He said that it was a good week for him.

    Emerson returned to Janesville and his family and was discharged from the army on January 22, 1946.  He married Betty Louise Reed on July 5, 1950, and was the father of two sons.  Later, he moved to the Rockford, Illinois.  He then returned to Frankfort, Indiana.  There, he was employed by the Indiana State Highway Department and an asphalt company.    
    Emerson Rex passed away on February 10, 1971, in Frankfort, Indiana.  He is buried at Bunnell Cemetery in Frankfort


Return to A Company