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.
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
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
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
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.
During his recuperation, he was hospitalized at
Vaughan VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois.
This hospital was next to Maywood which was the
hometown of B Company, 192nd Tank
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.