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, and 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, and, 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.
    In January 1941, Emerson was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion.  His exact duties with the company are not known.

    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 returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and prepared for shipment overseas.
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes to San Francisco, California.  Arriving there, 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 major health issues were  replaced.  Those with minor health issues were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the company at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. 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.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 countr
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the 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, but the fact was that he had not learned of their arrival until just days before their ship docked.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.    
    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.

    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.  
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield.  All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks' machine guns, were useless against planes.  After the attack, the tankers saw the damage done to the airfield.  When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.   
    They remained at the airfield for a week before being sent north toward Lingayen Gulf in support of B and C Companies.  They would repeat this role over and over again for the next four months.

    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."   
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald 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 finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit.  As they sat, the POWs 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 prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off.  The 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, which he had hidden during the shakedowns by the Japanese, which he used to disinfect the water and make it safe to drink. 

    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
  From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    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.  The detail was under the command the Japanese engineers but the ranking American officer was Lt. Colonel Ted Wickord who had been the commanding officer of the 192nd.

     The POWs first worked at Calauan.  There the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor. 

    They were next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge.  Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed.  Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.

    The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickess looking POWs. 

    When the detail ended, Emerson was sent to Cabnanatuan which had opened while he was on the detail.  

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.  He would remain on this detail for over a year.

    In July 1944, Emerson was selected to be sent to Japan.  He recalled that while he was on the pier he saw John and Henry Luther who were on what was called the Bachrach Garage Detail.  They were the last two members of the Wisconsin National Guardsmen that he saw for the rest of the war.
    When the POWs boarded the ship, the Japanese  tried to put all the POWs in one hold.  When they realized that this could not be done, they opened another hold and put POWs in it.  It finally sailed on July 17th but dropped anchor and remained in the harbor until July 24th when it sailed as part of a convoy.  During the trip the ships were attacked by American submarines resulting in the sinking of several ships.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, remained two days and sailed for Moji, Japan, on July 28th and arriving there on August 3rd.  The POWs disembarked the ship and allowed to sleep.  They later were taken to the train station and rode the train to the camps along the line. 
Emerson was sent to a Kamioka POW camp which was eighty miles north of Osaka.  The camp would later be named Nagoya #7-B.

    Emerson was not the only member of A Company in the camp, with him were John Spencer and Boyd Riese.  In addition, there were other members of the 192nd in the camp.  Spencer was later transferred to Sendai #6-B.  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 which 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 than 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.  Emerson recalled, "Although the Japs told us the war was over, we didn't believe them until the B-29s began dropping food."  The next day 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 7, 1945, and taken to Yokohama for transport to the Philippines.  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 than 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, and the next day he was told he was being promoted to sergeant.  He recalled 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 before he 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


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