Sampson_E

 

Pvt. Ernest Logan Sampson Jr.


    Pvt. Ernest L. Sampson Jr. was born on October 21, 1914, in Mercer County, to Ernest L. Sampson Sr. and Eva E. Brown-Sampson.  He had three sisters and three brothers.  He left school after his second year of high school.  According to his military record, he was worked as a farmhand.  In 1940, he enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard to fulfill his one year of military service. 
    In September 1940, the tank company that Ernest was a member of was re-designated as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The company reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 25, 1940.  There they joined three other National Guard  tank companies to form the 192nd Tank Battalion.  In early 1941, Ernest was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed. 
    The unit trained at the base for nearly a year before being sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. 
At the end of the maneuvers, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk without being given a reason.  They had expected to return to Ft. Knox.
    On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. 
    It was at this time, men 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Those who did were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  This battalion had been sent to the fort, but it had not taken part in the maneuvers.  The M3 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd.

    By train, along the Gulf Coast, the soldiers traveled  to San Francisco through New Mexico and Arizona.  At Yuma, Arizona the train stopped.  Native Americans entered the train cars and sold beads to the soldiers.  The soldiers knocked each other over attempting to buy the beads.  After the train pulled out of the station. someone noticed that the genuine Native American beads were made in Japan.

    The train then made its way north along the Pacific Coast arriving in San Francisco.  They were taken by ferry to Angel Island.  After receiving physicals and inoculations, they were boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott  The ship 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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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.      

    The morning of December 8th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.
    All morning long, American planes filled the sky.  At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes.  When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  The members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelters since they had no weapons to be used against planes.
   
 
    For the next four months, HQ Company worked to keep the tank companies operational.  The morning of April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, commander of HQ Company, informed his men of the surrender.  Bruni somehow came up with enough food for the men to have what he called, "Their last supper."  The meal consisted of bread and pineapple.  Bruni told his men that from this point on it was each man for himself.  Most of the company remained in their bivouac for two days.
 

    It was at this time that Ernest made the decision to attempt to reach Corregidor.  He and other members of the company made their way to the coast.  They found a boat, got the engine running, and convinced the owner, at gun point, to take them to Corregidor.  As they approached the island, they signaled it with a flashlight.  They finally received a response which told them how to get through the islands mine field.
    On the island, he was assigned to an anti-aircraft gun.  The Japanese landed on the island on May 6th in an all out invasion. It was on that day the Campbell became a Prisoner of War.  He and the other men were herded onto a beach which was designated Corregidor POW Camp.  He remained there for about a week when the Japanese began moving the POWs to Manila by barge. 
    The barge took the POWs to a point about 100 yards from the shore.  At that point, the POWs jumped into the water and swam to shore.  Once on shore, they were taken to a pier which had been damaged during the Battle of Bataan and filled the holes with pieces of concrete.  After they finished, they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and ordered to march.
    Having heard from men who had escaped the march out of Bataan what it was like, they feared they would have the same experience.  To their surprise the POWs were not abused on the march and were marched at a reasonable rate.  They marched up Dewey Boulevard in Manila to Bilibid Prison.  The POWs remained at Bilibid until they were transferred to Cabanatuan.  He would remain in this camp
for two years.
    In Cabanatuan, Ernest was assigned to Barracks 5, Group 3.  Assigned to the same barracks as
Heze Sallee from Harrodsburg.  Ernest was also given the POW number of 8341. 
    In early 1943, Ernest was selected to go a work detail to an airfield.  He became ill and admitted to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison on April 22, 1944.  According to the records kept at the hospital, he had been injured and had a contusion on his right knee.  He was discharged and returned to the detail. 
    On July 10, 1944, Ernest was again admitted to Bilibid and admitted to hospital ward from what the medical staff called the "Army Air Group."  The records show that he had a contusion on his right knee.  He may have been treated and discharged the next day.    

    While he was at the prison, a list was posted at the camp of POWs who were being sent to Japan. Ernest's name was on it.  The POWs were taken by truck to the train station and then by train to Manila.  The POWs were put into the holds of the Nissyo Maru on July 11th.  The ship moved into the harbor on the 17th, dropped anchor and sat for a week.  The haul of the ship became hot from the sun raising the temperature inside the hold. 
    On July 24th, the ship sailed as part of a convoy.  On the 26th, the ships were attacked by three American submarines.  There was a huge explosion and the POWs could see the flames shoot over the hatch since the hold was not covered.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th.  After an overnight stay, the ship sailed the next day arriving at Moji, Japan, on August 3rd.  The POWs were disembarked on a pier.  They were later formed into detachments and marched to the train station.  There they boarded trains and were taken to, in Ernest case, 
Narumi Camp #2_B.
    The POWs in the camp were used as slave labor for the Daido Electric Steel Company and manufactured wheels for Nippon Wheel Manufacturing Company.  The POWs did manual labor. Those could operate lathes or milling machines were given jobs using those skills.
    At the camp, the POWs were housed in barracks that were 25 feet wide by 140 feet long.  Each prisoner had a sleeping space of six feet.  The POW food varied and sometime was hulled rice, hulled wheat, and hulled koliang.
    To get to the plant, the POWs had to ride a train with the Japanese civilians.  The civilians would throw their cigarette butts on the floor of the train cars.  The Americans who got on the trains first were able to collect the butts. 
    It was also at this camp that Ernest witnessed a prisoner put to death for stealing.  One night, the man crawled into the camp kitchen to steal food.  For whatever reason, the man did not get out.  Realizing he would be caught, he attempted to kill himself.  The Japanese allowed the man to heal and then made him stand naked in front of the other POWs.  The Japanese then proceeded to starve the man to death.
    In the little free time that the POWs had, they would sit around and talk about food and the meals they would have when they got home.  This was one of the things that Lewis believed helped him to survive as a POW.  Lewis and the other prisoners would actually feel as if they had eaten after each of these sessions.
    As the war went on, American bombs fell around the camp.  Lewis remembered seeing craters on both sides of the camp from raids to knock out the train station.  As they went to work, the POWs counted the bomb craters.
    One night, the bombers destroyed the factory that the POWs worked in.  No prisoners were killed because the attack came at night.  It was not too long after this that the POWs heard that they were going to be moved to another camp.

    One day, the POWs heard that the emperor was going to speak to his people over loudspeakers.  Through the interpreter, the POWs learned of the surrender. when he told them "Between your country and mine we are now friends."  The camp was turned over to the POWs and the guards vanished.  The guards left behind their weapons so the POWs posted guards to protect themselves against any possible attack.  The POWs also marked the camp so that it could be spotted by American planes.  The B-29s began dropping fifty gallon barrels of supplies to the former prisoners on September 2, 1945.   
    The strangest experience for the former prisoners was the fact the Japanese now insisted on bowing to them.  It also seemed a little strange to them that the Japanese brought all the food dropped by the B-29s to them without taking anything for themselves.  This was strange to the men, because they knew that the Japanese civilians did not have much more to eat than the former POWs. 
    American troops entered the camp on September 4th.  On September 12th, the former POWs received orders to move south.  They boarded trains and went to southern Japan.  There they boarded the USS Rescue for medical treatment.

    Ernest was returned to the Philippines were he received medical treatment.  After it was determiined he was healthy, he was returned to the United States and discharged on April 8, 1946.  Ernest married Sadie McRay and became the father of two sons.  He worked as a farmer.
    Ernest Sampson passed away on December 1, 2001, in Mercer County.  He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.


 

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