Thompson_K

 

Sgt. Kenneth Eugene Thompson


    Sgt. Kenneth E. Thompson was born on September 24, 1915, to Lloyd & Anna Thompson in Plymouth, Ohio.  He grew up in Graytown, Ohio, and resided in Oak Harbor, Ohio.  He was the brother of Gertrude Collins the wife of Capt. Harold Collins of C Company.

    Ken joined the Ohio National Guard's Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Port Clinton.  On November 25, 1940, the tank company was federalized as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. 

    Ken traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky where he trained for nearly a year.  During his training. he rose in rank to sergeant.  He also became a tank commander.

    After taking part in maneuvers in Louisiana, Ken was given a furlough home before going overseas.  He returned Louisiana and left Camp Polk for California by train.  Arriving in San Francisco, Ken was taken by ferry to Angel Island. There, he was inoculated and given a physical.  He then sailed for the Philippine Islands.
    Over different train routes that companies of the battalion made their way to San Francisco, California.  Also arriving with them were their "new" M3 Tanks.  Once in San Francisco, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island.  There they received physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands. 
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and 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.  After several hours the soldiers disembarked and most and the were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The maintenance crews remained behind to unload the tanks from the ship.
    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 8, 1941, C Company learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Four hours later, the Japanese bombed Clark Field.  Ken and the other tankers had been stationed around the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers.  During the attack, all the tankers could do was watch.

    On December 21st, C Company was sent north to Lingayen Gulf in support of B Company. Ken spent the next four months fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.  During this time, he broke his nose while in a tank.

    On April 9, 1942, Ken became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He and the other members of the company remained in their bivouac for two days until ordered to Mariveles.  It was from this town at the southern tip of Bataan that Ken started what became known as the death march.

    During the march, Ken helped his brother-in-law, Capt. Harold Collins, who was suffering from heat stroke.  Capt. Henry Stickney, a member of the Corps of Engineers, also helped Ken carry Capt. Collins.  

    Ken made his way north to San Fernando. There, they were packed into small wooden boxcars and transported to Capas.  The POWs who died during the trip remained standing since they could not fall to the floor.  It was only when the living POWs got out of the cars that the dead fell to the floor.

    The first camp Ken was held in was Camp O'Donnell.  The camp was so bad that as many as 50 POWs died each day.  To get out of the camp, Ken was selected for a work detail to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed as the Americans had retreated. The American officer in charge of the detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd.

    It was while Ken was on this detail that he hurt his leg while working. A piece of metal hit his leg gashing it.  Ken soon developed an infection in the wound.  The Japanese doctors wanted to amputate his leg above the knee, but Col. Ted Wickord and the Japanese commanding officer, who had lived in Detroit for 19 years, prevented this from being done.  Ken's leg was saved.  The one result was that he had a blood clot in his chest.  

    When the detail ended, Ken was sent to Cabanatuan.  During his time in the camp, he remembered that they ate snake, dogs and monkeys.  According to medical records kept at the camp, Ken was hospitalized on April 4, 1943.  The records do not indicate why he was hospitalized or when he was discharged.  How long he remained in the camp is unknown. 

    Ken was next sent to Bilibid Prison outside Manila. The POWs in the prison, including Ken, made pills from plaster that they would sell to the Japanese guards.  The guards would take the pills in an attempt to cure their social diseases.

    Ken remained in the Philippines until July 1944 with Capt. Harold Collins.  His last meal with Capt. Collins was a can of corned beef from which they made a stew by adding hogweed and water.

    On July 2nd, Ken was taken to the Port Area of Manila, where he was boarded onto the Noto Maru.  The ship sailed on July 4th, but returned to Manila.  It sailed a second time on July 16th.  According to Ken, the entire trip took 62 days for the ship to reach Moji, Japan.  During the trip six POWs died.

    From Moji, Ken was taken to Fukuoka #5, which was known as Omine Machi.  In the camp with Ken was John Short from Port Clinton.  The POWs in the camp worked in a coal mine.

    While Ken was at Omine Machi, he narrowly escaped being killed for violating a camp rule.  The POWs had received Red Cross packages, and Ken lit a cigarette in a restricted barracks.  A Japanese guard caught him and could have killed him.  Ken offered the guard a cigarette.  The guard took the cigarette, smiled and let Ken go.  A couple of days later, this same guard killed another POW who he caught smoking in a restricted barrack.

    In September 1945, Ken was liberated from Omine Machi and weighed 118 pounds.   He was taken to the Wakayama, Japan, and transported on the U.S.S. Sanctuary to the Philippines.  After receiving medical treatment, he was transported on the U.S.S. Marine Shark arriving at Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945.  He was sent to Madigan General Hospital at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
    Charles returned to Graytown and his family on March 2, 1946.
  He was given a 104 day furlough and finally discharged, from the army, on June 11, 1946.  After the war, he worked as a salesman.  He married Lucille A. Snider on February 1, 1947, and lived in Sandusky, Ohio.

    Kenneth E. Thompson passed away on May 31, 1972, in Port Clinton, Ohio, and was buried at Riverview Cemetery, Port Clinton, Ohio.


 

 

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