Pvt. Albert Keith Walker

    Pvt. Albert K. Walker was born in Joseph, Oregon, on September 18, 1919, to Jesse D. Walker & Ruby Hazel Millhollen-Walker.  He was the third of four sons born to the couple and was known as "Keith" to his family.  With his three brothers, he grew up at 1309 East Third Street in Enterprise, Oregon.  As a child, he attended Enterprise Grade School and graduated from Enterprise High School in 1937.  After high school, he became the manager of a J.C. Penney Store in Enterprise, Oregon.

    On March 19, 1941, he was inducted into the U. S. Army.  Keith was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he did his basic training.  During this time, he trained as a radio operator.  To do this, he was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky to attend radio operators school.
    He was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion and sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  It was there, that Keith was assigned to HQ Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, which was preparing for overseas duty in the Philippine Islands.  He received a furlough home and married Jean Buchanan on September 5, 1941.  He was married only eighteen days when he returned to Camp Polk on September 24th.

    Traveling west by train, the 192nd arrived in San Francisco, California.  There, they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated against tropical diseases.  Men with minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply 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, so the soldiers shore eave received and allowed to explore the island.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam. The ships took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  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 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. 

    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.  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.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M. on Thursday, November 20th, at 8:00 A.M., and docked at Pier 7 later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind and unloaded the battalion's tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards. he went and had 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 portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from 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 around Clark Airfield.  The tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first they thought they were American planes and had enough time to count 54 planes.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    As a member of HQ Company, Peter remained in the bivouac of the battalion.  After the attack, the tankers saw the carnage done during the attack.  The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps.  The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. 
It is known that he sent a telegram home, in December, to his wife.  In it, he told her he was safe and well.
    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.  George 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 their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit.  As they sat, Keith 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 sat there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers.  The officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off, and the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Keith's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  In the school yard, they found themselves sitting in a field between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs were killed from incoming American shells.  The American guns did succeed at knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march he received no water and little food.  To keep water in his mouth, Keith employed a trick that he had learned as a boy scout.  He placed a pebble in his mouth which caused him to produce saliva which kept his mouth wet.  This helped him not to think about how thirsty he was.

    Before the company drove to Mariveles, Keith filled one of his socks with raw rice.  He ate this uncooked rice on the march.  Although it helped keep his hunger under control, chewing the raw rice wore away the crowns of his teeth.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were put in a school yard that had surrounded with barbwire and turned into a holding pen for the POWs.  At some point, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station.

    At the train station, he was put into a wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  According to Keith, "The boxcars were so crowded, you couldn't sit down and we had a long way to go." At Capas, the POWs climbed out of the boxcars and]walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Keith recalled, "Conditions there were terrible.  There was no place there to sleep or get undercover from the rain or the sun."  To get out of the camp, Keith volunteered to go out on a work detail to Tarlec Provence which left the camp in early June 1942.  About 100 POWs went to the Barrio of Carangian, Talec Provence.  The detail job was to rebuild a bridge that had been destroyed by a massive flood on the Tarlec River.
    The POWs were housed in a small house in Carangain which did not have room for 100 men. The Japanese did not issue the POWs blankets and some had to sleep on the floor.  One of the few good things about the detail was that the POWs had enough clean drinking water.
    The POWs worked side by side with Filipino civilians which was another good things about the detail since it allowed the Filipinos to smuggle cigarettes, food, and medicines to the POWs.  When the Japanese caught a Filipino doing this, the person was beaten.
    The Japanese commanding officer on the detail was Capt. Yukesaki who was later tried for war crimes.  The POWs were required to work even if they were sick or weak from disease and were beaten with sticks, other objects, and fists, for not working hard enough.  Ironically, the POWs felt their treatment on the detail was better than the treatment they received on other details.
    Keith remained on this detail until early August 1942, when he sent to Bilibid Prison.  It is not known when, but Keith became the orderly for General Weekes.  It was at this time that Keith was taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Nagara Maru
    The ship sailed for Formosa on August 12th and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on August 14th.  Albert and the other POWs were disembarked from the ship and boarded onto the Susuya Maru the next day.  They sailed for Krenko, Formosa, arriving there on August 17th, where Keith was held at the Karenko POW Camp.  His parents learned he was a POW on Formosa on January 20, 1943.

    On March 25, 1943, his wife heard a Japanese announcer read a message from him.  The message said, "In good health and receiving treatment.  Having medical attention. Living in good climate in beautiful place.  The Japanese authorities are considerate of our care and welfare. Am eagerly awaiting the time that we can be together again.  Let the folks know and tell them to write and send latest pictures."  It should be mentioned that the authenticity of everything said in POW broadcasts was questioned by U.S. Government.  His wife would hear a second radio broadcast from him on May 27, 1944.
    In January 1945 , Keith and other POWs were moved to Keelung, Formosa, and were they boarded onto the Enoshima Maru.  The ship sailed on January 25th and arrived at Moji, Japan, on January 30th.  From there, the POWs were taken by train to Tokyo 23-D.  In the camp, Keith was assigned to the kitchen. Since the cooks cooked meals for the Japanese, as well as the POWs, they were able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.  Most of the other prisoners were not as lucky and worked in the Kawasaki ship yard.

    During Keith's time in the camp, the air raids became more frequent.  On May 22nd, 250 American B-29's dropped incendiary bombs on Kawasaki.  The bombs landed on all sides of the camp, but not one bomb landed within the camp, even though the air raid lasted for four hours.   Keith later said that the POWs welcomed the bombers.  On June 30, 1945, Tokyo 23-D was closed and the POWs were sent to Kawasaki #1-B.
    During his time in the camp, he was allowed to make another radio broadcast to his family in July, 1945.   In the broadcast he said he was fine, that he could not wait to get home, sent his love to his family, and spoke of his brother's new baby.  The last item proved he had received his wife's letter to him.   He also said he wanted to return to his job and could not wait to start building his new home.  He also told his family he was in good health and not to worry.

    Keith remained in Kawasaki 1-B until the end of the war.  On September 4th, he wrote a letter to his wife and stated he was getting ready to board a plane for Okinawa.  He did say in the letter that he was too excited to write much.  He was returned to the Philippines before returning to San Francisco on the U.S.S. Hugh Rodman on October 3, 1945.  From there, he was sent to a Veterans Administration Hospital in Spokane, Washington, and later transferred to another hospital in Tacoma, Washington, suffering from beriberi and dysentery.

    Keith was discharged from the army on June 1, 1946, and went to Eastern Oregon State College on the GI Bill.  He received an associates degree in accounting.  He worked several accounting jobs in La Grande, Oregon, before taking a job with the Standard Insurance Company.  He remained in this job until he retired.  Jean and Keith became the parents of two children.
    It should also be mentioned that on January 20, 1953, Keith testified at the court martial of Sgt. John D. Provoo who was accused of collaborating with the Japanese,  Keith stated that he had never heard Provoo say or do anything that was harmful to other Americans.

     Albert Keith Walker passed away on August 23, 1999.


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