Pvt. Albert Keith Walker
| Pvt. Albert
Keith 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. He 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 later Enterprise High
School. He graduated from high school in
1937 and 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 Knox,
Kentucky, where he did his basic training.
During this time, he trained as a radio
operator. He returned home and married
Jean Buchanan on September 5, 1941. He was
only married 18 days, when he returned to Ft.
Knox. 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 15,
1941. He returned to Camp Polk on
Traveling west by train, the 192nd arrived in
San Francisco. There, they were ferried to
Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers
were given physicals and inoculated against
The morning of December 8, 1941, ten hours
after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the
members of the 192nd were informed of the
Japanese attack. Around 12:45 in the
afternoon, Keith lived through the Japanese
attack on Clark Field. His exact duties
with HQ are not known at this time, but he may
have been a tank crew member in one to the tanks
assigned to HQ. 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 morning of April 9, 1942, Keith and the other members of HQ Company learned of the surrender to the Japanese from Capt. Fred Bruni the company's commanding officer. They remained in the bivouac for two days. That morning, the members of his company were ordered to the the road that ran past their bivouac. Once on the road, they were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from Keith and the other soldiers.
HQ Company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. 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 Japanese soldiers. He 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. 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. Keith and the other men 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 rock in his mouth which caused him to produce saliva and kept his mouth wet. This helped him not to think about how thirsty he was.
Before the company traveled 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, 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." From there, Keith 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. The conditions in the camp were so bad, that as many as fifty POWs died each day. 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. He remained on this detail until August 14th when he sent to Cabanatuan. While Keith was on the work detail, Cabanatuan was opened by the Japanese to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.
Keith remained at Cabanatuan until he was sent
to Bilibid Prison until August 1942. It is
not known when, but Keith became the orderly for
General Weekes. He was taken to the Port
Area of Manila and boarded onto the Nagara
Maru. The ship sailed for Formosa on
August 12th. The POWs arrived at Takao,
Formosa August 14th. Albert and the other
POWs were boarded onto the Susuya Maru
the next day. They sailed for Krenko,
Formosa arriving there on August 17th. Keith was
held at the Karenko
POW Camp. His parents learned he was
a POW on Formosa in January 20, 1943.
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,
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, and one landed within the camp.
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.
Keith remained in Kawasaki 1-B until the end of the war. On September4th, he wrote a letter to his wife. In it, he stated he was getting ready to board a plane for Okinawa. He did say that he was too excited to write much. He was returned to the Philippines before returning to San Francisco. From there, he was sent to a Veterans Administration Hospital in Spokane, Washington, and later transferred to another hospital in Tacoma 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. He was the father of two children.
Albert Keith Walker passed away on August 23, 1999.