WalkerA

 

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 September 24th.

    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 tropical diseases.
   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.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  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.  
    About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.

    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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 love 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.
    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.

    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.

    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, where they were 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 POW Camp.  In the camp, Keith was assigned to the kitchen. Since they cooked meals for the Japanese, as well as the POWs, he was 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, 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.
    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 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 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 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 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.
    It should also be mentioned that January 20, 1953, Albert testified at the court martial of Sgt. John D. Provoo who was accused of collaborating with the Japanese,  Albert 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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