Alford

 

Sgt. William Clinton Alford


    Sgt. William C. Alford was born on October 1, 1921, to George Alford and Sadie May Miller-Alford in Danville, Kentucky.   He attended school from kindergarten through eighth grade in Danville, but for high school he traveled to Burgin, Kentucky.  

    In July 1939, he joined the Kentucky National Guard's 38th Tank Company from Harrodsburg.  His reason for doing this was that his best friend, Cecil Mills, was joining, and William liked the spending money he earned for drilling one evening each week for two hours.  For each day he drilled, he earned a day's pay.  Since he was seventeen years old when he joined the Kentucky National Guard, his mother signed an affidavit stating that he was eighteen.

    In 1940, the fall of William's senior year of high school, he was called to federal service when his tank company was federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  He left high school to go with the company to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  in all likelihood, he completed high school at Ft. Knox.

    When Headquarters Company was formed in January 1941, William was transferred to the company and assigned to the reconnaissance platoon.  He recalled that he and the other men received ten weeks of intensive training.  After the training was completed, the battalion received new equipment.  It was also about this time that the battalion became receiving draftees to fill out its roster.

    On June 14, 1941, the battalion left Ft. Knox on a three day technical road march to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and back which covered 225 miles.  Part of the reason for this was so the soldiers learned to load, unload, and setup administrative camps as the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  From September 1st through 30th,  the battalion took part in the Louisiana Maneuves.  William recalled that HQ Company really did not do much during the maneuvers.  After the maneuvers, the 192nd was ordered to report to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Those men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.

    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day - when another squadron of planes was sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up - and a fishing boat was seen making its way toward shore carrying the buoys under a tarp.  Since communication between teh Navy and Air Corps was poor, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    William received a one week leave home to say his goodbyes.  While he and the other men were home, the army was bringing the battalion up to full strength by selecting men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.

    After returning to Camp Polk, the soldiers boarded trains and headed for San Francisco, California.  HQ Company took the southern train route through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and through California to San Francisco.  There, they rode the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M Coxe, to Ft.McDowell on Angel Island.  What William remembered about Angel Island was receiving complete physicals and more needles.  Men with minor medical conditions were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and 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, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
   At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    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.

    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 half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.    

    The morning of December 8, 1941, William and his platoon were ordered to the end of the main runway at Clark Field.  Since they had two half-tracks with machine-guns, their job was to join the tanks in guarding the field against Japanese paratroopers.  As the tankers looked up, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon the planes landed to be refilled and the pilots went to lunch.

    William recalled that the planes at the airfield were parked wing-tip to wing- tip on both sides of the runway.  There was no sign of activity on the ground or in the air.  As he watched, planes approached the field around 12:45 in the afternoon.  The tankers had enough time to count 54 planes in formation.  When the bombs began exploding chaos broke out everywhere.  About the attack he said, "Eighteen days after we got there, they dumped on us and all hell broke loose.  They bombed us at 12:29 P.M. Dec 8 - four hours after Pearl Harbor (Actually, ten hours after Pearl Harbor) .  They destroyed 89 planes and 236 were killed."

    After the attack, 89 of the planes that had been sitting along the runway were destroyed, and there were approximately 236 casualties.  From this point out, William and his platoon guarded the airfield during the day against paratroopers, and at night they enforced blackouts in the villages around the airfield.

    During the Battle of Bataan, it was William's job as a reconnaissance sergeant to scout out positions for the tanks to hide in during the day when not engaged.  It was also his platoon's job to provide perimeter guard for HQ Company.  In the diary he kept he noted on December 25th, "Plenty of bullets - no chow."

    The morning of April 9, 1942, William received word by a messenger from group HQ of the surrender at 1:00 A.M.  His orders were to destroy everything except his vehicles.  His platoon burnt everything they could and damaged everything else beyond use.  At least he hoped the things could not be repaired and used by the Japanese.  Of this, he said, "All dreams of help had faded, we knew we were waiting for ships that would never come.  We had held the (Japanese advance) for more than four months - it's more than the mission called for.  After three months of hell, we  felt a great relief.  We didn't know what would happen next...if only we knew."

    William's platoon made its way to Mariveles, from there he started what became known as the death march.  He started the march with many of the men from HQ Company, but as he marched he became separated from them.

    For William, the two hardest things about the march were the hunger cramps and the useless killings of men who could not keep up with the column.  Those who could no longer walk were left behind.  He witnessed many men shot, bayoneted, or get their heads crushed because they no longer could keep moving.   It took him nine days to complete the march.  Of it he said, "Those strong enough made it and those who weren't didn't.  We lost thousands of men.  I never once gave up hope.  I got discouraged.  But I made up my mind that if anyone was going to make it, I would."

    According to him, the Japanese made the POWs stand in the sun for hours next to a stream, "We drank from every mud hole I could find - thanks to saving some chlorine powder - I manged to keep from getting sick."
    From Mariveles, William made his way to San Fernando.  He and the other Prisoners of War were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as "Forty or Eights" since each could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men in each car and closed the doors.  Those men who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall to the floor.  The POWs rode the train to Capas, where they climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp. He recalled that during his time in the camp, meals consisted of two watery cups of rice a day.  Death was something that the POWs lived with since men were dying from sickness, starvation, and the stress of making the march.  Being assigned to the burial detail, he estimated that 40 to 50 Americans and 200 to 300 Filipinos were buried each day.  The dead were buried 30 to 35 men per grave.  About the camp, he said, "Morale was pretty low all the time.  Once in awhile someone broke a smile.  I never thought about it being low morale.  Every now and again a guy just gave up - but not very often."

    To get out of Camp O'Donnell, William was in the first work detail to go back to Bataan.  This detail lasted almost a year and he was assigned as a truck driver on a detail where the POWs cut up scrap metal.  His time on the detail ended on July 23, 1943, when he was one of 50 POWs sent to the motor pool near Manila for six months to work as a mechanic.  He remembered there were 22 tanks with red dots on top of them. "Six months after we got there only two were running. We sabotaged every one of them."  
    During his time on the detail, he lost his vision because of malnutrition.  When he went out into the sun light his eyes hurt, so he was sent to the hospital ward, run by the U.S. Navy at Bilibid Prison and spent six weeks in the hospital. 

    In July 1944, while still at Bilibid, William was selected for shipment to Japan and taken to the Port Area of Manila.  On July 4, 1944, he was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor which sailed but returned to Manila for boiler repairs.  On July 16th, the ship sailed again, but this time it fell behind the other ships in the convoy until it was left behind.  

    The Canadian Inventor arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23rd and remained in port for ten days while salt was loaded.  On August 4th, it sailed along the west coast of Formosa for Keelung Harbor arriving there the next day. It remained there for twelve days while more repairs were made to its boiler.  On August 17th, the ship sailed nut neat the Ryukyu Islands, north of Formosa, it once again had boiler problems.  This time it made its way to for Naha, Okinawa.  Again repairs were made before the Canadian Inventor arrived at Moji, Japan on September 1st.  

    What William remembered about the trip to Japan was that he was very hot and hungry, and that the conditions inside the hold were filthy.  After arriving at Moji, William was sent to Fukuoka #5 which was also known as Omine Machi.  The POWs in this camp worked in a coal mine.

    William recalled that during his time in the camp there were always filled with rumors of how the war was going.  At times, the guards were the ones who started the rumors.  In his opinion, the best information came from Korean civilians working in the mine.

    On the night of August 13, 1945, the camp guards vanished.  William and the other POWs knew that something was up.  The POWs raided the store house and took all the food.  For the next several days nothing happened.  Then, B-29s flew over the camp and dropped food, medicine and leaflets to the men telling them that the war was over.  Remembering the event he said, "Three B-29s flew over the camp.  And if you ever had the hair on your back stand up, that was it."

    The POWs received more food from food drops and used a lamp to flash Morse Code to the planes.  The crews of the planes told them to remain in the camp until American troops made contact with them.  William and other POWs decided to leave the camp after three weeks in-spite of the continued food drops.  One reason was they really needed medical treatment.  Before he left the camp, he went to the commandant's office and took his POW picture off the wall. 

    The POWs took over a train and rode it a day and a half until they arrived at the port area south of Tokyo.  They were greeted by Allied personnel, deloused and fresh clothing.  The clothing that had been dropped to them from the planes was burnt.  When he was  liberated, he weighed 95 pounds.  He remained in Japan for another four or five weeks. 
    After William was liberated, he was taken to Wakayama, Japan, and returned on the U.S.S.Hopping to Manila.  In the Philippines, he was promoted to First Sergeant.  He sailed, from the Philippines, on the U.S.S. Marine Shark and arrived back in the United States on November 1, 1945, at Seattle, Washington.  It was a little over four years since he had left the United States.  On the trip home he said he had one thought, "All the time I just kept thinking of home - and how big the steak was going to be when I got there." William remained in the army until April 7, 1949, when he was discharged at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

    William married Mary Ellen Lucas and became the father of two children.  He later moved to New York state to work as a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealer in Trumansburg, New York, owned by his wife's brother.  He resided in Trumansburg for the rest of his life. 

    Of his time as a POW he said, "I've always been able to talk about it, but most people never understand about these things.  I'd like for people to know what went on and not to forget about it, so we're able to learn about our mistakes."  He did admit that there were times that at times talking about his time as a POW causes, "Causes certain things to come back."
    William C. Alford passed away on January 14, 2006, at a hospice in Ithaca, New York, and was buried at Grove Cemetery in Trumanburg, New York.  The photo at the bottom of this page was the one he took from the wall of the office of the camp commandant at Omine Machi.


 

 

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il, he lost his vision because of malnutrition.  When he went out into the sun light his eyes hurt, so he was sent to the hospital ward, run by the U.S. Navy at Bilibid Prison and spent six weeks in the hospital. 

    In July 1944, while still at Bilibid, William was selected for shipment to Japan and taken to the Port Area of Manila.  On July 4, 1944, he was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor which sailed but returned to Manila for boiler repairs.  On July 16th, the ship sailed again, but this time it fell behind the other ships in the convoy until it was left behind.  

    The Canadian Inventor arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23rd and remained in port for ten days while salt was loaded.  On August 4th, it sailed along the west coast of Formosa for Keelung Harbor arriving there the next day. It remained there for twelve days while more repairs were made to its boiler.  On August 17th, the ship sailed nut neat the Ryukyu Islands, north of Formosa, it once again had boiler problems.  This time it made its way to for Naha, Okinawa.  Again repairs were made before the ship arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 1.  

    What Bill remembered about the trip to Japan was that he was very hot and hungry, and that the conditions inside the hold were filthy.  After arriving at Moji, William was sent to Fukuoka #5 which was also known as Omine Machi.  The POWs in this camp worked in a coal mine.

    He recalled that during his time in the camp there were always filled with rumors of how the war was going.  At times, the guards were the ones who started the rumors.  In his opinion, the best information came from Korean civilians working in the mine.

    On the night of August 13, 1945, the camp guards vanished.  William and the other POWs knew that something was up.  The POWs raided the store house and took all the food.  For the next several days nothing happened.  Then, B-29s flew over the camp and dropped food, medicine and leaflets to the men telling them that the war was over.  Remembering the event he said, "Three B-29s flew over the camp.  And if you ever had the hair on your back stand up, that was it."

    The POWs received more food from food drops and used a lamp to flash Morse Code to the planes.  The crews of the planes told them to remain in the camp until American troops made contact with them.  William and other POWs decided to leave the camp after three weeks in-spite of the continued food drops.  One reason was they really needed medical treatment.  Before he left the camp, he went to the commandant's office and took his POW picture off the wall. 

    The POWs took over a train and rode it a day and a half until they arrived at the port area south of Tokyo.  They were greeted by Allied personnel, deloused and fresh clothing.  The clothing that had been dropped to them from the planes was burnt.  When he was  liberated, he weighed 95 pounds.  He remained in Japan for another four or five weeks. 
    After William was liberated, he was taken to Wakayama, Japan, and returned on the U.S.S.Hopping to Manila.  In the Philippines, he was promoted to First Sergeant.  He sailed, from the Philippines, on the U.S.S. Marine Shark and arrived back in the United States on November 1, 1945, at Seattle, Washington.  It was a little over four years since he had left the United States.  On the trip home he said he had one thought, "All the time I just kept thinking of home - and how big the steak was going to be when I got there." William remained in the army until April 7, 1949, when he was discharged at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

    William married Mary Ellen Lucas and became the father of two children.  He later moved to New York state to work as a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealer in Trumansburg, New York, owned by his wife's brother.  He resided in Trumansburg for the rest of his life. 

    Of his time as a POW he said, "I've always been able to talk about it, but most people never understand about these things.  I'd like for people to know what went on and not to forget about it, so we're able to learn about our mistakes."  He did admit that there were times that at times talking about his time as a POW causes, "Causes certain things to come back."
    William C. Alford passed away on January 14, 2006, at a hospice in Ithaca, New York, and was buried at Grove Cemetery in Trumanburg, New York.  The photo at the bottom of this page was the one he took from the wall of the office of the camp commandant at Omine Machi.


 

 

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