Pfc. George Everett Chumley
Pfc. George E. Chumley was
born on May 24, 1921, to Wiley Chumley & Lola
Taylor-Chumley, and was known as "Everett" to his
family. It is known he had two sisters and a
brother and grew up on Greenville Street in
Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He worked as a
waiter at a restaurant.
Sometime in the late 1930s, George joined the Kentucky National Guard as a member of the 38th Tank Company headquartered in an armory in Harrodsburg. He was called to federal service when the tank company became D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He spent nearly a year training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he qualified as a tank driver and later became a tank commander.
In the late
summer of 1940, he took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana, from September 1st through
30th. It was after these maneuvers at Camp
Polk, Louisiana, that the tank battalion learned
they were being sent overseas. Men 29
years old or older were allowed to resign fro
that D Company was attached to
the 194th Tank Battalion, but the official
transfer of the company, to the battalion, never
George recalled that the morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were at their tanks around the perimeter of Clark Field. They had been told of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the companies half-tracks were moved to the airfield. That morning, American planes were in the sky. Around noon, the planes landed and lined up, in a straight line, outside the mess hall to be refueled. According to George the all clear signal was given and everyone went to lunch.
George was in the Non-Commission Officers Canteen when planes appeared over Clark Field. He eating chicken and looking out a window, and as he looked at the airfield, bombs began to explode. As the bombs got closer to where he was, he went out and hid behind a tree. When he got up, he saw that everything was a mess.
George saw several dead bodies. Many of the bodies had been burnt. He stated that the worse thing that they had to deal with after the attack was the smell coming from the burnt bodies. It was so bad that he was unable to eat for a week.
When the tanks were given orders to pull out, they soon discovered that without air cover it was unsafe to move during the day. The tanks were moved at night to prevent them from being attacked by Japanese planes.
George felt that driving a tank at night was never safe, but something that a tank driver learned to do. One reason doing this was unsafe was that the tank crews never knew what lay ahead.
Not every moment was hectic. During calm moments the tankers would turn on the tank's radio and listen to Tokyo Rose. Doing this violated a standing order that they had received not to listen to enemy broadcasts. George said that they ignored the propaganda she broadcast, but they enjoyed the music. In many cases, she played the latest songs.
George believed that anyone who said that they were not afraid was lying. He believed that everyone was always afraid. With time, what happened was that the person got to the point that he didn't care. George felt that part of the reason for this was that the soldiers were always hungry, sweaty, nervous, tired and thirsty.
On his last day in a tank, George was driving along a mountain road. In the turret, was a young lieutenant who was pretty nervous in George's opinion. George stated that a tank driver drives the tank according to where the commander touches the driver with his foot. If the commander taps the driver on the right shoulder, the driver turned the tank to the right. The same for the left shoulder. There were a series of signals like this.
George said that this young lieutenant kicked him pretty hard in the shoulder causing him to make a hard turn. The result was one track hung out over the edge of the road. The tank was stuck with no hope of moving it. Knowing the Japanese were approaching, the tankers destroyed the tank and made their way on foot. As they walked they saw the tank hit by enemy fire and go over the cliff.
George was walking with another member of the tank crew when they were spotted by a Japanese plane. As the plane came in to attack them, he dove to one side of the road. The other tanker dove to the other side of the road. The plane released a bomb which hit near George. After it was clear, George got up and went to find the other tank crew member. He discovered that the bomb the plane had dropped had blown the man to bits. George could not find anything of the man.
By himself, George made his way to a pygmy village. The villagers fed him and hid him from the enemy. When it was safe, he made his way south. At one point, he saw 150 Filipinos laying in a field. He thought they were resting. He made his way into the field and discovered that they were dead. Not too long after this incident, George caught up to his company.
George recalled that on Christmas Day his Christmas Dinner consisted of a can of pork and beans and a coconut that a Filipino boy climbed a tree to get. He shared both with another tanker.
For the next four months, George took part in many of the major engagements against the Japanese. On April 8, 1942, he and other members of D Company learned that they were suppose to surrender the next morning. He and a number of other tankers made the decision that they would attempt to escape to Corregidor.
After, arriving there, George spent a great deal of time in Middleside Barracks, hiding under a pool table during air raids. He decided it was safer to be in a tunnel on the island. When George was given the opportunity to go to Fort Drum, he jumped at the chance. There, they fought on for another month until the island was surrendered on May 6, 1942. He returned to Corregidor and was held on the beach for two weeks.
George and the other Prisoners of War had heard of the march made by the Filipinos and Americans made on Bataan. When they were taken by barge to an area near Manila, they feared that they would have the same thing done to them. They marched ten miles through Manila toward Bilibid Prison.
held at Bilibid for approximately two weeks,
when he and the other prisoners were taken by
barge to a point off Luzon. They jumped
off the barge and swam to shore. On shore
they were marched to Bilibid Prison and remained
there several days. From there, they were
marched to a railroad station, packed into
boxcars, and taken to Cabanatuan.
captured on Corregidor meant he was held at Camp
Three. The POWs in the camp were in better
shape then the men who had been captured on
Bataan and being held at Camp One. When
the camp closed, the POWs from Camp Three were
sent to Camp One.
At Cabanatuan, George worked at the camp farm. The food was suppose to go to the prisoners but much of it went to the Japanese. George recalled that the Japanese did not like the POWs talking to each other. If they caught a man taking when they were suppose to be working, the Japanese would tie the man to an aunt hill and let the red aunts bite the man.
said that if a POW was caught stealing the
Japanese would put the man into a four by four
box until he died. Knowing this was the
punishment, the POWs came up with their own
punishment. When a member of George's
barracks was caught stealing, he was made to run
a belt-line. It may have seemed harsh, but
at least the man was still alive when he had
As his time
as a POW went on, George began to wonder if his
effort to stay alive was worth it. Because
the diet in the camp was so bad, he lost his
vision, so another POW led him around. According
to medical records kept at the camp, George
was hospitalized in the camp hospital on
July 7, 1942. The records do not say
when he was discharged. George
said that he got his vision back after he was
given cod oil that the Filipinos outside the
camp smuggled into the camp. Ironically,
the man who had helped George, when he was
blind, lost his eyesight and never got it back.
It should be mentioned that George's family
did not learn he was a Prisoner of War until
March 31, 1943.
Recalling the food fed to the POWs, he said, "Food was terrible - I remember we even ate dogs sometimes - and the Japs had that 'blood brother' system."
George was selected to be sent to Japan on one of the first ships of POWs sent there. The ship that George was on was the Clyde Maru. The ship left Manila on July 23, 1943, but instead of heading to Formosa, it went to Santa Cruz, Zambales. There, it loaded manganese ore. After three days in port, it sailed for Formosa arriving there on July 28th.
5th, the ship sailed as part of a nine ship
arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 7, 1943.
During the trip to Japan several of the ships in
the convoy had been sunk by American
submarines. After a two day train ride
George was held at Fukuoka Camp
superstitious, the Japanese made the POWs stop
at a Shinto Shrine before they entered the
mine. The POWs had to bow, clap their
hands three times, and say a prayer to the mine
gods to keep them safe. One day when the
POWs left the mine, they found that while they
had been working American bombers had leveled
the shrine. He and the other POWs never
had to stop there again.
that working in the mine actually became one of
the few places where the POWs were warm.
They were warm enough to work only in G-strings.
believed that one of the major problems between
that Japanese and Americans was that they did
not understand each other. The Japanese
army allowed physical punishment. The
lowest ranking Japanese soldiers could be hit by
those soldiers who outranked them.
These soldiers with the lowest ranks took great pleasure at hitting the POWs because the POWs were the only ones that they could hit. In one incident, George had a small Japanese private hit him in the face with a board while George stood at attention. The result of this was that George's nose was broken. The thing that bothered George was that he had no idea why he had been hit.
In a second
incident, George was made to do pushups in the
snow until he collapsed from exhaustion.
The Japanese then beat him. George was the
only prisoner made to do this. Again, he had no
idea why he was being punished. He
concluded that the reason was that since the
Japanese guards had the power to do this to him,
When he got the package, it had already been gone through by the Japanese. They kept what they wanted which included the shoes. The shoes were the one thing that he needed since his had worn out and the Japanese refused to give him new ones.
During his time in the camp, George received very little news on the war. George said that the one piece of news that the Japanese did tell the POWs was that President Roosevelt had died. He believed that the Japanese hoped that the POWs would become depressed hearing of it.
George was in
camp the day the atomic bomb was dropped on
Nagasaki. The POWs who saw the bomb
explode described the day the as being sunny,
but that the flash from the bomb actually
brightened the sky. They watched as a
cloud, with every color of the rainbow, rose
above Nagasaki, and that what looked like fog
covered the ground. To them, it seemed as
if the city had vanished.
George and the other POWs came out of the mine and found that the next shift of POWs were not waiting to go to work. That night, the POWs were made to stand at attention for two hours. They all had their blankets because they believed they were going to be moved. Instead, they were returned to their barracks.
The next day,
when it was their turn to go to work, they were
told it was a holiday, and they had the day
off. George knew something was up because
they had never had a holiday off before
Finally, the POWs were gathered in the camp and told that Japan and the United States were now friends. They were also told to stay in the camp. One day, George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News entered the camp. He told the POWs that there were American troops on Honshu. Although they were told to stay in the camp, four men left the camp and took a train to Osaka. There, they met American troops.
four left the camp, the POWs found a warehouse
which was full of Red Cross packages that the
Japanese had kept from the POWs. The POWs
distributed the packages among themselves.
The camp was liberated on September 13, by a POW
Recovery Team and on September 18, at 7:09 A.M.,
the POWs left the camp and were taken to
Nagasaki, where they boarded a ship and were
returned to the Philippines.
When asked if he thought that using the atomic bomb was wrong, George said the bomb saved his life and the lives of the other POWs. Expecting an American invasion of Japan, the Japanese had received orders to kill all the POWs. The Japanese had already dug out the machine-gun placements to be used to execute the POWs.
George was liberated on September 13, by a
POW Recovery Team and on September 18, 1945,
at 7:09 A.M., left the camp with the other
POWs still there and taken to
Nagasaki. By ship, George was returned to
the Philippines. In late September he was
boarded onto the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze
which arrived at San Francisco on October 16,
1945. George returned to Harrodsburg and
was discharged, from the army, on May 2,
1946. He married, Lonnie East, and moved
to Nicholasville, Kentucky. He worked as a
plumber and was a partner in the company of
Cannon & Chumley Plumbing.
George E. Chumley worked as a plumber and passed away on May 21, 1988, in Nicholasville, Kentucky. He was buried at Blue Grass Memorial Gardens in Nicholasville.