Pvt. Emmett Edward Hensley
| Pvt. Emmett E.
Hensley was born on August 25, 1918, in Downs
Township, Sumner County, Kansas, to Robert Hensley
& Clara Barrows-Hensley. He had seven
sisters, a twin brother, Elmer, and four other
brothers. The family moved to Dane County,
Oklahoma, and later in Cedar Vale, Kansas.
It is known that he worked as a salesman.
Emmett was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24, 1941, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he did his basic training. His family never saw him again after he left for basic training. After completing his training, he joined A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion at Camp Polk, Louisiana.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion which had been taking part in maneuvers was sent to Camp Polk. Afterwards, on the side of a hill, the battalion was told that they had been selected to be deployed overseas. Members of the battalion, who were 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. After these men were transferred out of the unit, replacements were sought from the 753rd Tank Battalion. At this time, Emmett volunteered, or had his name drawn, to join the battalion and was assigned to C Company.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled over different train routes to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases from the battalion's medical detachment. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men, with major medical issues were simply replaced.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed, lined up in a straight line, outside the mess hall, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.
After the attack, on December 12, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau to protect a highway and railroad from sabotage. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River. There, the battalion, with A Company, 194th held the position.
On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so that the southern forces could escape.
The tanks were often the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as the American and Filipinos forces withdrew toward Bataan. The night of January 7,
On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. They also took part in the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points.
On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. His company made its way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. In the barrio, the Japanese took what they wanted from the Americans.
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando. The first five miles of the march was uphill which was difficult for the men many of whom were ill. At one point they had to run past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor. The island had not surrendered and returned fire.
The POWs made their way north to San Fernando, where they were put into a bullpen. In one corner of the bullpen was a pit that served as the washroom for the POWs. The pit actually appeared to be moving because it was covered in maggots.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns of 100 men and moved them to the train station where they were put into boxcars. The cars were known as forty or eights, because each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. When the POWs left the cars at Capas, those who had died fell to the floor of the cars. Emmett and the other POWs made their way to Camp O'Donnell.
The camp was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. The POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them. Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. The result was many became ill.
Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it wasn't uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads. In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as "Zero Ward," which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two foot wide by six foot long area to lie in. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier. Emmett, being considered healthy, was sent to the new camp and remained there until late in 1942.
Emmett was selected for the Bachrach Garage detail which was housed in a garage on an island off the Manila. The POWs on the detail repaired cars, trucks, and other equipment for the Japanese. He became ill on the detail and was sent back to Cabanatuan and was still there, in July 1944, when his name appeared on a list of POWs who were being sent to Japan. On July 15, 1944, at 8:00 P.M., trucks arrived at the camp and driven to the Port Area of Manila
At the pier, the POWs boarded the Nissyo Maru. The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of the POWs were put into the read hold. The ship moved and remained outside the breakwater from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy. The POWs were fed rice and vegetables which were cooked together and received two canteen cups of water each day.
The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island at 2:00 P.M. It remained off the island overnight and sailed, north by northeast, at 8:00 A.M. the next day. On July 26th, at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large explosion and fire off the side of the ship. It turned out that the one of the ships, the Otari Yama Maru had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack. On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M. The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. and continued its northward trip all day and night of July 29th. It ran into a storm the next day which finally passed by August 2nd. The POWs were issued clothing on August 3rd and arrived at Moji on August 4th at midnight.
At 8:00 in the morning, the POWs disembarked the ship and were taken to a theater and held in it all day. They were then taken to the train station and divided into different detachments bound for different camps. The train left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at the camp at 2:00 A.M., they were unloaded and walked three miles to the camp.
In Japan, Emmett was taken to
The POWs received their jobs from the camp commandant who spoke adequate English. The POWs were divided into two groups of miners. The "A" group mined during the day, while the "B" group mined at night. Every two weeks the groups would swap shifts. When the POWs arrived at the mine, they were turned over to civilian supervisors. The POWs quickly learned the more they did the more these supervisors wanted from them. After awhile, the supervisor and POWs came to a reasonable agreement on how many cars they would load each day. The one good thing about working in the mine in the winter was the temperature was about 70 degrees.
During 1945, things got worse for the POWs, so they knew the Japanese were losing the war. At 5:00 P.M. on August 15th they learned the war was over. The POWs did not believe it. The next day the camp commandant, at 9:00 A.M., informed the POWs that the war was over. He also told them that they had to stay in the camp. On August 24th, the Japanese gave the POWs paint and canvas and told them to paint "POW." on the canvas and put it on the barracks roofs.
On August 28th, B-29s appeared over the camp. Two of the planes circled and dropped fifty gallon drums to the POWs. For the first time, the POWs knew they were now in charge. Most of the guards quickly disappeared. On September 15th, Americans arrived in the camp. The POWs were taken by truck to the train station. They road the train to Nagasaki. Once there, they were given physicals, deloused, and the seriously ill were boarded onto a hospital ship. The rest were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to Okinawa. They were than flown back to the Philippines for additional medical treatment. From Manila, he returned to the United States.
Emmett returned home and was discharged from the Army on March 18, 1946. He married Marie Margaret Nickerson and became the father of her four children and worked as a postal worker to support his family until he retired.
Emmett E. Hensley passed away on June 24, 1996, in Wichita, Kansas and was buried at White Chapel Memorial Gardens in Wichita.