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 had 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 by General George S. Patton 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 his company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. 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 Colonel 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.
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. All the members of the letter companies were ordered to the south end of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac.
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 12th, 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 23rd and 24th, 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 25th, 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 27th.
From January 2nd to 4th, 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 7th,
On January 28th, 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 bull pen. In one corner 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. They were moved 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 training base that had put into use as a POW camp. There was one water spigot for the entire camp and disease ran wild. The burial detail worked long days to bury the dead. When they returned to the cemetery in the morning with more dead, those who had been buried the day before were either dug up by wild dogs or were sitting up in their graves. The situation got so bad that the Japanese finally concluded they needed to open a new camp.
Cabanatuan opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell and the healthier POWs were sent to the camp, while the sick remained behind at Camp O'Donnell. 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. He 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.