Pvt. Abner Lee Humphrey Jr.
| Abner L.
Humphrey Jr. was born on September 12, 1919, in
Comanche, Texas, to Abner L. Humphrey Sr. and
Repty Humphrey. He grew up on the family
farm with his three sisters and left high school
after completing his junior year. He worked
as a construction worker building Camp Bowie near
Fort Worth, Texas, when he received his draft
On March 13, 1941, A. L. was inducted into the U.S. Army after receiving his draft notice. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It was there that he was trained as a tank driver. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and joined the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion was sent there from Ft. Benning, Georgia, but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place there.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion had expected to return to Ft. Knox. Instead, they received orders to remain behind at the fort. It was on the side of a hill that the tankers learned that they were being sent overseas. It was at that time men 29 years old or older or married were allowed to resign from federal service.
It was at this time that A.L. volunteered, or had his name drawn, to replace a National Guardsman who had been released. He was assigned to D Company which had been a Kentucky National Guard tank company. The tank he was assigned to was named "Shirley" after the wife of its commander. A.L. received leave home for two weeks.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. 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 which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other 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. They 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, the transport, S.S. President 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, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who 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 live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own 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, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.
All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. The members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelters since they had no weapons to be used against planes.
On December 13, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
The night of December 26/27, D Company found that the bridge they were assigned to cross a river had been destroyed. The company commander made the decision to abandon the tanks and cross without them. Of this event, A.L. recalled that the 72 men disabled the tanks and crossed the river. They rode a truck in the dark to their own lines. The Japanese were able to get the tanks operating and used them in the Battle of Bataan.
At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese. A.L. Described many of the engagements against the Japanese as running battles since the tanks would drop back quickly after engaging the Japanese.
The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban Airfields. They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers. It was around April 5 that A.L. was sent to Hospital #1 suffering from malaria. When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese on April 9th, he was still in the hospital. When the Japanese took over, the doctors still had medicine, but it quickly ran out.
that the Japanese set up artillery near the
hospital and fired on Corregidor. The
Americans did not return fire because they knew
the artillery was near the hospital. He
remained there until he was sent to Bilibid
Prison until he was sent to Cabanatuan in
what was called the the Cabcaben
Detachment. Medical records kept at the
camp show that A.L. was admitted to the camp's
hospital on May 29 suffering from
malaria. The records do not show when he
being released from the hospital, A.L. worked at
the camp farm. The POWs planted rice and
grew vegetables. Most, if not all, went to
the Japanese mess. The POWs received the
leftovers that the Japanese would not eat.
climbing down a steel ladder into the hold. Once
in the hold, it didn't take too long for the
floor to be covered in human waste and
vomit. The ship sailed on September 20th
and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on September
23rd. It sailed for Moji, Japan, on
A river ran between to the two halves of the camp with the Japanese offices, quarters, warehouses, and firehouse on one side of the river and the POWs compound surrounded by a 10 foot high wooden fence topped with 2 foot bamboo stakes on the other side of the river. There was a one story hospital building which was 75 feet long by 19 feet wide. Inside it was divided into a 15 foot by 15 foot treatment room and three, 17 foot by 15 foot, rooms for sick POWs. One of these rooms was used for the nine POWs in the camp who had tuberculosis, who also had their own latrine.
The camp kitchen was a 60 foot by 18 foot building with two, 12 foot by 9 foot, food storage rooms at one end. There were eight brick stoves and an brick oven, and several wooden sinks and tables. Meals were served three times a day. Rice and soup was served for breakfast, while rice, fish and two vegetables, usually seaweed, cabbage, or eggplant, for lunch. Supper was rice, soup, fish, and a vegetable of tomatoes or squash. During their time in the camp, they received meat two or three times.
Another building, which was 87 feet long by 19 feet wide had wash troughs at both ends. The remaining portion was divided into five rooms which were 15 feet long by 19 feet wide. One was used as quarters for the medical staff, one housed POWs with minor medical conditions, one was used for shoe repair, another was used as an office, and one as a work shop for POWs who could only do light work.
where the POWs worked was a little over two
miles from the camp. The POWs shoveled
rock, pushed mine cars, picked ore from waste
rock, while those with the necessary skills
maintained equipment or electrical work on
A.L. Humphrey spent the rest of his life in Comanche, Texas, and passed away on May 2, 2001.