King H

Cpl. Harry Alfred King 


 

    Cpl. Harry A. King was born in Chicago, Illinois, on January 10, 1921, to Charles R. King & Anna Allison-King.  With his two brothers, he grew up at 507 Quincy Street in Maywood and graduated from Garfield School and Proviso Township High School, as a member of the Class of 1938.  After high school, he was employed by a stationary company to run errands.

    In September of 1940, Harry enlisted in the Illinois National Guard as a member of the 33rd Tank Company from Maywood, Illinois.  He like many other men wanted to fulfill his military obligation since the draft act had just been passed.  On November 20, 1940, Harry, along with the other members of his company, was called to federal service when the company was federalized.  The soldiers reported to the armory on November 25 and prepared their equipment for transport.  On November 28, they marched downn Madison Street to Fifth Avenue and up the street to the Chicago & North Western train station where their tanks were loaded onto a train.  A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion was already on the train they boarded. 

    During his training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was trained as either a motorcycle messenger or in motorcycle reconnaissance.  When HQ Company was created in January 1941, the Harry was assigned to the company.  It is known that he and other members of HQ Company were sent to Fort Wayne outside Detroit, Michigan in 1941, but the exact reason for the trip is not known.
    It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as they had expected.  On the side of a hill, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign to from federal service and were replaced by men of the 753rd Tank Battalion, and the battalion received the tanks of the 753rd.  The decision to send the battalion to the Philippines was made on August 15, 1941.
    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.
    The company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty.  Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27.  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 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5, 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. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.  On Saturday, November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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 Gen. 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, but the fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with them and made sure they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, this was the date they were suppose to be released from federal service.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them rusting while at sea.  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.

    On Monday, December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion was assigned the northern half of the airfield while the 192nd protected the southern half.  At all times, two crew members had two remain with their tank or half-track and received their meals from food trucks.  HQ Company made sure that the companies had what they needed.
    The morning of December 8, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered up to full strength at Clark Field. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    This lack of training was glaring during the first engagement against the Japanese.  On December 22, 1941, the American tank crews could be heard on the radio yelling at each other because they could not find the shells for their cannons.  It is during engagement that carried messages to the tanks and did reconnaissance, on his motorcycle, to identify Japanese positions.

    The Filipino and American Forces fought gallantly, but due to a lack of food and their poor physical shape they were surrendered to the Japanese.  The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."   
    On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  George was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.           

    HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit.  As they sat, John and the other Prisoners of War noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
    As they sat there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in front of the soldiers.  He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  As he drove away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
    Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  In the school yard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells since they had no place to hide.  The American guns did knock out three of the Japanese guns.

 
    The POWs were ordered to move and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march they received no water and little food.  At San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen, ordered to sit, and left sitting in the sun.   
    Later, they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station where they were put into a small wooden boxcars known as "Forty and Eights" because they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar so tightly that those men who died could not fall to the floors of the cars.  At Capas, the living disembarked and walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.     

    The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base.  The Japanese pressed the camp 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.
    When the new POW camp at Cabanatuan opened in May, Harry and the other prisoners who were considered to ill to be moved were left behind.  According to medical records kept at the camp,
Cpl. Harry A. King died on June 2, 1942, of a liver ailment at the age of 21. 
    After the war, his remains were positively identified, Cpl. Harry A. King was buried in Plot L, Row 8, Grave 89 at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.  He was post-humorously awarded the Purple Heart.


 

 


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