Knox H.

 

2nd Lt. Henry Mortimer Knox


 

    2nd Lt Henry M. Knox was the son of Ross & Nina Knox.  He was born in Fort Atkinson but raised in Beloit, Wisconsin, on September 12, 1914.  There he resided at 1408 Third Street in Janesville, and later, with his family, at 2229 Riverside Drive in Beloit.  He worked as a salesman for a roofing company.  Henry joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company in Janesville on August 17, 1940.  On November 25, 1940, the unit was federalized and renamed A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. 

    A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
    At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13th, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.   At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.  During Paul's time at Ft. Knox, he qualified as a tank driver.
    From September 1 through 30, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  Afterwards, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they learned they were being sent overseas.  He and the other men were given furloughs home to say their goodbyes to family and friends.
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf 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 that a large radio transmitter. The island was hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.

     After arriving at Ft. Knox, Henry was assigned to Headquarters Company when it was formed.  He remained with the company through the maneuvers in Louisiana. 

    In late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in the maneuvers in Louisiana.  While they participated in these maneuvers, they had no idea that they had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.  When the maneuvers were completed, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  It was there that the battalion was called together and its members informed that their time in the military had been extended.  It was at this time that Henry was commissioned a second lieutenant. 

    On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Men were  given leaves home to say goodbye to family and friends.
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, and were ferried on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. MacDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals from the battalion's medical detachment.  Those who did not pass the physicals were transferred out of the unit, or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    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 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, 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 Date Line.  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 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, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    
   
    On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.
    The morning of December 8, December 7 in the United States, the 192nd was ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  A week earlier, they had been given assigned positions around the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon and lined up near the mess hall while the pilots went to lunch. 
  
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American. As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.    
    Four days after the attack on December 12, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it could protect 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 so other units could withdraw from the area.

    On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that 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.
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Reed.  The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.

    At some point, Henry resigned as an enlisted man and was commissioned an officer.  With his commission, he was put into command of one of A Company's tank platoons.      
    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.       
    The pockets was an extremely dangerous operation.  When tanks were sent into a pocket, they entered one tank at a time.  The next tank would not enter until the tank that had been relieved exited the pocket. 
    To wipe out the Japanese, two methods were employed. 
One had three Filipino soldiers sitting on the back of each tank.  When the tank passed over a foxhole the soldiers each dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  Being that the ordnance was from WWI, one of the three hand grenades usually exploded.
    The second method was to park the tank with one tread over foxhole.  The crew would give power to the other track causing the tank to spin and dig its way into the ground.
    On April 3, the Japanese launched a major offensive.  In an attempt to stop them, the tanks were sent into various sectors.  It was also at this time that tanks became the favorite targets of Japanese planes an artillery.
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Gen. Weaver determined that only 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue to fight, and if they did, they would last only one more day.  He had almost 6,000 men who were wounded or sick, and an additional 40,000 civilians who he believed would be slaughtered.  It was at that time he decided to send his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.  Later that night, the ammunition dumps were blown up.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
    Somewhere between 6:30 and 6:45 in the morning the tankers received the order "crash" and destroyed their tanks.  The tanks were circled and an armor piercing shell was fired into the engines of each tank.  Afterwards, the gasoline cocks were opened in the crew

    On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and American forces were surrendered to the Japanese.  Henry was now a Prisoner of War.  Henry took part in what would become known as the "Death March."  As a POW, he was first held at Camp O'Donnell. 

    The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base which 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.  When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp,
Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp.  When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to 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 when it was known as Camp Panagaian. 
    The camp was actually three camps.  Camp 1 was where the men who captured on Bataan and taken part in the death march where held.  Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was closed.  It later reopened and housed Naval POWs.  Camp 3 was where those men captured when Corregidor surrender were taken.  In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were sent to the camp.  Camps 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.  When this happened 2nd Lt. Ben Morin of B Company and Henry would renew their friendship.  As it turned out, the two men would spend the rest of their captivity together.
    Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp.  The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with.  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.
    In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed.  It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120 POWs in them.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting.  Many quickly became ill.  The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.  He was assigned to Barracks #29, which was an officers' barracks, until the autumn of 1942.  Then he was sent to Bilibid Prison for preparation for shipment to Japan.  There the prisoners underwent physicals to determined if they were healthy enough to be sent to Japan. 
    The POWs were boarded onto the Nagato Maru for Japan on November 6.  Henry recalled that even though the Japanese still had plenty of ships, the POWs were crammed into the hold of the ship.  The ship sailed on November as part of a three ship convoy. 
    At some point, the hatch covers were put on because the Japanese believed a submarine was in the area.  Through the haul of the ship the POWs could feel the explosions.  The ships arrived at Takao, Formosa, on November 11 and remained in port for three days.
    Sailing on the 14th, the ship dropped anchor the same day off Pecadores Islands because of a storm.  On November 18, the ship sailed again and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, the same day, and anchored there for two days before sailing again on the 20th.
    After four days at sea, arriving at Moji, Japan, on November 24.  After arriving, the POWs disembarked and deloused.  They were given showers and issued new clothes before being taken to the train station.  Upon arrival, the prisoners were divided into two groups of 500 each.  Hnery was sent to Tanagawa Camp arriving there on November 27, 1942.  

    The POWs arrived at night and were housed in five flimsy barracks that were unheated and had dirt floors.  The POWs slept on two sets of platforms along the perimeter of each barracks.  To reach the upper bunks the POWs used ladders.  Each POW received five blankets made of peanut shell fiber and a pillow stuffed with rice husks.
    The POWs, regardless of rank, were required to work at removing the side of a mountain for a Japanese Navy dry dock in violation of the Geneva Convention.  The POWs were subjected to daily beatings at morning and evening muster.  At many of them, they were forced to stand at attention from 2 to 2 hours sometimes resulting in them not receiving their next meal.  Shoes, rifle butts,  belts, sticks, shovels, clubs, fists, and even furniture were used in the beatings.
    No real reason was needed for the beatings, but a violation of some camp rule usually was the given reason.  If a work group of POWs did not remove their quota a material from the work site, they received a beating.  Usually, the reason they failed to meet the quota was they were to hungry and weak to meat the quota.  While being beaten, the POWs were forced to hold a heavy log or rock above their heads. 

    Henry was sent by train to Tanagawa where he was was held as a POW.  It was there that Henry helped Lt. Ben Morin cremate the remains of his high school friend.

    In mid-January 1943, Henry was one of 150 officers who left Tanagawa and sent by rail to the Island of Shikoku to a camp at Zentsuji, near the City of Shikoku, and arrived on January 15, 1943, which was to be his home for the next two and one half years.  The camp was used in Japanese propaganda to show how well the POWs were being treated.  In all, there were 700 officers and enlisted men in the camp, and he met American officers who were not captured in the Philippines, as well as, British and Australian officers.  With him in each of the camps was Lt. Ben Morin.
    In the camp two guards were known for their mistreatment of the POWs.  One was called "Leatherwrist" and the other was known as "Clubfist," because both men had right hands that been injured.  The two hit POWs, but since their right hands were of little use, they usually knocked them to the ground and kicked them with hobnail boots.  In addition, POWs were often beaten for no apparent reason with kendo sticks, bayonets, and rifle butts.

    The POWs had a good idea of what was going on in the war from Japanese newspapers.  Among the prisoners were British officers who could read Japanese and tell the other men what was going on in the war.  On June 6, 1944, all newspapers were banned from the camp.  The POWs smuggled them into the camp and continued to read them.
   The POWs worked as stevedores at rail yards and a port.  When the areas around a train station and the train yards were bombed, the Japanese locked the POWs in the baggage and boxcars and took shelter in air raid shelters.
    At this time, Capt. Reuben Schwass, of the 192nd, was in the infirmary because he too was on the verge of death.  Without the adequate food, Capt. Rueben Schwass died from the disease.  Henry and Ben Morin placed his body on a cart and transported it to the crematory.  All the officer of the Provisional Tank Group who in the camp were present at the funeral.  After he had been cremated, the ashes were given to the camp commandant.
    Henry was one of the officers selected to be sent to another camp.  The POWs were boarded into boxcars and baggage cars.  By this point in the war, American planes roamed the skies over Japan at will.  During the trip, on several occasions, the Japanese uncoupled the engine from the cars when they believed the train was going to be strafed, and left the cars on the rails as target.  The POWs made it safely to their new camp.

    The final camp Henry was held at was Rokuroshi which was next to a Buddist Temple twenty miles north of Ono.  He was transferred there on June 25, 1945.  This camp was made up of mostly officers and held 750 POWs.  There Henry met officers from the British and Australian armies.  The POWs worked as stevedores at rail yards and a port.  When the areas around a train station and the train yards were bombed, the Japanese locked the POWs in the baggage and boxcars and took shelter in air raid shelters.  The POWs managed to smuggle a newspaper into the camp and read that Okinawa had fallen to the advancing American forces.  Four months after arriving in this camp, Henry was liberated by American forces.  Henry was the only officer of A Company who surrendered on Bataan to survive the war.

    Henry remembered that one time the Japanese left an airplane on a parade ground near the camp.  Three Air Corps officers came up with the idea of stealing the plane and flying it to Russia.  One night the three men climbed over the camp fence to steal the plane.  The problem was that they could not locate the plane in the dark.  Realizing that their plan was not going to work, the men attempted to climb the fence back into the camp.  Henry stated that the POWs had a harder time getting back into the camp than they had getting out of it.

    Henry and the other prisoners learned of the atomic bomb from Japanese newspapers.  He and the other men were liberated and left Japan on September 12, 1945.  Like many of the former POWs, Henry was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  While there, he was reunited with his brother, Forrest.  It was the first time that the brothers had seen each other in three and one half years.  

    Henry returned to the United States on the Simon Bolivar, at San Francisco,on October 21, 1945.  He received further medical treatment before he returned to Janesville and married.  He and his wife had two sons.  Henry remained in the army and rose in rank to captain.  When he retired from the army on October 31, 1960, he settled in Portland, Oregon, where he worked as a superintendent of building services for 17 years.  He retired in 1978 and spent the rest of his life in Portland.  Henry M. Knox passed away on June 19, 2000, and was cremated.  His ashes were interred at Willamette National Cemetery in Happy Valley, Oregon.

    The picture at the top of the page was taken while Henry was a POW in Japan.


 

 

 

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