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. 

    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 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.   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 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, 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 8th, 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 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.  It was there that 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.

    Henry was next held at Cabanatuan Camp #1 and 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 11th 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.

    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.  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.  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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