Pvt. Quincey Albert Humphries was born on January 23, 1917, in LeFlore County, Oklahoma, to Samuel G. Humphries and Lillie Goodins-Humphries, and was known as “Jim” to his family and friends. With his five brothers and six sisters, he grew up on Sugarloaf Mountain near Monroe, Oklahoma. As a child, he would travel to town by horse and wagon. He finished grade school and worked as a farmhand.
When Selective Service Registration became law on October 16, 1940, he registered for the draft, but no registration card has been found at this time. Quincey was inducted in the U.S. Army on March 3, 1941, in Oklahoma City. During his time at Ft. Knox, Quincey trained as a tank driver. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. The 753rd did not take part in the Louisiana Maneuvers which were taking place at that time.
The 192nd Tank Battalion, which did take part in the maneuvers, was informed that it was being sent overseas. Since the battalion was made up of National Guardsmen from the Midwest, those men who were 29 years old or married, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. In need of replacements, the army sought volunteers from the 753rd Tank Battalion. Quincey volunteered or had his name drawn to join the 192nd Tank Battalion or had his name drawn, at Camp Polk and was assigned to B Company.
The decision for this move – which had been made during 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 a Japanese occupied island which was hundreds 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.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs home so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, 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 join the battalion at a later date. Others were simply replaced with other soldiers.
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 U.S.A.T. 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, while two other intercepted freighters were Japanese ships carrying scrap metal to Japan.
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. One thing that was different about their arrival was that instead of a band and a welcoming committee waiting at the pier to tell them to enjoy their stay in the Philippines and see as much of the island as they could, a party came aboard the ship – carrying guns – and told the soldiers, “Draw your firearms immediately; we’re under alert. We expect a war with Japan at any moment. Your destination is Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Field.”
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 learned of their arrival just days before they arrived. He stayed with the battalion until they had received their Thanksgiving Dinner, which was a stew thrown into their mess kits. Afterward, he went for his own dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the ragged World War I tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise from the engines as they flew over was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat.
The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their on the tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool,” a term they borrowed from the 194th Tank Battalion, meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon.
For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups.
At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore coveralls to do the work on the tanks. The 192nd followed the example of the 194th and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms everywhere; including going to the PX.
Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the reconnaissance pilots reported that Japanese transports were milling around in a large circle in the China Sea. On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion. At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles. Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks.
Quincey became a member of the tank crew of S/Sgt Walter Mahr, Sgt. Ray Mason, and Pvt. LD Marrs. On 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 to the perimeter of Clark Airfield on December 1.
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 then sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.
Quincey, with his tank crew, was present at Clark Field when the Japanese attacked the airfield ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He and the other members of the tank battalion watched helplessly as the Japanese Zeros destroyed the Army Air Corps.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going used to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed 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.
It was during an engagement on December 29, at Tarlac, that Quincey’s tank was knocked out by the Japanese when its track hit a landmine causing it to lose its tread. Quincey, Mahr, Marrs, and Mason were ordered out of the tank by the Japanese. They left the tank believing they would be taken Prisoners Of War. Instead, they were ordered to run.
The four men ran toward their lines when the Japanese opened fire on them. Sgt. Ray Mason was killed instantly, while S/Sgt. Walter Mahr, Pvt. LD Marrs and Quincey were wounded. The three men made it to a sugarcane field and hid. The next day, S/Sgt. Walter Mahr was found in the sugarcane field by American troops and taken to a field hospital. Despite a search of the field, Quincey and Marrs were not found. The two soldiers had been captured by the Japanese, and Quincey most likely died of his wounds after being captured. His family would receive no further news about him.
Pvt. Quincey Albert Humphries was reported Missing In Action at Tarlac on Monday, December 29, 1941. After the fall of Corregidor, his family received this message.
“Dear Mrs. L. Humphries:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Private Qunicey A. Humphries, 38,020,646, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the War Department. Conceivably the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this Government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the War Department cannot give you positive information.
“The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war. In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired. At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.
“Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months; to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held; to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress. The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records. Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.
“Very Truly yours
J. A. Ulio (signed)
The Adjutant General”
This message was followed by a second letter at the beginning of July 1942. The following is an excerpt from the letter.
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Private Quincey A. Humpries had not been reported as a casualty. The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, until definite information to the contrary is received.
“Efforts to secure prisoner of war lists from the Philippines have not been successful to this date due to the lack of communication and the fact that the Japanese Government has not yet given permission for the Swiss representative and the International Red Cross delegates to make visits to prisoner of war camps in the islands. When the lists of prisoners are received, we will clear the name of your son and send you any additional information that we may have.”
No other word on Quincey was received by his family until they received this letter after the war.
May 14, 1946.
Dear Mr. Humphries:
My deepest sympathy goes to you in the death of your son, Private Quincey A. Humphries.
Although I well know that words are inadequate at this time, the knowledge that he made the supreme sacrifice for his country
and for humanity will help to bring some consolation in your hour of bereavement.
Douglas MacArthur (signed)
Quincey was declared dead by the U.S. Army as of February 1, 1946. Sometime around 1950, his family received a second letter stating that his date of death and cause of death had been determined. His date of death was officially changed to December 29, 1941.
Quincey’s family later had a memorial for him dedicated at Vaughn Cemetery in Gilmore, Oklahoma. He is also memorialized at the American Military Cemetery at Manila. In addition, on March 7, 1996, a memorial with Quincey’s name on it was dedicated at Fort Smith National Cemetery in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
After the war, Quincey’s parents received a Purple Heart from the Army. According to the family, his mother looked at it and put it on a shelf. She never looked at the medal again.