Pvt. Albert B. Bland Moore was born on July 15, 1920, in Mackville, Kentucky, to Robert L. Moore & Gertrude A. Roberts-Moore. He was raised in Mercer County with his five brothers and three sisters and was known as “Bland” to his family and friends. With his friends, William Gentry, Robert Brummett, Morris Collier, and Cecil VanDiver, he joined the Kentucky National Guard.
In the fall of 1940, Bland was called to federal duty when his tank company was federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. During his time at Ft.Knox, he attended cook’s school and qualified as a cook. In January 1941, he was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion. He was assigned to the company as a mess sergeant.
In the late summer of 1941, Bland’s battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. Before the maneuvers, Bland returned to Harrodsburg on leave and married Bessie Louise Carter on August 20, 1941. It was after these maneuvers that the battalion received orders to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, the men learned they were being sent overseas. Married men and those 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal duty. It is believed that Bland chose to remain in the Army.
Traveling west by train through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. While on the island, they were given physicals and shots for overseas duty. Men with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the company at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from on Monday, October 27, as part of a three-ship convoy that arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2. The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Wednesday, November 5, the ships sailed for Guam.
During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later in the day. At 3:00 P. M., the soldiers disembarked and most were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those assigned to 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 Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
On December 8, 1941, Bland lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. During the attack, Bland was delivering lunch to members of the tank crews at their tanks. As he drove, his truck was strafed by a Japanese Zero. Bland got out of the truck with an M-1 Garand. He took cover by a tree and leaned against it for leverage. According to Bland, the Japanese planes made a figure eight over the airfield. All anyone had to do was aim at a certain spot and keep the gun aimed there. He took aim and fired at the plane. To his own amazement, he hit the plane which went down in flames.
After the attack, Bland looked around the airfield. One of the sites he would always remember was the site of the trucks carrying men who had lost arms and legs during the attack. The entire airfield looked as if it was on fire.
Bland spent the next four months working to keep the tank crews fed. 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, “Our last supper.”
The soldiers proceeded to pile up their guns and ammunition and set the pile on fire. They stayed in their bivouac and waited for orders. At the same time that they were sad, they were also kind of excited and wondered what was going to happen to them.
On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company’s encampment. Lawrence 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 was ordered to go to Mariveles. Since they had trucks, Bland and the other men road to just outside of the barrio, where they were ordered off of their trucks. They were sent to the airfield and told to sit.
While Bland and the other men sat waiting at the airfield, Japanese soldiers began lining up across from them, the POWs quickly realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad. Bland and the others waited to see what would happen.
A Japanese officer in a staff car pulled up to the Japanese soldiers. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back into the car and drove away. As he drove away, the sergeant ordered the Japanese soldiers to lower their guns.
Bland and the other POWs were ordered to move. They were taken to a schoolyard and again told to sit. This time they found themselves n front of Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. The two American forts returned fire resulting with shells landing among the POWs. Some of the prisoners were killed.
Bland and the other POWs were ordered to move again and had no idea they had begun what was known as the death march. Bland was in pretty good shape when he started the march and took it in stride. He helped carry other men too weak to continue on their own. For Bland, one of the worst memories he had of the march was watching Americans die. Those men who fell were bayoneted.
At one point on the march, Cecil VanDiver fell out and sat down on the side of the road. VanDiver could not go on and had decided that he would sit and wait to be killed. Bland came up to him, with Pvt. Earl Pratt, who was also assigned to HQ Company. The two men picked VanDiver up and carried him between them until he could walk on his own.
Recalling the march, Moore said, “If you got tired or got weak and had to sit down, they killed you. I quit perspiring…..and I couldn’t get any salt. I was getting real weak and dizzy. We were going through a little town, and some of the Filipinos were throwing rice balls out to us. That was the last thing I wanted. All I wanted to do is stay on my feet. By that time, the men were a whole lot like animals. But ….. a little brown package landed in my hand, and it was salt. I ate the salt, and shared it with others, and finished the march. I wasn’t reaching for anything when it fell into my hand. Nothing could tell me otherwise that Jesus Christ had a hand in saving me.”
At San Fernando, Bland was put into a boxcar with other POWs. The cars were known as “forty or eights,” since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing because they could not fall to the floors. At Capas, the living disembarked and walked the last few miles to Camp O’Donnell which 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.
It is known that Bland went out on a work detail to escape Camp O’Donnell on June 1 as the POWs were being transferred to Cabanatuan. The detail rebuilt the bridges the Americans destroyed as they retreated into Bataan. On this detail, he worked a jackhammer. Because of the nature of the work and the poor diet, Bland lost weight and grew weak. As time went on, he found it harder and harder to operate the jackhammer, so he attempted to get out of work. Bland placed his arm between two blocks of wood and hit it with a crowbar. All that happened was he injured the arm and had to continue to work.
The commanding Japanese officer of the detail gave the POWs a great deal of freedom. While at Balanga, they were allowed to go anywhere in the barrio, but they could not leave the barrio. This was the situation until the CO left for three days. Sometime before the detail ended, Bland was sent to Cabanatuan. Possibly because he had grown too weak to work.
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 surrendered were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
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.
The POWs were sent out on work details one was to cut wood for the POW kitchens. The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years. A typical day on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed each morning to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them over their heads.
The detail was under the command of “Big Speedo” who spoke very little English. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs “speedo.” Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was “Little Speedo” who was smaller and also used the word when he wanted the POWs to work faster. The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them.
“Smiley” was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted. He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason. He liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as “lugow” which meant “wet rice.” During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit. Once in a while, they received bread.
The camp hospital was known as “Zero Ward” because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks. The sickest POWs were sent there to die. The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building. There were two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building. The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into it so they could relieve themselves. Most of those who entered the ward died.
The POWs had the job of burying the dead. To do this, they worked in teams of four men. Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves containing 15 to 20 bodies. Since the water table was high, the POWs held the bodies down with poles until they were covered with dirt.
Bland recalled that death was all around him in the camp and that he did what he could for the sick. “I fed men their last meals and gave them their last baths.” It is known that one of the men Bland was talking about was Jennings Scanlon from Harrodsburg. According to Bland, he and Earl Pratt found Scanlon lying partially in the slit-trench that served as the camp latrine. The two men pulled him out and bathed him until he was clean. They pulled together their food rations and fed him their best food. The next day Jennings Scanlon died.
Bland recalled that the Japanese started putting the POWs into groups known as “blood brothers.” The idea was that if one man escaped the rest would be executed. Because of this rule, he twice witnessed the execution of POWs because of escapes.
Food became an issue for Bland and the other POWs. “The one thing on your mind was survival. You were like an animal. You would kill anything to eat – snakes, bugs whatever.” During this time, his weight dropped from 185 pounds to 118 pounds.
At some point Bland violated a camp rule, he was tied to a tree for several days. He was then brought back into the camp and tied to a post. When the POWs were assembled, Bland knew he was going to be executed. Grover Brummett was falling in and realized that the man who was going to be executed was Bland Moore. He went up to Bland. Bland told Grover that he wanted him to tell his family that he had never begged the Japanese for anything.
The commanding officer, Lt. Col. Seigeji Mori, came up to Bland and began shouting at him in Japanese. Bland looked him in the eyes and smiled. Bland said, “I just stared him in the eye. And you know, just at a snap of a finger he told me — Go to work.” This must have thrown Mori off because instead of executing him, he sent Bland out on the work detail. Later when Bland was assigned to the POW detail that cleaned Mori’s quarters, Mori told Bland that the reason he did not execute him was that Bland had never shown fear.
In December 1942, Bland went out on a work detail to Ft. McKinley arriving there on the twelfth. There, the POWs did cleanup work clearing the grounds of junk from the battle. When the work was finished, they were moved to Nielson Field on January 29, 1943. At Nielson, the POWs lived in barracks that were 150 feet long by 20 feet wide. One-quarter of the space was used for sick wards which meant the POWs slept shoulder to shoulder again. Tables for meals were in the center aisle of each barracks. The POW compound where they could walk around freely was 500 feet by 200 feet and surrounded by barbed wire. Each day, the POWs had to walk almost five miles to and from the airfield.
The POWs on the detail worked at constructing a northeast to southwest runway. The work day for the POWs was from 8:00 A.M. until Noon and 1:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M. When they arrived at the airfield they were divided into two groups which alternated between working for an hour while the other and resting for an hour.
The work was hard and required the POWs to remove dirt and rock from one area and dumping it onto the runways. The dirt and rock were removed with picks and shovels and put into mining cars which were pushed by POWs to the area where they were going to be dumped.
In May 1943, the work was sped up. The POWs weren’t sure if this was because they were behind schedule or if the airfield was needed because of the military situation. The runway was built through rice paddies which made the work harder since they still had water in them.
POW work hours were changed in January 1944. From that time on, the POWs started at 7:00 A.M. and worked until 11:00 A.M. to avoid the hottest part of the day. In the afternoon, the POWs worked from 1:30 to 5:00 P.M. They had their one day off a week cut to a half-day a week. On May 26, the afternoon work hours were extended to 6:00 P.M. At some point, some POWs were assigned to building a second runway about three miles from the camp.
Bland apparently became ill and was sent to Bilibid Prison on August 20, 1944, and was sent to Bilibid Prison. After Bland was considered cured, he was given a physical and sent to Japan on the Noto Maru. The POWs were boarded on August 25 and sailed on August 27, 1944, from Manila. After stops at Takao and Keelung, Formosa, on August 30, it arrived at Moji, Japan on September 4.
Bland was sent to Mukashima Camp, also known as Fukuoka #11, and worked in a shipyard. The POWs were housed in wooden barracks. Each morning, the POWs walked three miles each way to and from the shipyards.
The Japanese practiced collective punishment when a camp rule was broken by one POW, all the POWs were punished. Minor rule infractions usually resulted in the POW being beaten with fists, bamboo poles, and rifle butts. This frequently was the punishment given to POWs who were too sick to work.
The men were also forced to kneel at rigid attention, on two bamboo sticks that were three inches apart on the ground for hours. One stick was under the knees and the other stick was used to support the insteps. Sometimes after doing this, the POWs were ordered to stand at attention which was impossible for them to do because their legs were cramped, so they were beaten.
At some point in the camp, almost every POW spent time in “the box,” which was 5 feet 4inches high, 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep. POWs were fastened to the box and remained inside it for days, in a crouching position, without the ability to stand or lie down. While in the box, the POW was fed one pint of water a day and three handfuls of rice and salt. The POW was given an empty can to use as a bathroom in complete darkness.
At night, the POWs heard the American planes and the explosions from the bombs. The windows of the barracks shook with the explosions. As Lawrence and the other POWs worked on the docks, they could hear the Japanese talking about the bombings on loudspeakers. From this, they learned what cities had been bombed. If the bombing was accurate, the Japanese guards took it out at them.
One day after the POWs got up to work, they were told that they would not work that day. This happened again for another two or three days. Then, an American major came to the camp and told the POWs that the war was over and the men shouted, hugged each other, and cried.
Across the road, was a British POW Camp. The Swiss Red Cross came from this camp and told the Americans to paint the letters POW on the roof of a building in the camp. After they did, American B-29s dropped food and clothes to them and many other liberated POWs got sick from overeating. When American troops showed up on September 12, the POWs were officially liberated.
It was from this camp that he was liberated on September 12, 1945, and evacuated on September 15, and returned to the Philippines. He was promoted to staff sergeant and sailed for the Seattle, Washington, on the U.S.S. Admiral Hughes on October 9, 1945. He was discharged from the Army on May 2, 1946.
Bland returned to Kentucky and married Bessie Louise Carter. He was the father of three children and worked as a sales representative in the steel industry. Bland and Earl Pratt remained friends for the rest of their lives. When Earl Pratt died, he took Pratt’s death extremely hard.
On December 2, 1990, a fifty-year anniversary ceremony was held in Harrodsburg in honor of the Kentucky members of the 192nd from Harrodsburg. Bland Moore was there. He said, “The reason I was there was because of my love of the guys who didn’t come back. I wish that everyone who has ever burned an American flag could go through the first three months of hell that these men went through.”
Albert Bland Moore passed away on April 27, 2006, in Nicholasville, Kentucky, and was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.