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Interview with William S. Allen [5/29/2003]

Gary Swanson:

Interviewing William S. Allen at his home in Overland Park, Kansas on May the 29th 2003. Mr. Allen served in the U.S. Army in the 194th Tank Battalion, Company E. He was a part of the Missouri National Guard that was activated in early 1941. He participated in the Bataan Death March, and was captive with the Japanese until the war ended. He's the holder of the Purple Heart, the American Defense Medal, the Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Bronze Star and other theater ribbons and medals. He was born on August the 8th, 1918, and served in the military from February 10, 1941, until August 1946. Judge, I'll call you judge since that was your professional career, much of it. Where did you grow up as a kid?

William S. Allen:

Union Star which was near Saint Joe, Missouri. Then my father was a Burlington Railroad employee and was moved from time to time different places. We lived in a little town called, Cosby, and then to Saint Joseph, Missouri where I attended high school and later junior college at Saint Joseph, Missouri before World War II.

Gary Swanson:

What year did you get out of high school?

William S. Allen:

1936.

Gary Swanson:

1936. Tell me about your family. You had a mother and a father, brothers, sisters?

William S. Allen:

Two sisters, one brother.

Gary Swanson:

Where did you stand agewise in that group of four?

William S. Allen:

A sister and a brother older than I. And then a sister younger than I.

Gary Swanson:

Okay. So you're the younger of two sons?

William S. Allen:

Correct.

Gary Swanson:

And the third of four children. Anything particular you remember about your childhood as a family? Were you a tight family, do you think?

William S. Allen:

Yes, I think so. As I said my father was a railroad employee and one of the perks that we had, as part of the family, we got passes as we call it, free passage on the railroad passenger trains, and I did quite a bit of traveling because of that. Several trips to California. While I was a student at Saint Joseph Missouri Junior College, now known as Missouri Western, I made a trip to Mexico City, Mexico. I was studying Spanish and my father was able to get me free passes from Saint Joseph, Missouri to Mexico City, La Ciudad de Mexico and return.

Gary Swanson:

La Ciudad de Mexico.

William S. Allen:

La Ciudad de Mexico.

Gary Swanson:

Si. Well, as a young man, this was 1936, you got out of high school, you did quite bit of traveling for a landlocked midwesterner that was probably in a family trying to make a good living, so railroading was a good place to be during the depression. So you got out of high school, did you immediately start the junior college?

William S. Allen:

No, I did not. I worked just odd jobs here and there. I also worked some on the railroad back in those days, and you asked me my Army Serial Number. I actually was assigned a Social Security number 707-09-7104 which was -- was identified -- I have been told that it -- that's a railroad number, but actually it's Social Security.

Gary Swanson:

So then how did you decide to begin junior college?

William S. Allen:

Yes. I was at -- out of my -- out of Benton High School two years, my sister graduated and was valedictorian of her graduation class. Possibly 100 to 150 in the class. She received a scholarship to our local junior college in Saint Joseph, Missouri, and since she was going from south Saint Joe to the north to where the junior college is located in Saint Joe, she would need transportation, and I made an application to the junior college, the office, and under what was called then the NYA, National Youth Administration, one of President Roosevelt's federal programs, and I was put on that program and -- for my tuition and books paid for through that program. I did work after school sweeping floors and whatever else janitorial work, and that's what I did for two years along with my sister going to junior college.

Gary Swanson:

So you graduated from junior college and then what did you do?

William S. Allen:

It was soon thereafter -- I had joined the local unit of the Missouri National Guard while I was in junior college, and during -- during that time I began to help out in the office, the office records. I learned to type, so I had a valuable item that I was asked to work in the local National Guard office that was just part-time, but anyway that became my profession, if I may say so, upon entering the federal service. That is the our National Guard unit taking into the Army, so that I continued to work in the office of the Missouri National Guard. I had learned to type in high school and back in those days not too many fellows were typists, so that put me into the office.

Gary Swanson:

So you got into the office you were working for so then you -- it was probably natural for you just to join to unit?

William S. Allen:

Well, I was already --

Gary Swanson:

You were already in the unit.

William S. Allen:

Yes.

Gary Swanson:

I see.

William S. Allen:

They needed some help in the office so I said that I could type.

Gary Swanson:

So what happened that got you from mid-Missouri -- from Saint Joe to the Philippines?

William S. Allen:

February '41, February 10th of 1941. We were mobilized, taken in, when I say "we," the local unit of the Missouri National Guard where I was a member. We were taken into the Army and sent from Saint Joe, Missouri to Fort Lewis, Washington, and during 1941, part of it anyway, we were at Fort Lewis, Washington. Then in September of '41 we were taken to the Philippines, 31 of us from Saint Joe, Missouri. The remainder of the fellows from Saint Joe were sent to Alaska, including my brother. And in September of '41 we went to San Francisco from Fort Lewis, Washington, and then by ship from San Francisco to the Philippines.

Gary Swanson:

So how long was the trip to go to the Philippines?

William S. Allen:

It was about 28 days.

Gary Swanson:

Did you get seasick? I know midwestern landlubber like you.

William S. Allen:

No. Fortunately I didn't. It was a big ship. That was a concern certainly, but it was a big passenger ship really, The President Coolidge, taken over by the Army for troop transport. And I went on this trip to the Philippines from San Francisco. We stopped in Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, and they allowed us to get off the ship and visit around in Honolulu and happen one of the fellows had a friend there in the -- in Honolulu in the Army, but through that we had had a tour of Pearl Harbor in September of '41, so I saw it just before.

Gary Swanson:

Before.

William S. Allen:

Two or three months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941.

Gary Swanson:

So when did you land in the Philippines then, do you remember?

William S. Allen:

I don't remember the exact day, but it was about 21 days that we were on board the ship from San Francisco to the Philippines.

Gary Swanson:

What was your purpose going to be in the Philippines? To be just normal guard duty around our military installation?

William S. Allen:

Yes, that's it. Part of the build up. It was determined that the Army needed additional troops, and our unit, actually the battalion, we were a company from Saint Joe, Missouri and California and Illinois State National Guard. We made the -- made up the battalion.

Gary Swanson:

So our government could see that the Japanese were mobilizing, we just didn't know what and when and where?

William S. Allen:

Correct.

Gary Swanson:

Where were you on December the 7th, 1941?

William S. Allen:

At Clark Field. There's also in connection with Clark Field, Fort Stotsenburg, that's really the old Philippine scout establishment for Fort Stotsenburg, but in later years then -- I talking about Pre-World War II days, Clark Field was developed. It was right in connection with Fort Stotsenburg.

Gary Swanson:

Okay. That's where you were on December 7, 1941?

William S. Allen:

Yes.

Gary Swanson:

Do you remember your reaction when you -- the Sunday afternoon when you heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor?

William S. Allen:

Well, it was actually -- we were across the international dateline, and it was December 8th after midnight and before daylight of December 8th that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and we were aroused, gotten out of bed early, and we were told that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and that they expected us to be bombed and they actually bombed us within ten hours after they hit Pearl Harbor. They bombed us at Clark Field.

Gary Swanson:

Were there a lot casualties at Clark Field?

William S. Allen:

No, we had notice of the -- of the strike on Pearl Harbor and daylight we moved out of our barracks and several miles away from Clark Field, but we were within sight of Clark Field. We saw when the Japanese bombed Clark Field.

Gary Swanson:

How many planes would you estimate that they came at Clark Field with?

William S. Allen:

At least a dozen, yes.

Gary Swanson:

So you thought uh-oh, war is here.

William S. Allen:

War is here.

Gary Swanson:

And we're right in the middle of it.

William S. Allen:

Right.

Gary Swanson:

So then what happened with you and the other folks on the Philippines?

William S. Allen:

We moved from various places. We were in Manila for a while. Then we went north from Manila to Laguna de Bay, Laguna Bay, and then eventually in January of '42, we were ordered and we did proceed to the Bataan Peninsula, which is all part of the island of Luzon, and the Bataan Peninsula is part of the enclosure of Manila Bay, and another location there is Corregidor, which is an island fortress in the mouth of Manila Bay.

Gary Swanson:

So did you have any expectation that you were going to be bombed there, or that the Japanese would invade?

William S. Allen:

Oh, yes. We -- they were not daily but almost daily bombing. We saw the Japanese airplanes overhead.

Gary Swanson:

How many men did you -- were on the Bataan Peninsula would you estimate?

William S. Allen:

I just, I don't know but --

Gary Swanson:

Thousands?

William S. Allen:

Yes, yes, yes, yes. All of the American military forces had been scattered in various places on Luzon were withdrawn to the Bataan Peninsula. Some even went to Corregidor.

Gary Swanson:

Did you have -- during the time from January until the Japanese invaded the Bataan Peninsula, did you have adequate food and clothing?

William S. Allen:

Not at all. We -- [video ends]

William S. Allen:

[Video starts] -- part of our battalion fellows were cooking meals for us, and it wasn't that we were without food. We managed.

Gary Swanson:

With the rations kept getting smaller and smaller, didn't they --

William S. Allen:

Yeah.

Gary Swanson:

-- because you weren't being resupplied, were you?

William S. Allen:

That's correct. That's right. Right.

Gary Swanson:

So really were you just waiting to be invaded? Because you were not being evacuated.

William S. Allen:

Well, even before we went to Bataan Peninsula, the Japanese had landed on Luzon, that's the island where we were located in the Philippines. We knew that the Japanese were invading the Philippines.

Gary Swanson:

Uh-huh. So we took all of our forces and retreated into the southern Bataan Peninsula. Why did we not evacuate our forces, do you think?

William S. Allen:

We didn't get -- it was not determined that we would need to evacuate. The American military had been in the Philippines since the Spanish-American War. That's in the late 1800s, 1898. So it was from there that we always had military forces in the Philippines, and it was no intention, as far as I know of, withdrawing from the Philippines.

Gary Swanson:

So what happened then from January on?

William S. Allen:

The Japanese would bomb us from time to time. They even dropped leaflets to it -- upon us that we should surrender that -- and I showed you an item that -- somewhere here I have the original.

Gary Swanson:

Here it is. You had one that said -- the leaflet said the Imperial Japanese troops never kill those who surrender to them. Stop this feudal fighting and surrender. General MacArthur has deserted you.

William S. Allen:

Correct. That was dropped while we were on Bataan, March 20, 1942. And General MacArthur had gone -- he left the Philippines at night on some kind of a small navy ship, and he was taken out and eventually wound up in Australia, and, of course, then he headed the invasion forces later on and even was present at the surrender of Japan.

Gary Swanson:

So after it went on and then what happened? When did the Japanese invade Bataan, the Bataan Peninsula?

William S. Allen:

Well, we -- April 9th of 1942 was actually when we surrendered to the Japanese on Bataan, and they had invaded and had taken over most of the other parts of the Philippines, and we were the last to -- last holdout in the Philippines. And as I said, we surrendered April 9, 1942.

Gary Swanson:

Was there resistance? Did you resist the Japanese, or did you just say you've got us, there's no more -- no point in having bloodshed?

William S. Allen:

Well, we, of course, had been resisting even on Bataan Peninsula right up until our surrender, April 9th of 1942.

Gary Swanson:

Then what happened? Do you remember the day that they came in and captured all of you?

William S. Allen:

Absolutely. I remember it. They began searching us, but we had been told to throw away our weapons. I had a 45 automatic revolver -- pistol, and I took it apart piece by piece and threw it into the woods. I also had a 30-caliber Garand rifle, and, likewise, I took the bolt out of it, and just threw it aside, and the other fellows did the same thing.

Gary Swanson:

Were you mistreated by the Japanese when they captured you?

William S. Allen:

There was always searching and deriding us that we were cowards, that we surrendered, and the Japanese would never surrender, that that was a dishonorable thing to surrender, that we fight even if necessary, he would take -- the Japanese soldier would take his own life before he would surrender. They used to say to us, "American _______+ {In Japanese}, indicating that the surrender was a terrible thing, and the Japanese soldier would, as I said, commit harry carey, take his own life, before he surrendered, but, of course, in the end that did not happen that way. The Japanese did surrender and most people know about the invasion of Japan, and then the dropping of the atomic bombs and that ended the hostility -- ended the war.

Gary Swanson:

How soon after they captured you did they begin -- did you begin the Bataan Death March?

William S. Allen:

Within -- almost the same time. We were herded on to the main road from San Fernando -- (Panco) That's the county, and began marching along the roadway, but we were -- at night, we were just surrounded by Japanese guards, and the next day, we would again get up and walk, walk, walk, walk, walk.

Gary Swanson:

How far did you walk all together, do you remember?

William S. Allen:

It was about some 60 miles.

Gary Swanson:

And is it true that many of our -- many of the troops were ill, suffering from malaria --

William S. Allen:

Oh, absolutely.

Gary Swanson:

-- dysentery?

William S. Allen:

Malaria and dysentery they were both killers, weakeners. Fortunately I never did contract malaria. I was always on guard. Particularly when I was sleeping, I would put socks on my hands, long sleeved shirts, and left no bare skin. I would use part of the mosquito netting or whatever, so that my face was not exposed when I was sleeping at night, and fortunately I did not contract malaria, but almost three fourths of the fellows that were taken prisoner by the Japanese contracted malaria.

Gary Swanson:

So we must not have had malaria preventives available to you at that time.

William S. Allen:

Well, yes, somewhat. Known as Adabrin. That was before the other preventatives and that was furnished to us by -- by our own troops. It -- it was a limited supply, and soon ran out of that.

Gary Swanson:

So you didn't have enough to be adequately --

William S. Allen:

That's right.

Gary Swanson:

-- prevented.

William S. Allen:

It was just then try to keep from being bitten by mosquitos. It was a killer, malaria. In the prison camps, fellows at night were {knocking}, they just shake their beds. At first, there's a fever comes up, real high fever and chills. Chills and fever, and then a high fever, terrible. And one -- and many fellows died from -- from malaria and dysentery. Filthy living conditions. Not much to eat. One day in the big prison camp, I was told to be on the burial detail, and that's in Cabanatuan -- this was later, but anyway, after I been out on work detail then taken back to Cabanatuan, and we buried 24 dead POWs, and all -- naked, nothing left but skeleton, skin, and bones. And when we got to the burial ground, which was just a bit outside the barbed wire, of course, the Japanese soldiers, guards with us, and I noticed that there were two large pits, graves, however you want to say it, had been dug the previous day, and the -- another fellow and I -- the corpse that we were carrying, I took the corpse by hand and the other fellow took the feet, and we just pitched it over into the open grave, the open pit, burial pit. And 12 in each hole, and then covered up. Most of them had on their dog tags, and it's my understanding that later, after the war was over, sometime later, most of those places were exhumed, and the remains were taken back or somehow identified from the dog tags that were around them.

Gary Swanson:

On the march itself, that lasted, what, ten days?

William S. Allen:

Yes, ten days.

Gary Swanson:

Were the Japanese -- were the guards cruel to the prisoners because of -- if three fourths of the prisoners were suffering from malaria, I'm sure there were many who were not able to keep up.

William S. Allen:

Yes. I say three fourths, I want to clarify that. By the time we were finally freed, malaria and -- still in the Philippines -- malaria kept attacking those that did not -- had not contracted malaria. But anyway, the Japanese -- it was just tough luck for us. They didn't -- they didn't try to help us. We were -- we were just looked upon as bad soldiers because we surrendered. That's what they always told us.

Gary Swanson:

Were they cruel to you though on the march? I mean if a guy couldn't keep up, what would they do if somebody was so ill that he could not move ahead? What did the Japanese do about that?

William S. Allen:

Just let him die in the open field where we stayed overnight. One other time -- well, they kept searching us too. Whatever we might have in our pockets, and somehow they discovered something that two or three of the fellows should not have, and they did shoot two or three of the guys while I was on the Bataan Death March.

Gary Swanson:

So they didn't have much patience for their captives?

William S. Allen:

No patience.

Gary Swanson:

If you couldn't keep up, you just laid there.

William S. Allen:

That's it. That's right. That's right.

Gary Swanson:

Did you ever have to help carry one of our men to hopefully save him?

William S. Allen:

No. I would -- did not do that because I hardly had enough strength to keep myself moving. I needed -- it was -- maybe that's a cruel way to look at it, but it was survival of the fittest and --

Gary Swanson:

Sure.

William S. Allen:

As long as I could keep going, that's what I did.

Gary Swanson:

Sure. Okay. So that went on for ten days, and I'm sure it was brutally hot.

William S. Allen:

Yes.

Gary Swanson:

And with the men sick and -- did they feed you anything at all, food and water?

William S. Allen:

No. Occasionally along the way, the Filipinos would feed us. They didn't like the Japanese. They tried to help us, the Americans, even though we were prisoners of the Japanese. They fed us from time to time.

Gary Swanson:

But obviously they couldn't feed that many.

William S. Allen:

No, no.

Gary Swanson:

And they had to do it, I'm sure, undetected. They would probably -- the Japanese would retaliate against them I'm sure.

William S. Allen:

They wouldn't put up with anything that -- yes,I say, "they," the Japanese. They were in the nature of kings. They were -- we were prisoners, and that's the way we were treated.

Gary Swanson:

How many men died on the march, do you know --

William S. Allen:

No, I do not know that.

Gary Swanson:

History probably has that recorded. I don't know that either.

William S. Allen:

But actually the big dying took place in the several years that we were in the -- held as prisoners of the Japanese. Filthy living -- [video ends]

William S. Allen:

[Video starts] -- starvation and just a terrible situation to be living in.

Gary Swanson:

Okay. So you survived the march, and they took you to a railroad station. Is that where you marched to?

William S. Allen:

Yes. That's San Fernando. That's at the -- sort of the top of the entryway to the Bataan Peninsula. We rode in freight cars from there to Cabanatuan, the big prison camp. Actually, the first was O'Donnell known as O'Donnell prison camp, but it was up in the same direction as Cabanatuan.

Gary Swanson:

Was that a long train ride?

William S. Allen:

Probably two or three days.

Gary Swanson:

No food. No water. Hot inside the boxcars.

William S. Allen:

Correct. Correct. Right.

Gary Swanson:

So some men probably died there if they'd been ill.

William S. Allen:

Yes.

Gary Swanson:

So you got to the prison camp and what happened?

William S. Allen:

They searched us. They were always searching us. Then they told us that we would be there until the war ended. They would always let us know that we were their prisoners, and that we would take orders from them, the Japanese soldiers.

Gary Swanson:

So how long were you in that camp then?

William S. Allen:

I did not stay too long. They asked for volunteers to go out on work details, and what I -- really am talking about is out away from the big prison camp, and that's -- that's where I spent about two and a half years of the time that I was a prisoner. Out away from the big prison camps. I think that -- it probably saved -- helped me live through the whole experience because out on work details away from the big prison camps, we were able to get food. Not only which was prepared by our own cooks but also the Filipinos were very kind, and they -- they would bring food, but it always had to pass through the Japanese guards.

Gary Swanson:

How big a work detail were you a part of?

William S. Allen:

At least a hundred fellows.

Gary Swanson:

Did you then kind of have a little village there, built some huts?

William S. Allen:

Yes, well, we were in barracks and had been -- our army barracks or the Philippine Army scouts. So we were -- we were furnished cots, army cots, with mosquito netting, and as I say I think the fact that I was taken away from the big prison camp and out, even though the work was hard, doing -- reconstructing bridges that we had blown prior to our surrender, and then also work on air fields, various kinds of manual labor jobs.

Gary Swanson:

Did we lose -- did you lose men out of that 150 during that period of time, either of malaria or dysentery or --

William S. Allen:

Yes, we did. There would be burial details, right.

Gary Swanson:

Then they'd bring in some more --

William S. Allen:

Correct.

Gary Swanson:

-- to make the crew the right size?

William S. Allen:

Right.

Gary Swanson:

So that went on for two and a half years?

William S. Allen:

Correct.

Gary Swanson:

Did you -- did you ever give up hope that you would be liberated?

William S. Allen:

No, fortunately, I didn't. It was tough, but I did not lose hope, and as I say, I did not contract malaria and -- so my attitude, my mental health was better than other fellows, other POWs that were sick with malaria and dysentery, loose bowels, terrible.

Gary Swanson:

Could you recover from malaria without treatment? Would the disease run its course?

William S. Allen:

I don't think fellows ever got over malaria. Yet, after the war ended and getting back home, some of them lived quite some time thereafter. I remember a very personal friend of mine known as Ethan Campbell, was one of the Missouri Air National Guard fellows sent to the Philippines and taken prisoner, and he contracted malaria, and during his POW days he almost died but -- as I say, he lived through it, and he lived until 1980, and I happen to know that because my wife and I went to Saint Joe, Missouri, just over the last few days, and while we were up there, Declaration Day, Memorial Day, put flowers on my parents' graves and other relatives and also this fellow, Ethan Campbell, and it said right on his headstone in the graveyard he had died in 1980. I knew it was back then, but I did not remember the exact date. But it was malaria, it was the weakener that he passed on.

Gary Swanson:

What was the worst day you spent on that work detail in the prison camp for two and a half year, do you remember?

William S. Allen:

If I may say so without directly answering your question, when I was taken from the Philippines, supposedly to Japan, we were put on a -- not a passenger ship, but a cargo ship, and put down into the cargo hold --

Gary Swanson:

Were they so-called hell ships?

William S. Allen:

Right. Right. I was on that. We were supposed to get to Japan within five or six days, and it was nearly a month we had not reached Japan. Part of the time we were over at Hong Kong, in the harbor in Hong Kong, and I even happened to be up on deck -- they allowed a few of us to go up on deck from the cargo hold, and while I was there on deck, I saw American airplanes bomb the city of Hong Kong. Bombing Japanese, of course, back in those days. And then we were finally taken and unloaded on what was known back in those days as Formosa, it's now known as Taiwan, and I was held prisoner there three or four months, and in January of '45, I, along with other POWs, were loaded onto another ship and taken to Japan, and then I was in Japan in January of '45 until the war ended.

Gary Swanson:

What did you do in Japan?

William S. Allen:

I was assigned as a helper in a railroad car repair shop in -- way in northern Japan, north of Tokyo up in the mountains and it was -- I was there when -- when the atomic bombs where dropped on Japan. Of course, we were maybe a thousand miles distance from Tokyo, so we did not know that the atomic bombs were dropped, but we were soon told that's what had happened, and we no longer were required to work. We were waiting. And fortunately American airplanes came over and dropped food and clothing to us.

Gary Swanson:

Is that right? Did the Japanese there abandon you?

William S. Allen:

Yes, they did.

Gary Swanson:

They --

William S. Allen:

They disappeared.

Gary Swanson:

They disappeared.

William S. Allen:

The soldiers, our guards, they left. We had Japanese civilians around but -- American airplanes dropping of food and clothing -- they dropped messages to us to be patient, that we would be taken out of there and got back in -- we would be getting back into American hands.

Gary Swanson:

How many of you numerically were in the area where you were working in the railroad yards?

William S. Allen:

Possibly a hundred workers in this car repair shop.

Gary Swanson:

I wonder how they knew you were there, the Americans, I mean.

William S. Allen:

I think -- well, I think they learned that through Japanese channels after the dropping of the atomic bomb and then began --

Gary Swanson:

So was it after the armistice was signed that you were set free or before even, before it was signed on the Missouri?

William S. Allen:

We were in the prison camp when that happened. Still in northern Japan.

Gary Swanson:

So you were just waiting for the Americans to come get you is what it amounted to probably.

William S. Allen:

Correct. That's right.

Gary Swanson:

All during this time, Bill, that you were a prisoner of the Japanese, what was the total amount of time, three and a half years?

William S. Allen:

Three years and five months.

Gary Swanson:

Three and a half years. Were there any light moments? I mean, were there any moments when you were hopeful and buoyant and --

William S. Allen:

I would say yes because I did not contract malaria, and I didn't have serious intestinal problems, like dysentery and diarrhea. I was always able to be up and around and happy to -- each new day to still be living, and it was a great day when we were told that the war had ended and that we would get back in American hands. Clothing and food was dropped to us from American airplanes while I was still in this prison camp in northern Japan. Actually, the Japanese told us that we would be eventually taken back into American hands. We went from the interior of the island, where I was located north of Tokyo, to Sindhi, which is a port city, and there I was actually gotten back in American hands --

Gary Swanson:

The Japanese took you there?

William S. Allen:

Well, yes, they -- by train. By passenger train.

Gary Swanson:

So it's the civilian Japanese government that took you and not the military?

William S. Allen:

Yes. So we would know where to board from the train from time to time.

Gary Swanson:

Do you remember your emotions when you saw that first American soldier or sailor on that ship that came to take you away?

William S. Allen:

Well, absolutely, and particularly the food that we were given on board the American navy ship. Just, we were told to be careful and not eat too much, and that we might cause intestinal problems. But it was a great day when we got back on American ship and sailed down from Sindhi into Tokyo Bay, and quite a sight that I saw taken from Tokyo Bay to Atsugi Air Base which is probably 15 miles from the harbor, Tokyo Bay. Pass through the City of Tokyo and viewing the intense results of the incendiary bombs, not atomic bombs, but the incendiaries and the old city of Tokyo -- in those days, there were a lot of wooden buildings, but they were burned from the incendiary bombs, and it was just a mass of burned out buildings, as we passed it, probably 25 miles through Tokyo.

Gary Swanson:

What was the reaction that you might have gotten from the Japanese civilians when they saw these Americans? Were you -- were they --

William S. Allen:

I think they accepted the fact that the war had ended. That the surrender had occurred, and there was never any hostility on their part. In fact, even where I was working in the Japanese railroad car repair shop in northern Japan, I -- one of the Japanese civilians that I was working under was decent to me, and I even handed him a couple of food items as we were leaving this little town in northern Japan, and I gave him my name and address back in Saint Joe, Missouri, and I later had contact from the Japanese -- a younger fellow, and he came -- he even came here and he stayed a night in my home -- [video ends]

William S. Allen:

[Video starts] -- a little fellow back in those days. That was ten years or so after the war was over.

Gary Swanson:

I don't expect the Japanese people that are working in the factory side by side with you in the railroad repair were probably eating a whole lot better than you were, were they?

William S. Allen:

That's correct. Certainly there was a shortage of food.

Gary Swanson:

But they gave you enough to keep you going but not enough to --

William S. Allen:

That's about right.

Gary Swanson:

-- meet your needs, I expect.

William S. Allen:

That's right.

Gary Swanson:

You were gone three and a half years. Tell me how you -- what happened so that you received the Purple Heart? How did you get injured?

William S. Allen:

Well, I was still in the Philippines, and as a prisoner of the Japanese, the Americans began bombing Manila area. That's were I was held as a prisoner in a work camp -- one of the U.S. Navy Corsair, that's a carrier airplane -- ship. It's on a carrier ship, Unites States Navy and the -- he was bombing the Japanese, but I was with the Japanese, and I could see the -- this airplane that had lots of propellers on in those days, that was before jets, diving down. I was not inside the barracks building, but I was outside near it, and I could see the big bomb underneath the American Navy dive bomber as he was diving down on -- supposedly I thought he was going to hit me, but as I say I saw the bomb, and he -- the pilot released the bomb and then pulled off to the right, and the last I looked I could see that bomb falling, and I thought for sure it was going to hit me, but I -- there was a cover there near me, and I just pushed my head underneath the cover, but when the bomb hit, it was -- it hit the barracks building, which was the aim of the pilot, but there was lots of debris and shrapnel from the bomb that was flying in the air and hitting, and I took a hit in the back, right at the belt line just to the right of my spine. It's a good thing it didn't hit my spine -- certainly could have been paralyzed. It bled and I reported that when I got back in American hands that I was injured during the American bombing by the American Navy of the Japanese -- bombing the Japanese, and I was told that I was entitled to the Purple Heart because it did bleed. If it had not bled -- well, that was the rule anyway. It was right -- it hit right at my spine just to the right of my spine by the short rib and --

Gary Swanson:

To the best of your knowledge when you were on this hell ship going to the Philippines to Japan, to the best of your knowledge were you ever -- were American submarines ever around trying to sink you?

William S. Allen:

Absolutely. We could hear them torpedoing the convoy -- other ships. We were not the only ship in the convoy, and I could hear them, the explosions and -- and the depth charges that were dropped to ward off -- by the depth charges of the Japanese to ward off the submarines. Yes, indeed. It was a terrible time.

Gary Swanson:

So you were lucky they didn't get your ship.

William S. Allen:

Absolutely. They did get other ships.

Gary Swanson:

They did get other ships with men in the holes.

William S. Allen:

That's right and many of our Saint Joe fellows was Air National Guard were on other ships at other times and lost their lives that way.

Gary Swanson:

How many of the fellows who went to -- from Saint Joe to the Philippines with you as part of the Missouri National Guard -- how many went and how many ultimately survived?

William S. Allen:

One was killed on Bataan after the war -- after Pearl Harbor, after the war began by a Japanese sniper. This -- of the 31, one was killed before our surrender, 16 died while we were POWs, prisoners of the Japanese, 14 returned after World War II ended, got back home, and they were -- many of them were ailing, sick, had malaria, that kind of thing, and they, of course, began dying off, and I mentioned that friend of mine, very good friend, Ethan Campbell, had malaria, and he died in 1980, and as of now, I'm one of four of the 31 still living. Two of them are in the Saint Joe area. One of the four lives on the east coast of Florida, and I, make the fourth one still living.

Gary Swanson:

Four out of 31 --

William S. Allen:

Correct.

Gary Swanson:

-- are still living and less than half came back. Some almost 60 years ago.

William S. Allen:

That's correct. That's correct.

Gary Swanson:

When did your parents get notified that you were a prisoner of the Japanese? You were gone for three and a half years.

William S. Allen:

Yes.

Gary Swanson:

How did they know your plight?

William S. Allen:

Through the American Red Cross. They got word that I was a POW -- prisoner of the Japanese, and, of course, they were praying almost constantly that I would finally survive. Well, always -- my dad and mother always were attending a Methodist Church, and I still attend a Methodist Church. That's a tradition we have. We had a minister -- my father's father was a Methodist minister, so it's in our blood, in our family.

Gary Swanson:

So you came back and -- you -- so you came back on the ship, where did you land?

William S. Allen:

At San Francisco.

Gary Swanson:

And did they let you come home right away on a leave?

William S. Allen:

No, well, we were -- I was, along with others hospitalized for a short time in San Francisco, and then put on a train and taken from San Francisco to -- to an Army hospital at Clinton, Iowa. It was a World War II Army hospital, and there I was a hospital patient, but from time to time was allowed to return to my home and my parent's home in Saint Joseph, Missouri, but a very nice thing happened to me while I was a patient in that World War II Army hospital in Clinton, Iowa. I met a young lady who's a school teacher in the city schools of Clinton but doing volunteer Red Cross nurse aid work in that army hospital, and her name was Maxine Bendar (ph), and that lady -- about a year thereafter became my spouse, my wife, and we have been married many, many years. We are fortunate to still be living. We have two daughters, five grandchildren.

Gary Swanson:

How many years have you been married?

William S. Allen:

56 years.

Gary Swanson:

56 going on 57.

William S. Allen:

Yes, in December, third, we will observe 57 years of married life.

Gary Swanson:

That's wonderful. Now, describe if you can, if you can remember, your very first reunion with your mom and dad when you came back from Japan.

William S. Allen:

Yes. After I was in this hospital, World War II Army Hospital in Clinton, Iowa, couple -- three months I was told that I could go home for Christmas, and by train, but after the Christmas holiday, I had to go back to the hospital, and I came by train to Kansas City, Missouri, and there my parents were at the Union Station, as it's called still in Kansas City, Missouri, and I was reunited with my parents. A great day. A beautiful time in my life. To get back. Be with my parents.

Gary Swanson:

By then had either of your sisters married, or had your brother come back from Alaska?

William S. Allen:

Yes, both my sisters had -- were married. My younger sister married a pilot at Saint Joseph, Missouri. Rosecrans Field, back in World War II days was turned into an Army -- Army Air Force, back in those days, Army Air Corps pilot training place, and she met one of the pilot training fellows there. They were later married. She is still living. She is a widow now. Her husband passed on. But he stayed in the Army -- the Air Force and retired. She lives in Lompoc, California, which is a town near Vandenberg Air Force Base. And I communicate with her from time to time and see her sometimes. One of our daughters lives in the San Francisco area, and a year or so ago we visited out there and while, in San Francisco area we made a trip down to San Diego where one of our granddaughters is a student at the University of California in San Diego, and on my trip -- on our trip from San Francisco area to San Diego, we stopped and visited with my sister. She's -- she has two sons and several grandchildren living in California.

Gary Swanson:

So you got out of the hospital finally in Clinton, and then what did you do?

William S. Allen:

My -- I was --

Gary Swanson:

You found your sweetheart. You were not married yet, but --

William S. Allen:

No, I was on -- called on terminal leave, and while I was recuperating and living in my parent's home in Saint Joe, Missouri, it came up that there would be an Air National Guard unit formed at Rosecrans Field, the city airport for Saint Joe, Missouri, and it was -- I was informed they wanted personnel to work in the office to help get it organized. And as I say, I was still on terminal leave, but I immediately made contact there, and I began working full-time even before I was discharged from the Army, and there I not only worked there, but I enlisted with the part of the Air National Guard unit at Saint Joe, Rosecrans field, Saint Joe, Missouri, and was at the time we were married, Maxine and I were married, and then the Korean War came along and they said they were mobilizing all Air National Guard to take them into the Air Force to serve in the Korean war, and I just -- almost screamed, I can't take it. I can't go. I've been in that part of the world. Four years of my life. Let me out of this Air National Guard and sure enough, we were flown out from Saint Joe to Olathe Naval Air Station, it was still going back in those days, and examined by doctors there, and I just screamed, I said, I can't take it, let me out, and I was discharged. They were mobilized -- the unit was taken into the Air Force, but I was discharged, and I had been married -- Maxine and I had been married and had two little daughters, and I said I wanted to go back to school. So we eventually -- I was discharged. We eventually went to KU, University of Kansas

Gary Swanson:

So you stayed right in the area here?

William S. Allen:

Yes, yes, and became students. Maxine, my wife, had two years of college and -- we both -- we had our little daughters with us fortunately. We lived in a trailer for two years, not on campus, but thereafter I've -- one of my friends at the law school said he was leaving his -- graduating from law school, and he was house parent for what was known in as McCook Hall in those days, which was men's dormitory on the east wing of the University of Kansas football stadium. So I -- [video ends]

William S. Allen:

[Video starts] -- got that position, and we lived there in the stadium two years, and while I was completing -- for my four-year degree from the University of Kansas, and then two more years -- actually my third year college was my first year in law school. Anyway, I have six years of college, and have a BA from University of Kansas, Bachelor of Art, and LLB, back in those days, Bachelor of Law, but that since been changed, and I have been awarded the JD, the Juris Doctor degree, from the University of Kansas, so I have three degrees. My wife, Maxine, has two degrees, Bachelor from the School of Education and Masters from the School of Education.

Gary Swanson:

Wonderful. Tell me about your career then. You got out of law school, then what happened?

William S. Allen:

We bought one of the -- while we were still students they sold off -- were selling the barracks buildings at Sunflower Ordnance Works, and which is -- had been housing for people that worked during World War II at the Sunflower Ordnance Plant, and we had the building allotment in Mission -- the City of Mission, Kansas, but they would not allow us to put that barracks building there. The building standards did not meet Mission requirements but Olathe allotted, so we located in Olathe and during the time that we were moving from Lawrence and the football stadium to Olathe we had this building located, and we lived in it a couple of years. Then eventually built a couple of other houses in Olathe which were all former homes and I was elected to three 4-year terms as judge in the magistrate court in the state of -- County of Johnson, State of Kansas, and had a seat in the courthouse as I recall 12 years. During that time, Maxine was teaching school in the City of Mission, Shawnee Mission School District, and 1967 while I was in my third four-year term as judge in magistrate court, Maxine was elected to the first founding board of trustees Johnson County Community College. {Coughs} -- Excuse me. And her picture hangs in the hallway near President Carlsen's office. Her name is on a metal plaque there with other names, and I tell her she's a part of history.

Gary Swanson:

Indeed she is.

William S. Allen:

Part of the history of Johnson County and Johnson County Community College.

Gary Swanson:

How many years have you been a member of the bar in the State of Kansas?

William S. Allen:

I was admitted to practice law in 1957, and until this date, I'm still a member of the bar in the State of Kansas but we are retired.

Gary Swanson:

Well, you certainly had a very interesting military career, needless to say, being a prisoner of the Japanese and participating in the Bataan Death March, being bombed by our own troops. Then a great career, college education, three degrees for yourself, two for your wife, and a very active legal career and serving as a judge in Johnson County, Kansas. That's a wonderful career. How about your family? Tell me about your family.

William S. Allen:

Maxine and I have two daughters and five grandchildren. Our daughters have not only become mothers, but also they have followed in their mother's steps being teachers. Our daughter Linda, the oldest of our two daughters, was a graduate of the University of Kansas and she went back to the high school, Olathe High School in those days, now there's north, south, east, west high school. Anyway, she was an English teacher three years after her graduation from the University of Kansas. In the meantime she married one of the students that she met at KU when she was a student, a fellow from Wichita and -- he took his graduate at the University of Kansas, and he took a job with Levi Strauss Corporation, and after -- the teacher, Maxine -- my daughter's teaching career in Olathe High School, then she and her husband began traveling, and they have two daughters, and the daughters were born in Puerto Rico while her husband, the father of the children, was working for Levi Strauss, but in -- for an assignment. I've seen the birth certificates of our granddaughters, those two, and they are in Spanish. The language of Puerto Rico.

Gary Swanson:

They live on the west coast now?

William S. Allen:

Yes, indeed. Even -- San Francisco was the headquarters of Levi Strauss, and they lived in South America after Puerto Rico, but then back to San Francisco. Then Levi Strauss practically cut down -- they no longer have manufacturing in United States. It's all done overseas. And so his job ended, but he's now with the Star Wars thing, Lucas. He's working with that in the San Francisco area and Linda, our daughter, is teaching in Vallejo, California which is one of the cities around San Francisco Bay, and since she's been in California, she's gotten a master's degree at one of the state universities in the San Francisco area, and her major, the major field for her master's degree, English as a second language.

Gary Swanson:

What are her children's names?

William S. Allen:

Elena and Sarah, and they're adults. They're in their twenties, but they have not married. They're both students. One, the older one graduated from the University of Oregon, came back home, San Francisco area. Anyway, she made application for employment with a lawyer firm in one of the cities there in the San Francisco area, and she has been working there, but she's decided she doesn't like this paperwork, so she wants to work with children, so she's soon quitting, and she's going to reenter school, university. She's going to enter University of California in San Francisco area. That is south from there, and she hopes to get a teaching degree.

Gary Swanson:

Well, like mother -- like grandmother, like mother, like daughter.

William S. Allen:

And the other granddaughter is -- she's a Spanish major, and she is in Spain at this time. She's a student University of California in San Diego. She's taking her third year in Spain. Espana.

Gary Swanson:

Espana.

William S. Allen:

Habla espanol.

Gary Swanson:

How about your other daughter?

William S. Allen:

Yes. Our other daughter, Brenda, is the mother of three children, our grandchildren, two boys and a girl, and Brenda did not complete KU, the university of -- School of Education, but her three children were born in the meantime, so she no longer attended university, but, anyway, she's now living in Florida, and she has again -- she has continued her education and gotten her bachelor's degree. She is a schoolteacher in the Tampa area. And --

Gary Swanson:

What are her children's names?

William S. Allen:

She has two daughters -- excuse me. One daughter and two sons. They -- the daughter's name is Nicole. They have Benjamin and Steven our -- her sons, my grandsons, and they, like birds, have flown away from Florida where their mother is located. One is pursuing, actually, he hopes to get a doctorate in a journalism major at the University of Florida at Gainesville. The other grandson is working in the computer field, investments, in Saint Louis, Missouri, and the other granddaughter, of my daughter Brenda, she is now studying at the University of Rhode Island, Providence. She already has a degree, but she wants to go into building design or something of that kind.

Gary Swanson:

Well, that's a wonderful family. Great military career, a difficult one, certainly a very tremendous civilian career, sat on the bench for 12 years, member of the bar almost 50, and then the wonderful family that you have. Judge, that is absolutely terrific.

William S. Allen:

And each new day that I wake up and live another day, I believe is a gift from above.

Gary Swanson:

Amen to that. Well, show me some of your medals that you have, please.

William S. Allen:

Yes. The one at the top here is the one that's --

Gary Swanson:

Yes, well, that's the Purple Heart. Everybody knows that one.

William S. Allen:

Purple Heart, and I was wounded by our own American airplanes, and was -- after being a prisoner of war, and I was -- while I was a POW, but after I got back in American hands, I was told I was in entitled to a Purple Heart, so I was --

Gary Swanson:

So you have it. So what's -- about the middle insignia?

William S. Allen:

That's the shoulder patch that we wore in the Philippines. The Philippine Department of the Army back in those days it was called. It's the seahorse. It has a Latin name. I can't give you that but --

Gary Swanson:

It's all right.

William S. Allen:

That's --

Gary Swanson:

And you got a couple of medals down there, the Bronze Star and another one.

William S. Allen:

Good Conduct Medal.

Gary Swanson:

Well, I know you're a good guy.

William S. Allen:

{Laughs} You're kind to this old guy.

Gary Swanson:

Then will you hold up these others please if you would.

William S. Allen:

Well, it's the various places where I served.

Gary Swanson:

Yes.

William S. Allen:

In the military being one is -- while I was a member of the Army when World War II began, the -- another -- in the Army in the United States and also in the Philippines.

Gary Swanson:

Pacific Theater of the Philippines, yes.

William S. Allen:

Yes.

Gary Swanson:

Well, Judge, it's been a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much for telling us your story.

William S. Allen:

Arigatou, to you, sir. That's thank you in Japanese.

Gary Swanson:

De nada. De nada.

William S. Allen:

Si, senor. Hasta otro vez. Until another time. I studied Spanish in junior college in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

Gary Swanson:

Glad you did.

William S. Allen:

Yes, indeed.

Gary Swanson:

Thank you again, Judge. As a little postscript, here we have a picture of Bill along with President Harry Truman, just retired, and some other prisoners of war who asked President Truman to come to Saint Joe where they personally thanked him for dropping the atomic bomb because as prisoners of war they'd been threatened that if the Americans invaded the mainland, they would all be killed, and it was in the confusion and the certainty of the end of the war following the dropping of the bomb that they fortunately they didn't carry out that threat. So that's Bill -- I'm going to zoom in on him here. That's him on the far left. You used to be a handsome guy, Bill.

William S. Allen:

{Laughs} You're kind to an old guy. My hair has changed colors since those days.

Gary Swanson:

Thanks so much for the time we spent together today.

William S. Allen:

Si, Senor.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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