Another Tender Sailor's Tale
This is the story of Henry Clay Henderson
His service to his country during WWII
|This story is told in three parts: |
"Official Navy": in the form of naval historical reports;
While the "official Navy" version offers some confirmation of the literal hell that our men went through; and the short comments by Mr. Henderson gives a bit more detail - the diary plunges the reader mercilessly into the reality of man's brutality to man during war.
|Henry Clay Henderson |
with Family in December, 1951
|This is part of the Official Navy Record regarding Prisoners of War held by the Japanese: |
US Submarine Losses Navpers 15,784 1949 issue, WWII.
November 13, 1944, A dispatch originated by Commander Naval Unit, Fourteenth Air Force, stated that a Japanese ship enroute from Manila to Japan with 1800 American prisoners of war had been sunk on October 24, 1944 by an American submarine in a torpedo attack. No other submarines reported the attack, and since USS Shark had given USS Seadragon a contact report only a few hours before the sinking, and could not be raised by radio after that, it can only be assumed that Shark made the attack, and perished during or after it. Five prisoners who survived and subsequently reached China stated that conditions on the prison ship were so intolerable that prisoners prayed for deliverance from their misery by a torpedo or bomb. Because many prisoners of war being transported had been rescued from the water by submarines, US submarines had been instructed to search for Allied survivors in the vicinity of all sinkings of Empire bound Japanese ships. Shark may well have been sunk trying to rescue American prisoners of war. All attempts to contact Shark by radio failed and on November 27, 1944, she was presumed lost.
|Service Record: Henry Clay Henderson |
Texas National Guard
5/ 8/ 1932 - 8/25/ 1933
Troop E 112th Cavalry, 56th Brigade, 36th Division Private First Class.
Havana Cuba, Revolution of June 1934, as Fireman 1st Class, USS Bainbridge. DD246.
USS S40. SS145. Fireman, 1st Class
Shanghai, China, during the Japanese Invasion North China
Submarine Division 203 serving USS Perch SS176,
USS Otus AS-20, USS Canopus AS-9
US Philippines Defense Forces, Cavite, Agaloman Point and Corregidor
Prisoner of War, Imperial Japanese Forces
USS YOG33 Chief Motor Machinist Mate
During the Korean "Police Action."
Transferred to the Fleet Reserve
1962 Listed as "retired"
1. Purple Heart Medal, wounded May 6, 1942.
2. Army Distinguished Unit Badge, with Oak Leaf Cluster.
a. March 31, 1942 through April 9, 1942, Philippine Defense.
b. April 29, through May 6, 1942, Philippine Defense.
Defining a word like "hell" is one thing - living it - quite another...
Henry Henderson's comments about his WWII experience:
When that Damn Yankee, General William Tecumseh Sherman, made the remark "war is Hell" he knew very little of the meaning of the word hell, in that context.
The men fighting in the Philippines in the early part of WWII, that had been taken Prisoner of War by the Japanese Army, knew they would suffer every indignity, live like dogs, and be worked like oxen. They also knew they would be almost starved to death. On October 1, 1944, we marched out of Bilibid prison, in Manila, and were herded on board transports to be moved to Japan, little did we know what a horrible place hell really was.
Our own armed forces started unwittingly slaughtering POW's on these transports as they were being moved to Japan. It would be two weeks before our convoy would see the same unbridled fury as unleashed on the earlier convoys. Before we would arrive at our destination in the Tokyo area, it is estimated that in excess of over 4000 Allied POW's would meet their maker at the hands of our own submarines and aircraft. One transport that sailed with us was sunk by the USS Shark 2, SS-314, and American submarine, claiming the lives of 1850 Allied POW's. Only five survived and were brought to our transport, one of which died three months later. We were so miserable, we prayed that a torpedo or bomb would hit our transport and relieve us of our misery. There was no way that we would be able to escape from the hold we were in, if we sustained a hit. An oil tanker in our convoy was sunk and there could well have been other ships sunk.
About three months later, American fighter/bombers made one hit on the transport we were on, but no one was killed, however several sustained injuries as a result of this bombing.
The trauma these Submariners and pilots suffered, knowing full well the large numbers of allied POWs they were slaughtering must have been unbearable, also the trauma us POWs suffered is far beyond belief.
The American POWs that lived through to the Wars end, were promised promotion up to the level of their contemporaries. The Navy being true blue, denied promotions to a very few of these men for various reasons.
During my rehabilitation leave, I was denied the promotions on the ground that I not physically qualified for promotion to Commissioned Rank. This was a horrible price to pay for a small indiscretion.
I feel I was due these promotions as a result of my original recommendation in 1941, as substantiated by Admiral Eliot Bryant. Due to some oversight, this recommendation was never received by the Navy Department.
Come to think of it, maybe General Sherman was right. War is Hell.
WARNING:The following is extremely graphic
It is the true, unedited and unflinching record of one of man's most atrocious incidents of man's brutallity to other men.
|Henry Clay Henderson's Diary|
|(© 1998 & 2006 the Hank Henderson Estate. Produced here with written permission)|