Kenneth L. Waller
Bataan Prisoner of War
Kenneth Leroy Waller was born January 13, 1920 in Chickasha, Oklahoma. His parents Gussie and Elver Waller moved the family from Oklahoma to central California when Kenneth Waller was three years old; brother Donald was born seven years later. Waller graduated from high school in Fresno, California in 1938, and went to work for the U.S. Geologic Survey in Coalinga, California.
On September 9, 1941 anticipating U.S. entry into the war, Kenneth Waller joined the medical department of the Army, requesting duty in the Philippines. He sailed on the U.S.S. Cleveland from San Francisco, landed in the Philippines October 23, 1941, and was stationed at Fort Mills Medical Detachment in Corregidor, Philippines. Waller worked as a corpsman in the hospital in Corregidor as a night orderly until he volunteered to go to Bataan to replace nurses who would be evacuated due to the possibility of an Allied surrender.
The Allies surrendered Bataan to the Japanese Army April 9, 1942, a few days after Waller arrived in Bataan. For a month the Army soldiers were left alone to live and care for the wounded with very little food and no medicine. After a month the Japanese Army moved the prisoners to a former Philippine Army training camp in Cabanatuan, Philippines, near the “Bataan Death March” prison camp, Camp O’Donnell. Waller continued his work as an orderly in the “Zero Ward,” known for the terminal nature of its patients, tending to prisoners with malaria, beriberi, and diphtheria.
After a month Waller and 200 medical personnel prisoners were shipped to Bilabao Prison in Manila, and then transferred to a sugar boat sailing to Formosa to be loaded with sugar. Those who survived the trip landed in Moji on the island of Kyushu, Japan. Waller, a doctor, and two other American soldiers were moved to Fukuoka “#8 prison camp” (also known as Fukuoka #5) in Omine, Japan, where they joined nearly 500 English, Dutch and Australian prisoners working in the coal mine. On August 9, 1945 the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan; Waller and the other prisoners could see the flash and the mushroom cloud from their camp. Japan surrendered in September of 1945, and Waller and the surviving POWs were released from the camp and allowed to find their way home.
After the war, Waller returned to the United States, where he was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honour and was awarded the Silver Star. He later married Mary Alice Smith, had three daughters, and worked in the oil fields of Taft, California. In 1979 Waller and his wife Mary travelled to the Philippines to visit the places where he was imprisoned during the war. Kenneth Waller died March 9, 1993 in Kern, California.
California Death Index, 1940-1997, ancestry.com World War II Prisoners of War, 1941-1946, ancestry.com
U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, ancestry.com Sandy J. McKennon Kenneth L. Waller