POW from WWII honored
A ceremony renaming a portion of U.S. 380 from Graham eastward to the limits of Bryson was held on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Friday, December 7, memorializing a former Young and Jack County resident.
The highway was renamed the Henry H. King Memorial Highway. King was serving in the Army when he was taken a prisoner that infamous day in December.
He was born to Ellis and Maud May King in Jack County on March 6, 1918. A Bryson resident at the time of his enlistment in 1941, he was an Army Air Corp mechanic stationed at the Army Air Force’s Clark Air Base, about 50 miles north of Manilla in the Philippine Islands when the attacks began.
Due to the time difference, it was already December 8 in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded. For three months, the American and Filipino armies resisted the Japanese attacks before running out of rations. They surrendered 75,000 troops and the Bataan Peninsula on May 7, 1942.
In a letter to the Young County Commissioners, Allen Emmons, Past Commander of Post 8567 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States wrote, “[King] was captured along with all the survivors and subsequently forced to march almost 100 kilometers, with no food and little water, in scorching heat, and staged at the end of the march in an area known as Camp O’Donnell. He suffered greatly from malnutrition, and inhuman treatment at the hand of his Japanese captors.”
“My wife, Mabel Moore Emmons, first met Mr. King at a Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States function at Post 8567, Graham, Texas. They immediately warmed to each other by reason of both had been POWs during WWII. My wife was a child when the Japanese invaded the Philippines,” wrote Emmons.
Though thousands would die, King survived the trek and was transferred to Camp Fukuoka #17, about 40 miles north of Nagasaki, Japan where he would spend the next 42 months as a prisoner of war, working in a coal mine beneath the Ariake Sea— until the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
According to Emmons, King was working under the sea at the time of the explosion and was unaware of the bomb until shift replacements never arrived at the coal mine. Upon exiting the mine, King was “amazed that the camp seemed to be abandoned; no guards.”
After his rescue, King was honorably discharged on May 27, 1946, and returned to Bryson.
“[He] became very active in Post 8567, VFW, and enjoyed the advantage of close doctors and friends. Mr. King became bedridden as he advanced in years, but even while prone in his bed, he always had a ready smile and a strong manly handshake. Mr. King was 96 years young when he passed away, and was laid to rest in the cemetery in Bryson, Texas, with full military honors, befitting a Hero of his stature. He is sorely missed by all who knew him,” Emmons wrote.
King died on Oct. 7, 2014, in Graham.
Emmons first began the work of having the highway dedicated to King in 2014, but due to the end of the 84th Legislative session quickly coming to an end, District 68 Rep. Drew Springer advised to wait for the 85th Legislative session.
In the summer of 2016, both Young and Jack County commissioners passed resolutions in favor of renaming the highway.
Filed by Springer on Nov. 14, 2016, and passed by both the Texas House and Senate, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 216 on March 26, renaming the highway in honor of a hometown hero.