<--Back to Artifacts

Corporal Ernest McKinney's Mess Kit

This mess kit belonged to Corporal Ernest Lee McKinney. A friend in camp etched the drawing. Kathryn F. Verley, daughter:

“My father Ernest Lee McKinney was inducted in the U.S. Army on April 25, 1941 in Tacoma, Washington and received his training at Fort Lewis, Washington.  He was assigned to HQ Company – 194th Tank Battalion, Medical Detachment and his overseas duty was the Philippine Islands.  His engagements included the Battle of Luzon and Battle of Bataan.  He was captured by the Japanese on April 9, 1942 and started his 'Death March' at Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  The POW’s encountered Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor and the U.S. artillery firing back, they were basically caught in a crossfire with many men loosing their lives.

He was in prison camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan #1. In March of 1944 he was transported to Japan with 200 other Medical personnel aboard the Kenwa Maru one of the infamous 'Hell Ships' for slave labor with Mitsubishi.  He said that was the most horrific encounter and human tragedy of the entire experience.  The final prison camp was Fukuoka Dai San (#3B).  Dad said if they had to spend one more winter at Fukuoka Dai San, he knew that most of the men would not survive.  
Liberation came on September 13, 1945 and it took a few weeks for the U.S to arrange transportation for the liberated men.  The men were trucked to a train depot in Nagasaki, the station was gone and just a line of tracks ran up to what was the station house and devastation was everywhere.  The train took them to Okinawa and they flew to the Philippines to a rest camp, here the men were fattened up and awaited orders to be sent back to the States.  
Dad was put on the Klipfontein a Dutch freighter that was not much better than the 'Hell Ship' for accommodations.  He was fattened up and sent home, however he always said, 'they did nothing for our minds'.  I am sure a day did not go by, that he was not haunted by his experiences in Bataan and Japan, I know it was a war he fought all of his life."