The Heroic WW II Adventure of One Salt Lake Man by Daniel S. Short Simply Seniors News
About any day of the week you can find Air Force retired Master Sgt. Ted Kampf with his friends at River’s Bend Senior Center in Rose Park playing poker and enjoying chocolate. At 96-years-old he is enjoying the good life. One that after reading this, I’m sure you’ll agree, he certainly earned. Back in 1921 life was quite different. The seventh of 12 children, Ted was born, on his family’s Montana ranch with his dad handling the delivery. Unbeknownst to Ted, growing up in Montana was preparing him for experiences he could never anticipate. A work hard and do your best attitude would prove to save his life many times over. In 1940 Ted did what so many young American men of the time did. He voluntarily joined the military, in his case the Army. Not long after, Ted found himself performing searchlight patrol duty in the Philippines. He was 19 years old. “Things started off peaceful and we were not armed while performing this duty,” Ted recalled. “This changed as soon as the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. The next day we were all armed with rifles and things were going to be different. I even had a six shooter on my hip!” Then, in January 1942, things changed dramatically as the Japanese began bombing the base where Ted was stationed. “The Japanese invaded us three times and we stood our ground,” said Ted. “The Japanese general threatened that if we did not surrender they would behead all of us once they captured us. Soon thereafter 1,600 men from the base were captured and shoved into the cramped bow of an old freighter ship as prisoners.” Who could have imagined the trials that would follow? With American submarines in pursuit, the freighter went from one Western Pacific island to the next ending up in Hong Kong, followed by Taiwan, or Formosa as it was known then. The scourge and sickness aboard the ship was rampant and the men were removed from the ship and given some time to partially recover from their illnesses. “Because of the sickness I came off the ship in bad shape,” Ted remembered. “After six months of healing we were back on the ships again heading to mainland Japan.” “There were about 10,000 of us gathered together and only one water spigot,” Ted said about the situation. “We all gathered in the morning to get our daily water from that one spigot.” Change however, was on the horizon. “They came and said they needed 300 men to go to another island to build an airstrip,” Ted said. “Damn, if they didn’t call my name out.” These 300 men worked to build this airstrip and as they were nearing completion they took them and split them into two groups of 150 men each. “I hate to say it, but after the air strip was built, the air-raid sirens went off and the other 150 men were driven into this air-raid shelter that had one opening at the end,” Ted shared as the emotions clearly set in. “They drove those men in there and dumped a 50-gallon drum of gasoline at the entrance behind them and lit it on fire. “If any of those men tried to get out and escape they would shoot them,” Ted said. “About 11 soldiers got out of there in time to jump off the nearby cliff into the sea. Then an American sub came by to pick them up.” Among those that escaped was Nielson, a friend of Ted’s from Ogden, and another Utah man named McGuire. In that both have passed, as far as he knows, of those 300, Ted is the only remaining Utah survivor. “[Nielson] had quite a few bullets in him,” Ted reflected. “But their bullets were quite a bit smaller than ours, so he lived through that.” The Japanese were slow to release the captives’ names from the assault on the Philippine island where Ted was stationed. So, he was listed as missing in action for a year of the more than three years he was a prisoner of war. On August 15, 1945, one day the Japanese surrender, the prisoners found out that the war was over. “We woke up that morning and found that there were no guards, rifles laid about on the ground, and the gates to the prison camp where we were kept were open,” Ted reminisced. “U.S. planes flew overhead dropping 50-gallon drums containing food, candy, clothes, cigarettes, and toilet supplies. We made sure to stay out of the drop area as the drums did not have parachutes on them!” The men commandeered a train to Tokyo and then took a barge from the Tokyo harbor to hospital ships to be treated for their illnesses. The surviving men from his base were sent back to the Philippines after treatment. Soon after, weighing just 78 pounds, Ted found himself on a U.S. troop ship headed for San Francisco. As if he hadn’t been through enough, the ship was chased and threatened by typhoons across the Pacific. Ted followed his service in the Army with an enlistment in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force about a year later. He retired with 20-years of service. He went on to join the police force of the Federal Reserve Bank and worked in Salt Lake City for more than 18 years. After more than 38 years of service to his country, Ted finally retired. He has been living in Rose Park now for more than 50 years. These days Ted spends his time hanging out at River’s Bend, sharing his favorite chocolate while playing cards and drinking coffee with his friends. He often enjoys visits from his daughter who lives in San Antonio, Texas. After this amazing story, and in Ted’s words he ended our visit and said, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”
Myers Sponsors Stockings for Soldiers and Wreaths Across America by Karen Nelson Myers’ Mortuaries
This year the four Myers Mortuaries of Northern Utah will again be participating in the Wreaths Across America program, as well as the Stockings for Soldiers and their K-9 units. Myers is proud to honor our military each year. Wreaths Across America started in 1992 when 5000 Christmas wreaths were laid at Arlington National Cemetery. Last year wreaths were placed on all 245,000 gravestones in the cemetery and 1.2 mil wreaths were placed at 1,280 other locations. Myers began working with Wreaths Across America in 2010. Along with the local VFW, and other military organizations, Myers places seven ceremonial wreaths at 24 cemeteries in Northern Utah, as well as placing wreaths on hundreds of individual gravesites. For a $15 donation anyone, or any group, can sponsor a wreath to adorn a veteran’s grave. You may buy one to be placed personally, or one you donate to be placed by Myers. The first year Myers participated in Stock- ings for Soldiers we filled 47 stockings, and have since have filled more than 700 stockings in a single year. We realized what a stocking from home could mean to our soldiers abroad, that they are remembered. Myers distributes stockings to area residents and businesses and asks them to fill them with small items such as vitamins, chewing gum, crossword puzzles, lip balm, etc. It is our hope to fill more than 700 stock- ings this year. We are also filling K-9 stockings with cooling collars, eye drops, mats, boots, etc. If you are interested in supporting either of these great programs, please call the Myers Mortuary near you. All donations must be collected by November 20. This is a great project for scouts, 4H, companies, schools and clubs. Wreaths will be placed in Box Elder County and Ogden December 16, as well as a a ceremony at the George Whalen Veterans’ Home the same day. For more information about these programs, or to sponsor a wreath, you can go online at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org or www.adoptaghost.org.
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