Summary

Dr. Emken was a Japanese POW for 42 months and survived the Bataan Death March. After the war he became a doctor and professor at the UT Medical Branch.

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 1
Birth:
13 Apr 1918 2
1918 1
Texas 1
Death:
03 Dec 1997 2
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Personal Details

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Person:
Roy L Emken 1
Level of Education: Post-graduate 1
Marital Status: Single, without dependents 1
Birth:
13 Apr 1918 2
1918 1
Texas 1
Male 2
Death:
03 Dec 1997 2
Burial:
Burial Place: Jackson Cemetery, Shelby County Texas 2
Residence:
Place: Galveston County, Texas 1
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World War II 1

Branch:
Army 1
Enlistment Date:
27 Nov 1940 1
Army Branch:
Quartermaster Corps 1
Army Component:
Regular Army (including Officers, Nurses, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted Men) 1
Army Serial Number:
19013409 1
Enlistment Place:
Ft McDowell Angel Island California 1
Enlistment Term:
Enlistment for the Philippine Department 1
Source of Army Personnel:
Civil Life 1
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Occupation:
Stock clerks 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Source Information:
Box Number: 0300 1
Film Reel Number: 3.22 1

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Stories

POW - Bataan Death March

Center, TX

Roy Lee Emken's stepson, Larry Rymal provided me with the following information as we (VFW Post 8904, Center, Texas) prepare to honor him on POW/MIA Day. Friday, September 18, 2009.

The background is that he was in the U.S. Army in the Philippines. The Japanese invaded the Phillipines thus ending and defeating the USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East)--Bataan fell in April 9, 1942, after a three month battle, the Battle of Bataan.

Dr. Roy Lee Emken, along with 75,000 co-patriots, now POWs, was forced to transfer from the battle location to prison sites, all by way of walking.  This was through the tropical environment of the region.  The hike’s extreme punishment is legendary and has been the topic of many movies and books—The Bataan Death March.  Torture was rampant and if aid was offered to a fellow prisoner during the hike, death was highly likely for both.  From WIKIPEDIA:  “... Accounts of being forcibly marched for five to six days with no food and a single sip of water are in postwar archives including filmed reports...”

Roy Emken survived the march, and survived the punishment of being a prisoner of war.  He, along with others, were placed in a slave ship to participate in the whelms of whatever Japanese need there was for labor. In Dr. Emken’s case, he was sent to a large machine shop factory in Tokyo, built especially for turning out locomotive and heavy gears by slaves for the war effort.  He considered himself lucky, as the work itself was interesting.  However, he was barely kept alive, and was constantly tortured.  He sought to maintain his skills and value in order to remain alive, thus decreasing the torture.  He had many horrific memories, but the one he frequently mentioned was the cold, the chronic constant cold.

As the years progressed, he participated with other POWs in maintaining their health and value as laborers.  Infection was rampant with no medical aid. He frequently told stories of appendectomies done using sharpened spoons, for example.  He mentioned how boiled fat that was still liquefied was salted and then poured between metal shackles and inflamed skin. This seemed to help. Many POWs and their skin had allergic reactions to the metal, similar to how folks today react to metal watches. If you have a skin reaction to your watch, imagine not ever being able to take it off.  When Dr. Roy Emken’s arms and legs were viewed, the scars were so prominent.

Apparently bottles were an easy find. Dr. Emken mentioned that water was always gathered in bottles and boiled.  The water bottles were then hidden way on shelves, far superior than any of the parasite-infested water that the Japanese offered.

As the war came to an end, the guards told the prisoners that they would no longer be their guards and that the war was over.  Very soon later, the U.S. Army arrived at the machine shop and began medical procedures and debriefings.  Dr. Roy Emken and the survivors soon were to begin their journey home.  Telegrams were sent, announcing his survival.  The war is over—the war is over.

Dr. Emken had a complete change of interest after the war, compared to his University of Texas interests before the war.  He wanted to be an engineer in physics.  Instead, because of what he learned regarding the beauty and miracle of the human body, he sought to become a physician.  He received his medical degree in the 1950s and opened up a general practice clinic in La Marque. A decade later, he passed his boards (series of certification examinations) and additionally, became a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

He wrote several papers on the psychosis of POWs and the horrible mental anguish that they went through, and presently go through, even after they have been liberated and returned to family and friends.

Mother and me frequently witnessed the torture of the flashbacks that he would have, the screaming at night due to a nightmare.  A siren sounding off on the highway near our house would make him uneasy, because it would remind him of an air raid or Japanese penetration of the Army base.

But, he would work past these mental demons, and even in his last days, often helped folks in the Joaquin and Center community, with a compassion that just would not go away.


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