Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

 Kenneth Stull, ADBC Commander

ADBC Commander, 1959-61
Kenneth Stull Picture, ADBC commander 1959-1961
Kenneth Jackson Stull was born in Aladdin, PA, a small town on the Allegheny River about 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh on November 11, 1915, day that three years later would become Armistice Day commemorating on the end of World War I.  

In June 1941 Stull was selected in America’s first peacetime draft lottery end despite being almost 26 years old, and  married, he became a member of the U.S. Army.  After quickly completing basic training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Pvt. Stull an electrician by trade, was assigned to “A” Company of the 803rd Battalion (Aviation) (Separate).  Company’s “A” and “B” and the H.Q. Company of the 803rd Battalion left their home base at Westover Field, Mass. And traveled by train to the West coast.  On October 5, 1941 the unit sailed from San Francisco aboard the U.S.A.T Tasker H. Bliss, the former American President Lines S.S. President Cleveland.  The unit comprised of a total of 481 officers (many of whom were graduate engineers and reservists) and enlistees with technical skills, with all of their heavy construction equipment were joined by over 1,100 others, including a large group of Army doctors and medics as well as other Air Corps support personnel.  The ship docked in Manila on October and the Battalion was moved north and billeted in tents at Clark field adjacent to Fort Stotsenburg.  During the latter part of November 1941 men of the 809th  Engineer Batt. (AVN) who had arrived in the Philippines in July of 1941 became “C” Company of the 803rd Battalion.

On November 2nd  “A” Company under the command of Captain Edmund P. “Zib” Zbikowski was detached from the Battalion and proceeded about 30 miles northwest to the Camp O’Donnell area to construct a landing field of bombers yet to arrive.  On December 21, 1941 with the war now two weeks old, the Company was again moved, now south to the small barrio of San Jose near Dinalupihan at the top of the Bataan Peninsula where they spent nine days building another airfield.  Then to Orani in Bataan’s northeast corner for a brief four day stop.  The Orani airstrip had been constructed earlier by “B” company of the 803rd  Battalion and would be occupied for a week or so by men on the 34th  Pursuit Squadron until the field, like all of the others, was destroyed by Japanese aircraft.  In the first week of January 1942, the unit with their dozers, graders, rollers and heavy equipment spent time repairing Bataan’s transvers dirt road through the mountains and valley from Pilar to Bagac.  They also repaired the West Perimeter Road on the coast from Bagac south to the port of Mariveles.

On January 25th  members of the “A” Company led by the 803rd Battalion’s Executive Officer, Captain James D. Richardson joined men of the 21st and 34th Pursuit Squadrons, all virtually untrained and poorly equipped to become combat infantrymen in the defense of the Aglaloma-Quinauan Point area on Bataan’s rocky southwest coastline.  These raw troops aided by Philippine Army and Scout forces engaged in combat with about 600 Japanese invaders who had attempted a landing behind the lines.  On January 26th in a Japanese ambush, 10 men of “A” Company were killed-in-action and another 38 wounded, decimating the unit.  On February 5th “A” Company’s survivors were relocated to Corregidor where they spent the next 3 months engaged in tasks that they had been trained to do, i.e., widening and extending Kindley Field, the island’s airstrip, constructing aircraft revetments, maintaining roads and utilities, etc.  Working in the open, the unit was exposed to ever-increasing Japanese artillery barrages and air raids and suffered eight more casualties including the C.O. of the company, Cap’t Zbikowski who was killed on April 2, 1942.  Just prior to Corregidor’s surrender on May 6, 1942 the remaining physically fit “A” Company men were integrated with marine and navy defenders on the beaches at Monkey Point.  Troops of the Japanese 61st infantry Regiment, a component of the 4th Division landed on the north coast of Corregidor on May the and the island was surrendered by General Wainwright the following day.

Pvt. Kenneth Stull left Corregidor in the latter part of May and after a brief stop at the Bilibid Prison in Manila he was transported north to the Cabanatuan P.O.W. camp where he remained until November 1942 when he sailed to Japan on the freighter, “Nagato Maru.”  After his arrival in Japan in late November 1942, Stull spent some time at the Shinagawa P.O.W. camp/hospital in Tokyo, perhaps in ill health prior to moving to the large Omori camp located on an island in Tokyo Bay and connected to Tokyo proper by a 300 foot long timber causeway.  The Omori camp became the home for many Air Force personnel downed in the Pacific during the war or over Japan in the last year.

In late July of 1945 Marine ace Major Gregor “Pappy” Boyington was transferred to the Omori P.O.W. camp from the Ofuna camp near Yokohama where he had been interned after being shot down.  In later years Boyington was to write his wartime memoirs in “Baa Baa Blacksheep,” a book that became the basis for the very popular although semi-fictitious T.V. series.  When the war ended about 1,500 American and allied P.O.W.s were freed from the Omori camp.

Upon his return home Stull lived in Vandergrift, PA in the same area of his birth and his parents home.  He remained in the army reserves and was activated during the Korean conflict (1950-52) but did not go overseas, eventually retiring with the rank of Senior Master Sergeant.

From mid-1959 until mid-1961 Ken Stull had served two terms as National Commander of the American Defenders of  Bataan and Corregidor veterans organization.  His first wife, Ethel Gordon passed away in May of 1976.  They had three children and he remarried, but the marriage didn’t last.

He passed away in September 27, 1991 in Columbia, SC at 75.