Ted Kampf enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 at the age of 19. After completing his training he was sent to the Philippine Islands and served on watch duty. In January of 1942 he was captured by the Japanese Army and thrown aboard an old freighter ship with about 1600 other soldiers to an unknown destination. The ship bounced from island to island stopping in Hong Kong, then on to Taiwan, or Formosa as it was then known.
Kampf was then taken from the ship and detained as a prisoner of war for six months. The Japanese then took Kampf, along with about 300 other prisoners, to mainland Yokohama, Japan, then to a city just outside of Tokyo, Japan where he was forced to work in the steel mills from early morning until late in the night, for about six months. Then he was taken to a seaport city in Northern Japan where he was forced to work on the docks, loading and unloading ships from China, and being sustained on the bowl of rice and a little soy as a daily rotation.
Kampf was also taken to another island to build an air strip with about 300 other prisoners. He was one of the 150 who were sent back tot he camps in the first group while the remaining 150 prisoners stayed to finish the project and were then executed; though 11 did miraculously escape the execution, but not unharmed.
On August 15, 1945, one day after the surrender of the Japanese that these prisoners, including Kamps, found out that the war was over. Kampf recalled that they awoke one morning and found that there were no guards, rifles laid about on the ground, the gates were kept open, and at last they were free from their daily toil.
“U.S. Airplanes flew overhead dropping 55 gallon drums containing food, candy, clothes, cigarettes, and toilet supplies,” Kampf said. “We stayed out of the way of the drop zone as the barrels didn’t even have parachutes attached to them.”
These men then commandeered a train heading to Tokyo where they were then barged out to hospital ships in Tokyo Harbor to heal from their captivity, wounds and illnesses. Once they were treated they were flown back to the Philippine Islands.
Kampf finally boarded a U.S. troop ship and was headed state-side after three and a half years as a prisoner of war and weighing only 78 pounds. After about 6 months of in hospital treatment in San Francisco, Ca., and Spokane, Wa., Kampf was permitted three months leave to return home for some rest and relaxation.
Upon returning to service Kampf reenlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas and retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of service.
Kampf continued his service to his country after retirement by serving on the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank Police Force for 18 and a half years before retiring from this service.
Kampf now resides in the Rose Park area of Salt Lake City where he has lived for the past 47 years. He celebrated his 96th birthday in July and is one of the few surviving World War II veterans still with us.
It is our privilege to honor Master Sgt. Ted Kampf and recognize him for his exemplary service and sacrifice to America, and to each of us. Thank you Master Sgt. Ted Kampf for your incredible example to us all!
We honor you, Ted Kampf.