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On the Home Front: Oral and Charles Cheney

  New Mexico | Gavino Rivera | Oral and Charles Cheney


Some families awaited news from more than one soldier. Two New Mexico brothers assigned to different military units, Oral and Charles Cheney, met in the Philippines just a few months before the Japanese attack. A tragic story emerges from family letters. The U.S. government reported Charles's capture as a prisoner of war in January 1943, and reported Oral missing in action the following May. It is likely these events had taken place more than a year earlier; in Oral's case, the army stated he had been missing since May of 1942, shortly after the fall of Bataan.

Later, the army would inform the Cheneys that Oral died of malaria on July 4, 1942. If that date is accurate, Oral most likely survived the Bataan death march and succumbed to disease while interned in a prison camp. Charles' fate is unclear from the surviving correspondence. He survived a POW camp in the Philippines only to be sent to Japan, probably as a passenger on one of the "hell ships." Later in the war, his mother wrote Charles in an Osaka prison camp.

Letter

Clark Field
Pampanga, P.I.
Sept. 20, 1941

Dear folks;
I got your letter last Tuesday in which you told me you would send me Charles's new address. I guess your letter was kinda delayed because the day after I got your letter, Charles and his outfit got to Clark field. So, instead of you telling me his address, I think I better give you his address. It is still the 200th Battery C Clark Field, Pampanga, P. I. I was in the wash room getting ready for breakfast when one of the fellows here walked up to me and told me the 200th from N.Mex. was here and I should go see if I knew anyone there. When they said 200th I told him I had a brother there so at noon I went over to see him. He doesn't seem to have changed much. Maybe he is a little heavier than he used to be. He sure doesn't think much of the... [pages 2 and 3 missing].

[page 4]
Who did you sell it to? Who ever it was he sure got a bargain at that price. I hope you don't sell Ruby for as low a price as that. That is like giving money away. If you sell Ruby, you can invest the money on the place. If I can't save any money over here, then there's no use for me to have that. I had my chance to save.

Did you ever look up Dorothy Wagner? I wish you would as she would be very glad to hear from you. Her folks are nice too. I don't have much opportunity for letter writing any more. I write you and you can tell Uncle Edd and everyone hello and that I haven't forgot them. I only write to 3 people any more. Not only the work keeps me busy but at night it is almost impossible for me to write at night. Because we have no lights.

Well, I have to close for now. Give everyone my regards and give Clarabell Hays and her husband my best wishes for her future.

So long for now
ooooooo ooooooo Love Oral
xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

P.S. Charles said he would write as soon as he gets settled so he can get his writing material, etc.



Letter

February 2, 1942
Mr. & Mrs. C. D. Cheney
Bernalillo, New Mexico, U.S.A.

Dear folks;
How is everything at home. I am still surviving O.K. but can't put out any news yet. I can't find brother yet but I think he is all right. Tell everyone at home hello for me and be sure to go see Dorothy and tell her I will write her as soon as possible. At present communications are pretty poor and it is hard to do any letter writing. I will write every time I get a chance.

I made out an allotment of $50.00 to you. Spend as much of it as you need and save the rest of it for my return. Also check up on my civilian insurance and see if it is still good. Some policies are no good in foreign countries or in war time. I have some government insurance now too.

Well, I must close for this time. If you don't get any word from me, it doesn't mean anything wrong. If anything happens to me, the government will immediately notify you. So if you don't get any letters it means everything is all right.

Well, so long, your loving son.
Sgt. Oral G. Cheney



Western Union Telegram

WASHINGTON DC 502PM JAN 2 1943

MRS ETTA CHENEY
BOX 205 BERNALILLO NMEX.

YOUR SON CORPORAL CHARLES E CHENEY COAST ARTILLERY CORPS REPORTED A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS PERIOD LETTER FOLLOWS.

ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
350PM



View Letter Form Letter

War Department
The Adjutant General's Office
Washington

In reply refer to: AG 201 Cheney, Charles E. (12-30-42) PC-G 365076-1

January 5, 1943

Mrs. Etta Cheney
Box 205,
Bernalillo, New Mexico.

Dear Mrs. Cheney:
Report has been received that your son, Corporal Charles E. Cheney, 38,012,383, Coast Artillery Corps, is now a prisoner of war of the Japanese Government in the Philippine Islands. This will confirm my telegram of January 2, 1943.

The Provost Marshal General, Prisoner of War Information Bureau, Washington, D.C., will furnish you the address to which mail may be sent. Any future correspondence in connection with his status as a prisoner of war should be addressed to that office.

Very truly yours,

J.A. ULIO
Major General,
The Adjutant General

1 Inclosure
Memorandum re financial benefits



View Letter Imperial Japanese Army Post Card
[undated]

From: Charles E. Cheney
Nationality: American
Rank: Cpl.
Camp: Phil. Military Prison Camp #2

To: Mr. C. D. Cheney
Bernalillo, New Mexico, U.S.A.

[stamped: U.S. Censorship, Examined by 217]

[fill-in-the-blanks card; Charles' typed comments are in bold.]

1. I am interned at: Phil. Military Prison Camp #2
2. My health is: excellent; good; fair; poor.
3. I am -- uninjured; sick in hospital; under treatment; not under treatment.
4. I am -- improving; not improving; better; well.
5. Please see that: Your letter is sent to this address
6. (Re: Family): Take care of everyone
7. Please give my best regards to: All my friends.



Civilian Message Form

AMERICAN RED CROSS
Washington, D.C.
International Red Cross Committee
Geneva, Switzerland
[undated]

Sender:
Etta Cheney
Box 205, Bernalillo, N.Mex. U.S.A.

Relationship to person sought: Mother

Message (News of personal or family character; not more than 25 words):

Dear Charles;
It is a great pleasure to write this to you as we feel when you get it all will be well and we will soon be togather again.

We are still on the farm and are well. Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Edds folks are well. Vivian weites often she is in Tex. We still don't know anything about Oral but still have hopes he will be home sometime. Marvin is still farming and talking Ark. Uncle Edwards were well the last we heard from them.

Grandpa is having his 79 birthday tomorrow he can still pick them up and put them down asspry as ever.

Pop has learned to eat with his new teeth good now.

We all send Love and also a host of your friends sends Love.

Addressee:
Corp. Charles E. Cheney
Philippine Military Prison Camp no.2
P.I.

Identifying Data:
Birthplace and date of birth: Dawson, N.M., Aug. 13 1918
Citizen of: U.S.A.



Letter

War Department
The Adjutant General's Office
Washington

In reply refer to: AG 201 Cheney, Oral G. (5-7-42) PC-S

May 7, 1943

Dear Mrs. Cheney:

The records of the War Department show your son, Sergeant Oral G. Cheney, 6,296,959, Air Corps, missing in action in the Philippine Islands since May 7, 1942.

All available information concerning your son has been carefully considered and under the provisions of Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, an official determination has been made continuing him on the records of the War Department in a missing status. The law cited provides that pay and allowances are to be credited to the missing person's account and payment of allotments to authorized allottees are to be continued during the absence of such persons in a missing status.

I fully appreciate your concern and deep interest. You will, without further request on your part, receive immediate notification of any change in your son's status. I regret that the far-flung operations of the present war, the ebb and flow of combat over great distances in isolated areas, and the characteristics of our enemies impose upon some of us this heavy burden of uncertainty with respect to the safety of our loved ones.

Very truly yours,

J.A. ULIO
Major General,
The Adjutant General.



Western Union Telegram

AY BO 78 GOVT WUX WASHINGTON DC 1018PM MAY 9
[no year indicated]

MRS ETTA CHENEY
BERNALILLO NMEX.

I AM DEPLY DISTRESSED TO INFORM YOU REPORT JUST RECEIVED STATES THAT YOUR SON STAFF SERGEANT ORAL G CHENEY WHO WAS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION DIED ON FOUR JULY NINETEEN HUNDRED FORTY TWO IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS AS RESULT OF MALARIA

THE SECRETARY OF WAR ASKS THAT I EXPRESS HIS DEEP SYMPATHY IN YOUR LOSS AND HIS REGRET THAT UNAVOIDABLE CIRCUMSTANCES MADE NECESSARY THE UNUSUAL LAPSE OF TIME IN REPORTING YOUR SONS DEATH TO YOU CONFIRMING LETTER FOLLOWS.

J A ULIO, THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.
440A



View Letter

Civilian Message Form

AMERICAN RED CROSS
Washington, D.C.

Sender:
Etta Cheney
Box 205, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Message to be transmitted (not more than 25 words, family news of strictly personal character):

Dear Charles;

I am happy to write you this as all will be well when you receive this.

We are still on the farm it is paid for now we are improving it quite a lot hope you will like it, we built a barn sixteen by forty feet with a tin roof we are building a garage now we remodeled the house have a galvanized roof and five rooms have a nice young orchard started sure hope all pleases you.

Pop is working in Albuquerque as Chief engeneer for the Emperial Laundry and has been for nearly three years.

Had a letter from Uncle Edwards they were well. But awful buisy putting up hay.

Addressee:
Cheney, Charles E.
Osaka Camp, Japan

Birth:
Place and date: Dawson, N. Mex, Aug 13 1918
Citizen of: U.S.A.
Name of father: Charles D. Cheney
Relationship to sender: Mother



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