Colonel Collin Batson Whitehurst, Jr., was killed in action on 24 October 1944. This information was transmitted to his family on 18 June 1945 in a letter written them by J. A. Ulio, the Adjutant General of the Army.
Collin was born on 3 February 1914 at Richmond, Virginia, the son of Collin B. Whitehurst, Sr. and Adelaide Rawls Whitehurst. At the age of seven, he and his parents moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and Collin attended Washington School and Hughes High School. While in Washington School, because of his pleasing personality, he was recommended by the Principal for duties with the Cincinnati Public Library, and he was connected with the Library—doing work in the evenings—until his appointment to West Point.
Upon graduating from Hughes High School, Collin entered the University of Cincinnati as a pre-medical student, and at the end of his second year in the University he became interested in getting an appointment to West Point. Accordingly he entered the Academy in June 1934, and graduated in 1938.
Collin was always very much interested in good music. At the age of nine he sang in the choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and later sang in the choir at Christ’s Episcopal Church and was confirmed in the latter church. For the two years immediately prior to his appointment to West Point he attended Calvary Episcopal Church, and assisted the Bishop in organizing the Brothers of St. Andrews. At the age of sixteen he was taken into the DeMolay Order and was active in that organization until his appointment to West Point.
Collin had a tough grind at the Academy, as the records there will show. He never talked much about it however—he would just write home and say, “I am turned out and will not be home for Christmas”—but somehow he boned up and made it. The following is from the 1938 Howitzer:
“All during his four year stay Whitey and the Academic Department have slugged toe to toe. Now, four stars on his bath robe evidence Willie’s superiority. Along with those hard-earned stars. Willie has gained the ability to perform under pressure—something that many cadets miss. By dogged effort and persistence. White Willie has finished the course, but in spite of his academic worries he always found time for recreation. Never has he allowed the Academic Department to infringe on his scheduled bridge, tennis, and dragging time.”
Collin was also in the Chapel Choir four years, the Glee Club one year, was Manager of Goat Football for two years, and was a Pistol Marksman.
His first assignment after graduation was at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, with Headquarters Company 10th Infantry, and while at this post he was married to Miss Rose Kneubel, daughter of Colonel and Mrs. John Kneubel.
Collin and Rose sailed for the Philippines in June 1940, and he was stationed at Fort McKinley. Their son, John Collin, was born there on 28 October 1940, and Rose and John had to leave for the States in April, 1941. Collin was then transferred to Cebu, and later was under Major General William F. Sharp, who wrote to Collin’s parents as follows on 3 January 1946:
“My Dear Mr. and Mrs. Whitehurst:
“Your son was a member of my Command when I served as Commanding General of the Visayan-Mindanao Force in defense of the Philippines.
“I last saw your son in September of 1942, in the Japanese Prison Camp in Mindanao, at which time I was taken north to Formosa and later to Manchuria by the Japanese. I did not learn until after V-J Day of the death of your son on one of the ill-fated Japanese ships attempting to evacuate prisoners northward.
“Your son was a fine, loyal officer who did excellent work while serving with my Command. He was always cheerful and willing; he made a lasting impression on all with whom he came in contact.
“I deeply regret his loss and mourn with you his passing. Mrs. Sharp joins me in extending to you our heartfelt sympathy in your bereavement.
“WILLIAM F. SHARP, Major General, U.S. Army”
Mr. and Mrs. Whitehurst, Sr. received cheerful prisoner of war cards from Collin while he was at Mindanao Prison. They also received a letter, under date of 20 September 1945, from Major Robert B. Blakeslee, advising them that be had been in Mindanao Prison with Collin, and that on Christmas, 1943, Capt. Monett, Chaplain for the Episcopalians, conducted an appropriate service, and that Collin organized and trained a choir for this occasion which added greatly to the beauty and impressiveness of the ceremony.
Some time later, Colonel Whitehurst was transferred to Cabanatuan Prison, and then on to Manila where he was placed on the prison ship. The vessel sailed from Manila, Philippine Islands on 11 October 1944 with 1,775 prisoners of war aboard. On 24 October 1944 the vessel was sunk by submarine action in the South China Sea, 200 miles from the Chinese coast which was the nearest land. Five of the prisoners escaped in a small boat and reached the coast. Four others have been reported as picked up by the Japanese, and all others were lost.
Collin’s spirit never wavered during the long months of his imprisonment. He wrote from the prison—”Dad, can you get me a new car when I come home—no trade in?”, and “Mother, don’t you forget how to make my favorite strawberry cake.” It is the opinion of all who knew Collin that he always felt confident he would live to return to his dear ones in the States—and he does live—in his son, John, and in the hearts of his many friends and loved ones who will forever cherish his memory.