First PMS&T, Arkansas State College 1936-1940
Legion of Merit
COL William Edward (“Ed”) Corkill, born in Denison, TX, 4 May 1892, graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1916. While there he starred on the Sooner varsity football team and coached an OU polo team. Corkill enrolled in the first Officer’s Training Camp at Fort Roots, AR, receiving a commission as a 2LT on 15 August 1917. Assigned to the 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Division, at Fort Douglas, AZ, 2LT Corkill and his men arrived in France on 7 May. Six weeks later, he led doughboys on the battlefields of WWI. For actions on the night of 14-15 July 1918 during the Second Battle of the Marne, he was awarded the Silver Star.
While serving with the 80th Field Artillery, Fort Des Moines, IA, he was promoted to Major and received orders to be the first ROTC Professor of Military Science and Tactics (PMS&T) at Arkansas State College (1936-1940). During this assignment, he led the cadets and the program to four consecutive Blue-Star “excellent” ratings and commissioned the program’s first 14 lieutenants in 1939.
When WWII erupted, LTC Corkill was reassigned to United States Forces Far East (USAFFE) on the Bataan Peninsula. On 9 April 1942, MG Edward P. King, Jr., surrendered Bataan to the Japanese, and LTC Corkill endured the 63 mile forced march from the port city of Mariveles to Camp O’Donnell, a brutal Japanese war crime dubbed the “Bataan Death March.” Corkill survived, and with 178 other senior officers, was moved to Tarlac POW Camp, twelve miles north of Camp O’Donnell. On 11 August, they were moved to Manila, and the next day boarded the Nagara Maru arriving at Takao, Formosa. After spending the night aboard ship, they were transferred once more to the Suzuya Maru (sometimes referred to as the Otaru Maru), who’s final destination was the Karenko POW camp.
After additional hardships and POW camp relocations, a barely surviving, COL Corkill and others, were liberated in Mukden, Manchuria, by an American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) team on 16 August 1945 after more than three years in brutal captivity. While recovering at the Borden General Hospital in Chickasha, Oklahoma, COL Corkill received the POW medal, the Purple Heart, and the Legion of Merit. COL William “Ed” Corkill, a veteran of two world wars and the first PMS&T at Arkansas State College ROTC, retired in 1947 after a distinguished thirty-year career.