|Pfc. Robert S. Ainsworth
Pfc. Robert S. Ainsworth was born in Columbus, Ohio,
in September 1918, and was one of two sons of David
W. Ainsworth and Virgie Ainsworth. He lived at
2609 Elliott Avenue in Columbus, graduated from West
High School in 1937, and worked as a storage clerk
at a mine supply company. Robert was inducted
into the U. S. Army at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio,
on March 20, 1941.
Being a member of HQ Company, Robert's duties required that he work to get the letter companies of the battalion the supplies they needed to fight the Japanese. He would do this until the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.
The night before the surrender, Capt. Fred
Bruni, the commanding officer of HQ Company,
called his men together.
While informing the members of the company
of the surrender, he waved his arm toward
the tanks and told the men that they would
no longer need them. As he spoke,
his voice choked. He turned away
from the men, for a moment, and when he
turned back he continued. He next
told the sergeants what they should do to
disable the tanks. During the
announcement he emphasized that they all
were to surrender together. The
company ate what he called, "There last Supper."
For two days, the tankers remained in their
bivouac. On April 11, 1942, Robert
became a Prisoner of War when Japanese entered
the bivouac and ordered the men out onto the
road that ran in front of it.
Once there, the POWs were ordered to Mariveles Airfield where they sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming a line across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese Naval Officer pulled up in an American car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs
were moved to a school yard in
Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in
the sun for hours. The Japanese did not
feed them or give them water. When they
were ordered to move again they had not idea
that they had begun what has become known as
the Bataan Death March.
During the march he
received no water and little food. At
San Fernando, the POWs were put into small
wooden boxcars known as "forty or eights"and
taken to Capas. The cars could hold
forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese
packed 100 men into each car and closed the
doors. Those who died remained standing
until the living left the cars. From
Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to
Camp O' Donnell.
On the Clark Field detail Robert dug
revetments to hide planes. The Japanese
guards encouraged the POWs to take their time
when digging. The guards didn't care how
much dirt the POWs moved all they had to do is
look busy. The reason the guards did
this was because they liked the detail and
wanted to stretch it out as long as
possible. The only time the POWs were
expected to work hard was when big shots came
around to expect the work. It appears
Robert was injured or became ill and returned
In late 1942, he was sent to Las Pinas
to build runways at Nielson Airfield for the
Japanese Navy and
The POWs were
housed at the
about a mile
the POWs were
get up and do
eat, and march
a mile to the
At first the work
was hard but not
as hard as it was
400 yards from
where they began
they reached the
hills, the POWs
removed the hills
with picks and
shovels, and the
dirt was put into
wheel barrows and
carried to a swamp
and dumped as
This turned out to
be inefficient, so
brought in mining
cars and railroad
POWs pushed each
mining car to
where it was to be
shown to the
the camp, a Lt. Moto, was
the camp for
One day a POW
Moto was told
about the man
and came out
him to get
get up, four
made to carry
the man back
to the Pasay
The welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese. The only concern they had was getting the runway built. If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury. Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.
"the Wolf" was
was hardest to
a man was
a man's arm or
would kick the
man's leg, in
the spot it
to see how the
If the man
showed a great
deal of pain,
he was not
one case, a
was in a
twisted by the
Wolf while the
On September 21, 1944, while the POWs were
working, they saw American diver
bombers. This was the first time they
had seen American planes since the surrender
of Bataan. Watching the planes attack
the Japanese caused the POWs to cheer.
The next day the detail was ended.
When it became apparent to the Japanese that it was just a matter of time before American forces would be invading the Philippine Islands, the Japanese began transferring the POWs to other parts of the Japanese Empire. On September 17, 1944, Robert's name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Bilibid Prison near Manila.
Robert was held at Bilibid until October 10th. With other prisoners, he was marched to the Port Area of Manila. His group was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, but since all the POWs had not arrived at the pier and the ship was ready to sail, the POWs from another group were boarded in their place so the ship could leave.
Robert's detachment of POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11th. The ship sailed but instead of heading to Japan, it headed south to Palawan Island. In a cove off the island, the ship hid from American planes. During this time, the ship was attacked by American planes.
The POWs in the hold discovered that the Japanese had removed the lights from the hold, but that they had not turned off the power. Some of the prisoners hot-wired the ventilation system into the lighting system. For several days the POWs had fresh air, until the Japanese discovered what had been done and turned off the power.
A few days later, the Japanese realized that unless they did something many of the POWs would die. To solve the problem, the Japanese transferred POWs into the ship's number two hold. During the transfer one POW attempted to escape and was shot.
On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila. The next day, October 21, 1944, the Arisan Maru sailed for Takao, Formosa, as part of a twelve ship convoy. The ships were in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea the evening of October 24th. Twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner when the Japanese, on deck, ran toward the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of it. Moments later the Japanese ran to the stern of the ship as another torpedo passed behind the ship.
The ship shook and came to a dead stop in the water. It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships. A Japanese guard aimed his machine gun at the POWs and the POWs dove into the ship's holds. After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on but did not tie them down. A short time later, the Japanese abandoned ship, but before they left, they cut the rope ladders into the holds.
Since the hatch covers had not been tied down, some of the POWs, in the second hold, made their way back on deck. These men reattached and dropped rope ladders to the men in the holds. For the next two hours, the ship remained afloat. The POWs who could not swim stuffed themselves with food from the ship's kitchen. Others attempted to find anything that would float. 35 POWs swam to Japanese destroyer, but they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs to prevent them from boarding the ship.
As the ship sank lower in the water, many POWs
tried to escape. At some point, the ship
split in two. Three of the POWs found a
lifeboat that had been abandoned by the
men in the boat heard the cries for help,
but since they had no oars,
they could not maneuver it to help those in
the water. As time went on, there were
fewer cries for help until there was
silence. The next day, two more POWs
were pulled into the boat.
Of the 1803 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the its sinking. Eight of these men survived the war. Pfc. Robert S. Ainsworth was not one of them.
Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Robert S. Ainsworth's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.