Baldon_F

 

Pvt. Fay W. Baldon


    Pvt. Fay Baldon was the son of Ozro Baldon Sr. & Mabel Parrish-Baldon.  He was born in Wisconsin on May 6, 1919, and resided in Vernon County.  He was one of the couples' six children.  

    With his twin brother, Ray, he traveled around looking for work.  Fay and Ray were living and working in Walworth County, Wisconsin, when they joined, with their friend, Donald Schultz, the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville.  The brothers were also the cousins of Phil Parish another member of the tank company.

     On November 25, 1940, the 32nd Divisional Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard was called to federal duty as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Fay and the other members became members of the regular army and trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for nearly a year.  In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that the members of his battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.

    While Fay had been at Ft. Knox, his little brother Ozro or "Jack" as he was called by the family, injured his leg resulting in an infection.  The situation was so bad that Fay's mother moved to Belvedere, Illinois, near her oldest son, so that Jack could receive medical treatment.  When Fay received a furlough home to say goodbye to friends and family, he and Ray took their brother from doctor to doctor in the hope of curing him.  At one doctor's office, Fay and Ray were told that by the time they returned home from overseas, their little brother would be dead. 
   
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
 

    After the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad.  On December 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.

    During his time fighting the Japanese, Fay took part in the fight against invasion forces at Lingayen Gulf and the Battle of the Pockets.

One night, A Company had bivouacked their tanks on both sides of a road.  The soldiers on guard heard a nose down the road.  The other tankers grabbed their handguns and waited.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion road into the bivouac.  The company opened up with everything they had.  When they ceased fire, they had wiped out the entire battalion.

    On April 9, 1942, Fay became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered.  With his brother, Ray, he took part in the death march.

    Fay and Ray started the march at Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan and made their way to San Fernando.  There, the brothers were held in a bullpen.  That night they slept in the human waste of other POWs who had been held in the pen before them.

    The next morning, Fay and Ray were packed into small wooden boxcars that were used for hauling sugarcane.  The cars were known as "forty or eights", which meant they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  

    At Capas, Fay disembarked the boxcar, the bodies of the dead fell to the ground.  With his brother, Ray,  Fay walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    As a POW, Fay was held at Camp O'Donnell.  This was an unfinished Filipino army base.  There was one water faucet for 12,000 men.  Men literally died of thirst waiting to get a drink of water.

    To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Fay and Ray volunteered to go out on a work detail back to Mariveles to collect scrap metal.  The POWs would "drive" cars and trucks to San Fernando.  From there, the vehicles were taken to Manila to be shipped to Japan.   While they were on this detail, his brother, Ray, became ill.  Ray was returned to Camp O'Donnell where he died on May 7, 1942. 

    Fay also had an attack of malaria and was taken to the Provincial Hospital at Pampanga.  He was discharged on August 24th and sent to Cabanatuan.  This camp had been opened to relieve the conditions that existed at Camp O'Donnell.  It is most likely that he learned of his brother's death at this time.  It is known that Fay came down with malaria and was put in the camp hospital.  he remained there until August 27th when he was discharged.

    In either late 1942 or early 1943, Fay was selected to work on the Bachrach Garage Detail.  There the prisoners on this detail worked as mechanics repairing trucks and other machinery for the Japanese.  

    While he was POW on the Bachrach Garage Detail, his mother, Mabel, received a letter from him.  In it he said:

 

Dearest Mother,

 

        Received your most welcomed letters and package.  Was very glad to get them.  Glad to hear Junior. (His brother who was twelve years old when he left the U.S. ) is getting along fine.  Tell Clayton (brother-in-law) hello for me.  Also tell Alma and June to write.  Give my regards to Miss June Friske.

 

                                                                                          Your Loving Son,

 

                                                                                                    Fay

 

    It was on October 10, 1944, that the POWs on the detail were sent to the Port Area of Manila for shipment to Japan.  Fay and the 1802 other POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru and packed into a hold that could hold 400 men.  The ship sailed on October 10th to avoid American planes.  Instead of heading toward Formosa, the ship sailed for Palawan Island.  Within 48 hours, five men had died.  

    The POWs discovered that the Japanese had removed the lights from the hold but had not turned off the power.  Some ingenious POWs figured out a way to hook the hold's ventilation system into this power line.  For two days the POWs had fresh air until the Japanese discovered what had been done and turned off the power.

    As the POWs grew sicker, the Japanese, knew that the situation would result in more deaths.  To relieve the situation, they opened Hold #1 which was half full with coal. 800 POWs were moved to this hold.  It was at this time that one POW attempted to escape and was shot and killed.

    The ship lay at anchor in the cove for ten days. The reason this was done was to protect the ship from American planes.  While in the cove, the ship was still strafed and bombed by American planes.  During this time, the POWs were allowed on deck at certain times of day. 

    On the October 20th, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila.  It remained in port for a day while a twelve ship convoy was formed.  On October 21st, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  This made the ships targets for American and British submarines.  

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944, near dinner time, some POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel, when sirens began to blare.  The Japanese crew ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo that just missed the ship pass in front of it.  They next ran to the stern and watched a second torpedo pass behind the ship barely missing it.  

    The next two torpedoes hit the ship amidships causing a sudden jar.  The ship stopped dead in the water.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    The Japanese guards fired their guns at the POWs on deck to chase them back into the holds.  After the men entered the holds, the guards cut the rope ladders and covered the hatches with their covers.  Since they had received the order to abandon ship, they did not have time to tie the hatches down.

     Some of the POWs in the first hold were able to climb out and reattach and lower rope ladders to those in the first hold.  They also dropped rope ladders  to the POWs in second hold.  

     Many of the POWs raided the ship's kitchen.  Some, knowing that they could not swim, ate their last meals.  A large number of POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  A group of 30 POWs swam to a nearby ship.  When the Japanese realized they were Americans, they pushed them away with poles and hit them with clubs.  

    Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue  them.  The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach the ships. Other POWs were pushed away with poles as they neared the ships and hit with clubs when they tried to board them.

    According to the eight men who survived the sinking, the ship slowly got lower in the water.  It split in two and sunk not too long afterwards.  C\As the night went on, cries for help became less frequent.  Finally, there was silence.

    Pvt. Fay Baldon died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  Since he was lost as sea, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.   His family also had a memorial headstone placed at Billings Creek Cemetery in Vernon County, Wisconsin.

    One final part of this story should be told.  While Fay was a POW, his little brother, Jack, was treated with a new medicine known as penicillin.  Not only did his brother recover from his illness, but he still resides in Wisconsin near their childhood home.


 

 

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