Barden

 


S/Sgt. Donald M. Barden


    S/Sgt Donald M. Barden was born in 1920 in Richland County, South Carolina, to Mattie C. Clary-Barden.  His mother married John A. Lemmons.  This made him the brother of three sisters, a step-sister, and a step-brother.  He later resided in Richmond County, Georgia, and worked in a shoe store.
    On July 24, 1940, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He did his basic training at Ft. Benning, but it is not known what tank school he attended.  After completion of basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. 
    In the late summer of 1941, the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  Maneuvers were taking place at the fort, but the battalion did not take part in them.  
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion remained behind at Camp Polk.  Members of the battalion 29 years old or older were released from federal service.  Replacements for these men were sought from the 753rd.  Donald was one of the replacements and assigned to D Company.
    
    The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived in San Francisco, California,  They were taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were inoculated and given physicals.  Any man who needed some sort of medical treatment was held back and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S H. 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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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.  They sailed the same day for Manila.  The ships 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.
    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.
 
    At six in the morning, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to move their platoons to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  The 192nd had been assigned to the southern portion of the airfield.  The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese. 
A few days later his tank company was sent to guard a dam from sabotage.
    On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches.  They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
   
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove.  As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat.  From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units.  The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
    At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company and C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw.  The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.       

   

    The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban Airfields.  They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers.  They would continue this duty until April 7th.  On April 8th, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat.  The lines had broken.  They fought there until receiving the news of the surrender.  
    For the next four months, Donald fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.  He became a Prisoner of War when the Filipino and American forces in the Philippines were surrendered to the Japanese.  He was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.   He went out on a work detail to Lipa Batangas.  On the detail, the POWs built runways at an airfield with picks and shovels. 

    Donald remained in the Philippines until late in 1944.  In early October, the detail ended and the POWs were taken to the Port Area of Manila for transport to Japan.   His POW detachment was scheduled to sail on the Hokusan Maru.   The ship was ready to sail but not all the POWs had arrived.  Another POW detachment was ready to sail, but its ship was not ready.  So that the Hokusan Maru could sail, the Japanese switched detachments. 

    On October 11, 1944, Donald was boarded onto the Arisan MaruThe Arisan Maru set sail for but instead of heading for Japan, the ship took a southerly route away from Formosa.  This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes.  The ship dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island.  Conditions in the hold were so bad that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  Some POWs figured out a way to hook the hold's ventilation system into its lighting system.  For two days the POWs had fresh air.  When the Japanese figured out what they had done, they turned off the power. 

    For almost ten days, Donald and the other prisoners were held in the ship's holds while the Japanese formed a convoy.  On October 21st, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila and joined a convoy which  entered the South China Sea.  The ships were not marked with "red crosses" since the Japanese refused to mark POW ships with "red crosses" to indicate they were carrying POWs. 

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, near dinner time, POWs were on deck preparing their evening meal.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel.  Suddenly, the POWs noticed that the guards appeared to be in a state of panic.  The Americans watched as the Japanese guards ran to the bow of the ship.  As the guards watched, a torpedo passed in front of the ship barely missing it.  The guards then ran to the ship's stern and watched as another torpedo passed behind the ship.  There then was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes in its mid-section.  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 forced the POWs back into the holds by firing on them with their guns.  The guards covered the hatches with the hatch-covers, but were given the order to abandon ship before they could secure them.  As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the holds.  The POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and lowered a ladder  and ropes to the POWs in the first hold.

     Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue  them.  A group of POWs swam to one Japanese destroyer, but they were pushed away with poles.  After picking up the surviving Japanese, the Japanese destroyers deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

    The Arisan Maru sunk slowly into the water.  Many of the POWs, knowing that they most likely would die, raided the ship's food lockers.  They wanted to die with full stomachs.  Other POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  As darkness fell, the ship split in two.

    According to the survivors of the sinking, the ship sunk sometime after dark.  As the night went on, the cries for help became fewer and fewer. Finally, there was silence.

    Pvt. George H. Boyce lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed  and sunk in the South China Sea.  Of the 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.  Eight of these men survived the war.

    Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. George H. Boyce's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

 



Return to D Company

Next