BennettC
 
2nd Lt. Charles E. Bennett
    What is known about 2nd Lt. Charles E. Bennett is that he was from Louisville, Kentucky, and lived at 826 Randolph Avenue.  Since he was not on the battalion's roster at Fort Knox, he may have joined the battalion at Camp Polk, Louisiana, from the 753rd Tank Battalion, or he could have be assigned to the battalion on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27, 1941, as part of a three ship convoy.  After the members of the battalion got over their seasickness, they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover.  The soldiers received shore leave and were allowed to explore the island.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam gut took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. 
    During this part of the voyage smoke, from an unknown ship, was scene in on the horizon.  According to the members of the tank battalion, the engines of the cruiser were given full power, the bow of the cruiser came out of the water, and the ship sped off to intercept the unknown ship.  As it turned out, the ship was from a neutral country.
    
    When the ships arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water, before sailing for Manila.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.   At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  As they passed it, the ships were in complete blackout.  At 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After docking at Manila late that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked.  Most of the tankers rode buses  to Ft. Stostenburg, while other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind at the pier to unload their tanks.

    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers, and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  After he made sure the men had Thanksgiving dinner, he went to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease had been put on the guns to prevent them from rusting.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.  From battalion records, Charles became the supply officer for the battalion.
    On December 1st, the 192nd and the 194th Tank Battalion - the other tank battalion at Clark Field - were ordered to their positions around the airfield.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicle at all times.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the tank group were called to the radio room and listed to the reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  They were ordered to their tanks at the perimeter of the airfield.  That morning, as the tankers sat in their tanks, they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch and the planes could be refueled.
    The night of December 7th, the officers were called to the radio room and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  They were ordered to report to their companies. 
When the soldiers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor they laughed.  Having been in the Philippines for eighteen days, they believed that this was the start of the extended maneuvers.  The company commander, Capt Fred Bruni, told them to listen up because what he was saying was the truth.  He again told them that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and they were given guns and told to clean them.  As they did this, they still believed that they had started maneuvers.  It was around noon that this belief was blown away.  
    The soldiers
were finishing lunch when 54 planes appeared in the northern sky and approached the airfield at 12:45 in the afternoon.  At first they thought the planes were American, until they saw what looked like "rain drops" fall from the planes.  It was when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.  Amazingly, every bomb dropped at the tanks landed in the area between the tanks and none of the tanks were lost.

    For the next four months, Charles worked to see that the tanks received the necessary supplies to fight the Japanese.  The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni gave his men the news of the surrender.  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, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  He also told them that from this point on, it was each man for himself.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."

    The morning of April 9th, the company was suppose to join up with other troops and surrender together.  Cecil and the other men took their ammunition and weapons and put them in piles in the last tank and half-track they had.  They poured gasoline into the tank and the half track and both were set on fire. 
    On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  
The first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment on April 11th.  A Japanese officer ordered the members of the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.

    The members of the company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  Once there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited to see what was going to happen to them.  As they sat there, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming 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 a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail, before he got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Charles's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where the POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  During this time, the Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  Since they had no place to take cover, the POWs could do little - to protect themselves - as shells landed around them.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  Charles and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march he received no water and little food.  At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  From Capas, Charles walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp, and to get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.

    The death rate got so bad, that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  When a new POW camp was opened, Charles was sent there.  Being an officer, Charles did not have to work unless he chose to work.  Medical records kept at the camp indicate that he was hospitalized on July 3, 1942.  The records show he was suffering from a parasitical condition that was a result of malaria, but they do not show when he was discharged.
    At some point, Charles was selected as a replacement on the work detail at Clark Field.  The POWs on the detail built a runway and revetments at the airfield.  While they worked they were not allowed to talk to their friends, if they did, the POWs were beaten.  To build the runway, the POWs used crushed rock for the base.  When the POWs ran out of rock, the Japanese engineers decided that sand would be used as the base of the runway.  The first time a Japanese bomber landed on the runway, when it reached the second half of the runway where sand had been used as the base, its landing gear sunk into the runway and the plane flipped over onto its back.  The POWs wanted to cheer!
    Charles remained on the detail until August 25, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison suffering from cellulitis - a tissue infection of the skin and tissues below the skin - of the right knee. 
It was at this time that Charles' name appeared on a list of POWs who were being transported to Japan.  The POWs on the list were scheduled to sail on the Noto Maru.  Charles apparently was too ill to sail on the ship, so he remained at Bilibid until early October, when his POW detachment was marched to the Port Area of Manila with other POWs.

    When the POWs arrived at the pier, their ship, the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but the entire POW detachment had not arrived.  Since all the POWs scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru had arrived, the Japanese switched the POW detachments so the ship could sail.  
   
After all the POWs, in Charles' detachment, had arrived, they were boarded onto the Arisan MaruThe ship sailed on October 11th, but instead of heading to Formosa it headed south where it dropped anchor, off the Island of Palawan, in a cove.  Within the first 48 hours, five men had died, and the Japanese knew that unless they did something the number of deaths would continue to rise, so they moved 800 POWs to the ship's first hold.

    The POWs discovered that the Japanese had removed the lights, from the lighting system, but had not turned off the power.  With a little work, they managed to wire the ventilation system in the holds.  For several days, the POWs had fresh air until the Japanese discovered what the prisoners had done.  When they did, they cut the power to the lights.

    While in the cove, the POWs were allowed on deck at certain times.  It was during one of these topside breaks that one POW attempted to escape and was shot.  Although the ship did avoid an attack, by American planes on Manila, the Arisan Maru was attacked once by American fighter bombers.   After nine days off the island, the ship returned to Manila.  When it returned to Manila, on October 20th, the port showed signs of having been bombed by American planes.

    On October 21, 1944, the ship sailed a second time as part of a 12 ship convoy bound for Formosa.  The next day, October 24, 1944, around 4:30 p. m., the convoy was attacked by American submarines in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea.  During the attack a torpedoed passed wide of the ship's bow.  A second torpedo passed wide of the ship's stern.  The next two torpedoes hit the ship amidships,  and the ship shook and came to a stop.

    Some of the POWs had been on deck preparing dinner when the ship was hit by the torpedoes, the guards began pointed their guns at them and forced them into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the guards cut the rope ladders and covered the hatches.  They did not tie the hatch covers down.  After doing this, the Japanese abandoned the ship.

    Since the hatch covers were not tied down, some of the POWs in the second hold managed to make their way onto the deck.  They reattached the rope ladders and dropped them to the other POWs who climbed onto the deck.  At first the POWs made no attempt to abandon the ship as it got lower in the water.  When they realized that the ship was going to go down, a group of 35 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese destroyer which was picking up Japanese POWssurvivors.  When the POWs reached the ship, they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs.  
    At some point, the ship broke in two.  Most of the POWs decided it was time to abandon the ship and found anything that would float.  A major problem they faced was the sea was rough with five foot waves since a storm had just passed.  Those who could not swim, decided to raid the ship's food lockers so they could die on a full stomach. 

    Three of the POWs found a lifeboat that had been abandoned by the Japanese. It had no oars, so they could not maneuver it to help others in the water.  The men in the boat heard cries for help for several hours, after dark, until there was silence.  The next morning, the men in the boat found two other POWs floating on debris and pulled them into the boat.

    Of the 1803 POWs who boarded the ship in Manila only nine survived the sinking.   Three of these POWs were recaptured by the Japanese and taken to Formosa. Only eight of these men survived the war.  Of the twelve ships in the convoy, only three reached Japan.

    2nd Lt. Charles E. Bennett died on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, in the sinking of the Arisan  Maru.  Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

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