Pvt. Daniel Joseph Boni

    Pvt. Daniel J. Boni was born April 13, 1917, to Daniel F. Boni and Phyllis Bronge-Boni and grew up at 1419 North Broadway Avenue in Melrose Park, Illinois.  To his family, he was known as "Danny".

    Danny attended Melrose Park School and Proviso Township High School for two years but left school to work as a furnace repairman.  He enlisted in the Illinois National Guard on March 21, 1939, at the armory across the street from the high school.  One of the other members of the company was his cousin, Bob Bronge
    In late 1940, the company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion and left Maywood on November 28, 1941, for one year of federal duty.  It is not known what specific training Danny received, but it is known that while he was at Ft. Knox, he drove a construction tractor which means he could have been at tank driver.
    It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign to from federal service and were replaced by men of the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion also received the tanks of the 753rd.

    The company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th, 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.  The ships arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover.  The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam and took a southern route away from the main shipping lanes. 
    During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.   
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila.  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.   The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that day.  The soldiers disembarked, at 3:00 P.M., and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  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 which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
, and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    On December 1st, the tank battalions were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th was given the northern part of the airfield to defend and the 192nd had the southern half to protect.  At all times, each tank or half-track had to be manned by two members of its crew.  Those on duty were fed by food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941,  all the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  They had received word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and many laughed believing that this was the start of the maneuvers.  As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. They had time to count 54 planes.  As they watched, what looked like raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.

    At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Elkoney lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  That morning, they had been awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.  Many of the men believed that this was the start of the maneuvers.  The tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, they thought the planes were American, until they saw what looked like rain drops falling from the planes.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  The company remained at Clark Field for the next two weeks and lived through several more air raids.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta, where they were going to use a bridge to cross the Agno River had been destroyed, and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks were asked to hold the position for six hours, they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.

    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff. 
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6th, the 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross a bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.

    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.

    B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.

    When the order came for the defenders of Bataan to surrender, Danny and the other members of  Sgt. Zenon Bardowski's tank platoon attempted to get their tanks across to Corregidor.  When it became evident that they would not be allowed to take the tanks to Corregidor, the tankers abandoned the tanks and went to Corregidor without them.

    Danny would continue to fight until Corregidor surrendered on May 6, 1942.  One of the greatest regrets Danny and the other members of his tank platoon had was not destroying their tanks.  When the final all out attack on Corregidor came, it was led by their tanks which had been captured by the Japanese.

    Danny and the other prisoners remained a Corregidor for several days on the beach.  They were then taken down to the shore and boarded onto smaller boats.  The boats took them to a larger ship that took them to an area near Manila.  A few hundred yards from shore the POWs were made to jump into the water and swim to shore.  Once on shore, they were marched ten miles to Bilibid Prison.  He remained there for almost a week before being sent to Cabanatuan.

    The prisoners were boarded onto a train and rode to the barrio of Cabanatuan.  They were held in a school for two days before they marched ten miles to Cabanatuan.  He would remain in the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail.

    In either late 1942 or early 1943, Danny was sent on a work detail to the Bachrach Garage in Manila.  The POWs on the detail repaired mechanical equipment for the Japanese.  With him on the detail, were Arthur VanPelt, Roger Heilig, Ralph Ellis and Warren Hildebrandt.  All had been members of B Company.  

    In late 1944, when it became apparent to the Japanese that the invasion of the Philippines was near, most of the POWs on this detail were sent to the Port Area of Manila.  The Japanese were attempting to send the healthy POWs to Japan, and other countries, to work as slave labor and prevent them from being liberated by advancing American forces.

    In early October 1944, the Danny and almost 1800 other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila.  When his POW group arrived at the pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on, the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived at the pier.  Another POW detachment had completely arrived, but their ship was not ready to sail.  It was at that time that the Japanese made the decision that they switch POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail. 

    On October 11th the POWs boarded the Arisan Maru and 1800 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the Arisan Maru which could hold 400 men.  They were packed in so tightly that they could not move.  Those POWs who had lain down in the wooden bunks along the haul could not sit up because the bunks were so close together.  Eight large cans served as the washroom facilities for the POWs. 

    On October 11th, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp so during the night, the POWs were in total darkness.  Being in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes, but the ship was attacked once by American planes while in the cove.

    Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice.  Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.

    Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights.  Some of the prisoners were able to wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines.  This allowed fresh air into the hold.  The blowers were disconnected two days later when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
    After this was done, the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  The Japanese realized that if they did not do something many of the POWs would die.  To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs into it.  At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.

    The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th, where it joined a twelve ship convoy.  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 making them targets for American submarines.  In addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading the Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese.  To protect this secret, they did not tell the submarine crews that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines.  The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard.  The men inside the holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.

    The Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship. The waves were high since a storm had just passed.  At about 5:50 P.M., as the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and a torpedo passed in front of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in its third hold where there were no POWs but still killed some POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    The Japanese guards took their guns and used them as clubs on the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders into the holds and put the hatch covers on the holds, but they did not tie them down.

    Some of the POWs from the first hold climbed out and reattached the ladders and dropped them to the men in the holds.  The POWs left the holds but made no attempt to abandon ship. On the ship's deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, "Boys, we're in a hellva a jam - but we've been in jams before.  Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers.  Let's play it that way to the very end of the script."  Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, "Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men."  The ship sank lower into the water. 

    According to surviving POWs, the ship stayed afloat for hours but got lower in the water.  At one point, the stern of the ship began going under which caused the ship to split in half but the halves remained afloat.  It was about this time that about 35 POWs swam to the nearest Japanese ship.  When the Japanese realized that they were POWs, they pushed them underwater with poles and drowned them or hit them with clubs.  Those POWs who could not swim raided the food lockers for a last meal, because they wanted to die with full stomachs.  Other POWs took to the water with anything that would float.   

    Five POWs found an abandoned life boat and managed to climb in but found it had no oars.  With the rough seas, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru and sank sometime after dark on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  The men in the boat heard cries for help, which became fewer and fewer, until there was silence.  The next day they picked up two more survivors.

    In June 1945, Danny's family received a POW postcard from him which was sent before he left the work detail.  In the card, Danny wrote:


"Received the package you sent and was very much surprised for I did not expect it.  I did expect to receive some mail but did not.  So please write and tell the folks to write.  And also send me photos.  I am doing fine and hope to hear the same from you.  Regards to all."


     When his parents received this, they had no idea that Danny had already died on the Arisan Maru.

    Pvt. Daniel J. Boni lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea.  Of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking, and only eight of these men would survive the war.  Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Daniel J. Boni's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.



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