Pvt. George H. Boyce
| Pvt. George H.
Boyce was born in February 5, 1918, in Dewey
County, Oklahoma. He was the youngest of
seven children born to Roy and Nellie Boyce.
What is known about his early childhood was that
his mother died in 1919. By 1920, George,
his four brothers, and two sisters were living in
an orphanage in Custer County,
Oklahoma. In all likelihood, this was
done so that his father could work. He would
later live in the foster home of Mr. & Mrs. R.
B. McKinney in Hugo, Oklahoma.
On March 21, 1941, while living in Pushmataha County, George was inducted into the U. S. Army at Oklahoma City. He was then sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. At the camp, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
George spent the next six months training. He then went to Camp Polk, Louisiana with his battalion. It was while there, that the army asked for volunteers to join the 192nd Tank Battalion which was being sent overseas. George volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to D Company.
Traveling west by train, George and the other
soldiers were ferried to Angel Island. On
the island they received inoculations and were
given physicals. Those men with minor
medical conditions were held back and scheduled
to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The battalion sailed U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott
for Hawaii as
part of a
in Hawaii on
and had a
For the next four months, George 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. The camp was
an unfinished Filipino training base that
the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.
Because there was little medicine, disease ran
wild in the camp. As many as 50 POWs died
each day. The Japanese finally acknowledged that
they needed to do something to lower the death
rate, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
shown to the
commander of the
camp, a Lt. Moto,
was called the
because he wore
a spotless naval
He was commander
of the camp for
One day a POW
working on the
Moto was told
about the man
and came out and
ordered him to
When he couldn't
made to carry
the man back to
The welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese. They 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.
In particular, "the Wolf" was was hardest to convince that a man was sick. If a man's arm or leg was bandaged, he would kick the man's leg, in the spot it was bandaged, and see how the man reacted. If the man showed a great deal of pain, he was not required to work. In one case, a man whose broken wrist was in a splint, was twisted by the Wolf while the man trembled in pain.
The remains of
the POWs who had
died on the
The Japanese had
with the causes
of death and
signed by an
sent with the
the detail, who
boxes, would not
tell the POWs at
Bilibid what had
It was only when
the sick, from
began to arrive
at Bilibid did
they learn what
the detail was
These men were
sent to Bilibid
to die since it
better when it
was reported to
George remained in the Philippines until July
1944 when it became apparent that the Americans
were going to invade the Philippines. The
Japanese began transferring large numbers of
POWs to Japan or other occupied countries.
He and the other POWs were taken to Bilibid
Prison. When he arrived at the prison, he
was admitted to the hospital ward, on September
9, 1944, because he was suffering from
beriberi. How long he remained in the
hospital is not known.
On October 11, 1944, George was boarded onto the Arisan Maru. With him were Vernon Bussell, Robert Cloyd, John Cummins, John Babb, James Sallee, Ancel Crick, James Carter and William Jardot. At one time or another, all these men had been members of D Company.
The 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, George 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.