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 from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam. 
    When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  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.
    The morning of December 8th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.

    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.
    It is not known if George went directly to the camp when it opened, or if he was sent there after returning from work detail.  It is known that he was held in the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail. 
    George went out on a work detail to Nichols Airfield.  The POWs were housed at Pasay School and marched about a mile to the airfield each day.  Within the school, the POWs lived in eighteen rooms.  30 POWs were assigned to each room.  The food they received was the parts of fish that the Japanese considered uneatable.  When they marched to the airfield, they looked so sickly that the Filipinos openly showed sympathy toward them which angered the Japanese.
    At the airfield, they built runways with picks and shovels by removing hills by hand.  The rubble was pushed in mining cars, each pushed by two POWs, and dumped in a swamp to create landfill.  This was considered one of the worst details to work on as a POW because of the abuse of the POWs by the Japanese.                  

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel to them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.

    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 detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.   

    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.
    In early October, his name appeared on a roster of POWs who were being sent to Japan.  He and the other prisoners were taken to Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila.  The ship the POWs were scheduled to sail on was the Hokusan Maru.  The ship was ready to sail but not all the POWs had arrived at the dock.  The Japanese had another POW detachment on the pier which was also ready to sail.  So that the ship could leave, the Japanese swapped POW detachments.

     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.



Return to D Company