Brewer

 

Pfc. Hubert Oris Brewer


    What is known about Pfc. Hubert O. Brewer is that he was born in February 27, 1921, in Onia, Stone County, Arkansas.  He was the son of Floyd D. Brewer & Gertha E. Lawrence-Brewer and lived in Lamar, Arkansas, as a child.  He had three brothers and a sister.
    Hubert later resided in Ofuskee County, Oklahoma, and worked as a farmhand.  He was drafted into the army on March 17, 1941, and inducted at Oklahoma City.  After basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    Hubert joined the 192nd Tank Battalion in the autumn of 1941, after those National Guardsmen 29 years old, or with two children, were released from federal service.  Many of these replacements were volunteers from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  Hubert was assigned to Company C which was originally an Ohio National Guard Tank Company.
    Over different train routes the battalion traveled to San Francisco and were taken by ferry to Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated.  Those men with minor medical conditions were kept on the island and told they would rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The battalion sailed, on the 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 officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed. 
There, they fought a successful battle against the Japanese at Demoritis to relieve the 26th U.S. Cavalry.

    When Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, Hubert became a Prison of War.  He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  He was next sent to Cabanatuan. Records kept by the medical staff, show he was admitted to the camp hospital on April 5, 1943.  Why he was admitted to the hospital and when he was discharged were not recorded. 
    Hubert also was sent out to Nichols Field on a work detail.  He most likely was a replacement since the original detail left the camp in December 1942.  The POWs built runways at the airfield with picks and shovels.  To do this, they literally removed the side of a mountain.  The POWs were abused by the Japanese guards and some killed.
    While on the detail, he and the other POWs were housed at Pasay School which was about a mile from the airfield.  Before they could march to work each morning, the POWs had to do calisthenics.  Food for the POWs came from the Japanese guards' kitchen.  It usually was the parts of fish that they would not eat.

     In early October 1944, the Japanese, knowing that it was just a matter of time before the American forces would invade the Philippines, began sending large numbers of POWs to Japan or other occupied countries.  On October 11, 1944, Hubert was taken to Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila. 

    Hubert's POW detachment was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru which was ready to sail.  Since the entire detachment had not arrived, the Japanese switched his detachment with another detachment which was ready to board its ship. 

     Later, Hubert's detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru and packed into the ship's hold.  The next day 80 POWs were moved to the ship's other hold which was partially filled with coal.

    On October 10, 1944, Hubert was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs died because of the conditions in the hold.  The Japanese not wanting the ship to turn into a death ship opened the first hold.  800 POWs were moved to this hold.  

    The stay in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes on ships in the Manila Bay.  During this time, one POW was shot attempting to escape.  It is known that the ship was attacked once by American planes while in the cove.  The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th.  There, it joined a convoy of twelve ships.  

    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.  This made the ships targets for submarines.  

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, at 5:00 pm, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel.  The Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched at torpedo pass in front of the ship.  They then ran to the stern of the ship and watched another torpedo miss the ship.  Suddenly, there was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes amidships.  The ship stopped dead in the water.  Two torpedoes had hit the ship in its third hold where there were no POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U. S. S Snook.

    One of the Japanese guards took a machinegun and began firing at the POWs who were on deck.  To escape the fire, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds.

    As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two occupied holds.  Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders into the holds.  They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.

    All of the POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship.  At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship.  A group of 35 men swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs.  Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

     As the ship got lower in the water, more POWs took to the water.  Those POWs too weak to swim raided the ship's food lockers.  They wanted to die with full stomachs.  Many POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Some of the POWs found a abandoned lifeboat floating in the ocean.  These men stated that most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking. 

    The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.  According to the surviving POWs, as evening became night, the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence.

    Of the 1803 men on the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the sinking.  Of the survivors, only eight survived the war.  Pfc. Hubert O. Brewer was not one of them. 

    Since he died at sea,  Pfc. Hurbert O. Brewer's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.  


 

 

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