Capt. Arthur V. Burholt
| Capt. Arthur V. Burholt was
the son of Judson Burholt & Alice E.
Conley-Burholt and was born on September 16, 1908,
in Columbus, Ohio. He was the oldest of the
couple's three sons. While he was a child,
his father passed away. His mother would
later marry Fred Weisenblatt.
Sometime during this period, the family moved to Port Clinton. There, Arthur attended school. He was a 1926 graduate of Port Clinton High School and a 1932 graduate of Michigan State Normal College.
On February 15, 1933, Arthur joined the Ohio National Guard, he also took a job at Port Clinton High School where he coached basketball and later became the school's athletic director. On May 1, 1936, he married Virginia Van Rensselaer. He and his wife resided at 520 East Perry Street in Port Clinton.
On November 23, 1940, he was promoted to second lieutenant. Two days later he was called to federal duty as a member of C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
Arthur trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky for almost a year. It was in January of 1941 that Arthur was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed from the letter companies of the battalion. It was also during this time that Arthur was promoted to first lieutenant on May 18, 1941. On July 1, 1941, he was promoted to captain. He next took part in maneuvers in Louisiana during the later summer of 1941.
At Camp Polk, Arthur and the rest of the
battalion learned that they had been selected to
go overseas. He was given the job of S-3
or Staff Officer for Operations. Many of
the members of the battalion returned home to
say their goodbyes. After their return,
the companies of the battalion were sent to San
Francisco over different train routes.
From San Francisco, they were taken by ferry to
Sailing from Angel Island off the coast of California, Arthur left for the Philippine Islands. After stops in Hawaii and Guam, the battalion arrived in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day. Less than two weeks later, Arthur survived the Japanese attack on Clark Field.
While Arthur was fighting the Japanese in the Philippines, his wife received several letters from him. In a letter dated January 17, 1942, he wrote, "It's been a week since I last wrote to you. I'm still O.K. so don't worry about me. Keep you chin up and a smile on your face.
We are putting up a good fight, and if any aid comes to us from home, I'm sure everything will work out for the best. Lt. Harold Collins has been promoted to captain. I haven't received any letters from you since November 3, but am writing with the hope that some letters will arrive.
I have no use for money now. There are no places to buy anything and besides that, there is nothing to buy. About the only use I have for money is paying for washing out what few clothes I have left.
I am certainly glad for your sake that the government didn't allow us to bring our wives. No matter how much I miss you, I still will rather have you safe in the good old U. S. A. than subjected to the bombings that the people in the Philippines have been subjected to. If you pray a little extra hard, I'm sure that I will come home.
Brother Ralph should be plenty busy at Douglas, at least I hope so, because it sure would be a great sight to see a few American planes come over and give us a lift. Strange as it may seem , I will want to carry on and continue to make my career the army, so get ready for some good old army post life when I get back.
In a letter his wife received during the Battle of the Bataan dated January 21, 1942, Arthur wrote, "I can assure you that our outfit is very, very far from being out of action. We can, and will continue to give the Japs plenty to worry about. All we need is a little additional aid from the United States, and the government will not have to worry about the Philippines." Like the other defenders of Bataan, Burholt believed General MacArthur's claim that aid was coming, "Still very much o.k. and still fighting Japs. We are looking forward to the day when aid will arrive. Keep people back home plugging for increased production and the enlargement of our armed forces."
Arthur also told his wife, "There isn't much I can tell you of what is going on over here, but if you listen to the San Francisco broadcasts you will get a pretty good picture of where we are and what we are doing."
"Don't pay any attention to the Japanese broadcasts as they have already reported over the radio three different times that our battalion has been wiped out."
Arthur also talked about events in the U. S., "Somewhere in the Philippines we heard a radio broadcast telling of the planes crash in which Carol Lombard was killed. Also heard some music which really sounded good after hearing only planes and artillery fire for such a long time. Too bad about Lombard, but I guess it must have been her time."
In another letter dated January 28, 1942, he wrote, "Beefy" said "we are still safe. Had a pretty tough week, but everyone came through o.k. Weather is getting hot, but as a whole, everyone in command is in pretty good physical condition.
Went to communion in the field this morning and prayed that all of you at home were o.k. I keep worrying that something will happen to you, or that you are sick and I would never know anything about it. I'll be back soon so don't worry about me. Keep praying and I know that I'll come out o.k.
I hear by radio that they really are really expanding the armed force at Sandusky is good news."
On February 3, 1942, Arthur was sent to the west coast of Bataan as S-3 of his battalion. His job was to coordinate the tanks in action against the Japanese. He would remain in the area until February 11th. During this time, he commanded the tanks in action after action against the Japanese at the Anyasan River. The terrain was not suitable for tanks, but through his efforts the tanks were able to support the troops.
On April 9, 1942, Arthur became a Prisoner of War with the surrender of Bataan. The members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac remained in their camp for two days. A Japanese officer and soldiers appeared and ordered the Americans onto the road that ran past their encampment.
Once on the road, Arthur and the other POWs were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road. They then placed their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers who were marching passed them, took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
Arthur and his company were ordered to go to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They were allowed to drive their trucks there. When they reached the outskirts of Mariveles, the POWs were ordered from their trucks and herded into a school yard. They remained in the school yard for hours.
When ordered to move, Arthur's company went to a open field. They found themselves in front of Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. While Arthur and his men sat there, Corregidor began returning fire. Shells from the American guns began landing among the POWs. When the barrage ended, three of the four Japanese guns had been knocked out.
Arthur and his men were ordered to move again, he and the others had no idea that they had begun the death march. Like the other prisoners, Arthur went days without food and water. The death march had one lasting effect on Arthur, that effect was that his hair turned completely gray.
At San Fernando, Arthur and the other POWs were packed into small boxcars used for hauling sugarcane. 100 POWs were packed into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. From this barrio, he made his way to Camp O'Donnell.
Being an officer, Arthur was not held in the main prisoner camp. While a prisoner, Arthur was credited with saving the life of Pvt. Charles Chaffin. Chaffin was suffering from a bad case of malaria. Arthur somehow got him the quinine that saved his life.
When Cabanatuan #1 was opened, Arthur he remained behind at Camp O'Donnell for a month and half. It is believed he was too ill to be moved. After he recovered, he was sent to Cabanatuan POW Camp which had been opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell. There, he and Capt. Harold Collins are credited with organizing plays for the men to see and take part in as actors. These shows allowed the POWs an escape from the misery of their daily lives.
Arthur next went on a work detail to Camp
McKinley on December 12, 1942. What they
did there is not known. From there, on
January 21, 1943, the POWs were sent to
Neilson Airfield to build runways. The
detail again moved, on October 25, 1943, and
sent to Camp Murphy to build more runways.
Medical records indicate that Burholt was
admitted to the medical ward at Bilibid Prison
on May 20, 1944, suffering from a cyst in his
mouth. He remained in the ward until he
was discharge on June 16th. When he was
discharged, he returned to the work detail.
Bilibid Prison was the processing center for POWs being sent to Japan or other occupied countries. He was given a physical and declared healthy enough to be sent to Japan. On December 7th, the Japanese gave orders to the medical staff at Bilibid to make a list of POWs healthy enough to survive a trip to Japan. Arthur's name was put on the list.
On December 12, 1944, roll call was taken and
the names of the men selected for transport to
Japan were called. Arthur's name was on
this list. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of
December 13th, the POWs were awakened for roll
call. At 7:00 A.M. they lined up and their
names were checked on rosters. This took
almost two hours. After roll call, the
POWs were allowed to roam the facility.
The ship sailed at 3:30 A.M. from Manila as part
of the MATA-37 convoy bound for Takao,
Formosa. Meals on the ship consisted of a
little rice, fish and water. The morning
of December 14th, mess was being given to the
prisoners when the sound of anti-aircraft guns
was heard. At first the POWs thought it
was a drill since they didn't hear any
planes. It was when a bomb exploded in the
water they knew the gun crews were not
drilling. The POWs heard the change in the
sound of the planes' engines as they began their
dive toward the ships in the convoy.
Explosions were taking place all around the
In the hold the POWs crowded together.
Chips of rust fell on them from the
ceiling. After the raid, they took care of
the wounded before the next attack started.
Ricocheting bullets and shrapnel flew in the
hold hitting POWs. A Catholic priest, Fr.
Duffy, began praying. "Father forgive them.
They know not what they do."
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. That night, the medics in the ship's hold were ordered out by a Japanese officer to tend to the Japanese wounded. One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying and wounded were everywhere.
In the ship's holds, the POWs could hear the sound of the Japanese passengers being loaded into lifeboats. By the next morning, all the Japanese passengers were off the ship. At 4:00 AM, the POWs were told they would be evacuating the ship. They would remain in the holds for another four hours.
The morning of December 15th, U.S. Navy planes resumed the attack. Again, the attacks came in waves which were actually worse then the day before. During one wave, one bomb penetrated the side of the aft hold, exploded, and killed many POWs. Arthur was wounded by the explosion.
A guard shouted into the holds that the prisoners were going ashore. The wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners.
At one point, four
American planes flew low over the POWs in the
water. The POWs frantically waved at them
to show they were Americans. One plane
veered off and returned even lower in the
sky. This time the pilots dipped their
wings to indicate they knew the men in the water
were Americans and the panes flew off.
Arthur and the other POWs swam to shore near Olongapo Naval Station, Subic Bay, Luzon. While they swam, the Japanese fired at them with machine guns. After the POWs had abandoned ship, the Oryoku Maru was sunk. After they reached shore, the POWs heard a series of small explosions. The ship capsized and sank.
The surviving POWs were herded onto a tennis court. When roll was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack. While they were sitting there, four American planes flew over looking the men over. The planes circled and three dipped their wings to the men.
Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a single tennis court. The Japanese packed 1300 of the POWs on the court with 100 wounded POWs taking up a great amount of room at one end. They could barely sit down and only lay down by lying partially on another man. During this time, the POWs were not fed but did receive water.
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibd. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time on the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
The evening of December 16th, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs. About half of the rice had fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English,"No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid." The guard knew as little as the POWs.
On December 21st, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater. Since it was dark, the POWs saw as a dungeon.
During their time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
December 23rd, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24th, the POWs were taken to the train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25th, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM. They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December 25th until the 26th. The POWs were held in a school house. The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of those men died.
On December 27th, the POWs were marched to a wharf. Once there, they jumped into barges and were ferried to another ship. Arthur and the other POWs were put onto another Hell Ship the Enoura Maru. The ship arrived safely at Formosa arriving there on December 31st. During the time at Takao. Formosa, the POWs remained in the holds. From January 1st through the 5th, they received one meal a day and not enough water. On January 6th, their meals were increased to two a day.
The morning of January 9th, the POWs were receiving their first meal when the machineguns on the ship began to fire. Bombs began exploding in the water around the ship resulting in the ship rocking from the explosions. The bombs continued to fall closer and closer to the ship until it was hit.
One bomb exploded in one of the holds and resulted in the deaths of 285 of the survivors of the Oryoku Maru attack. Arthur was wounded during the attack by the fighter-planes. One wound damaged his spine resulting in his being unable to walk.
The Japanese left the dead in the holds of the ship until January 11th. At that time a POW detail was formed and the corpses of 150 POWs were removed from the ship, taken to a crematory, cremated, and placed into a large urn. Later on the same day, the POWs from the forward hold were moved to another hold.
On January 13th, the POWs were transferred to the Brazil Maru. For the first time, the POWs found they had room and mats to sleep on. The POWs also were issued lifejackets. On January 15th, the ship sailed for Japan.
According to another POW, Pfc. Roland Stickney, who was on the ship, sometime after the ship sailed for Japan, Arthur was taken to the back of the hold by other officers and left to die. Stickney had a great deal of contempt for these officers. While Arthur lay on the floor of the hold, other POWs stripped him of his clothing. When he was found by Stickney a few days later, he was naked and near death. Capt. Arthur V. Burholt died of his wounds in the hold of the ship. He was 36 years old. After he died, his body was thrown into the sea.
On February 23, 1945, Virginia
Burholt was notified that her husband had
posthumously been awarded the Silver Star for
his actions at the Anyasan
River during the Battle of Bataan.