Pvt. Lester C. Cale
    Pvt. Lester C. Cale was born in 1915 in Cleveland, Ohio.  He was the son of Alfred E. Cale & Lillian Radloff-Cale and was second oldest of three sons.

    Lester became a member of the 192nd Tank Battalion as its members prepared for duty in the Philippine Islands.  It is known that he was from the Cleveland, Ohio, area and worked for a railroad.  After being inducted into the Army on March 28, 1941, Lester became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion in 1941 at Camp Polk, Louisiana, after basic training.

    It appears that the reason the 753rd had been sent to Camp Polk was to supply replacements for members of 192nd released from federal duty.  Lester and his friends, Peter Pirnat and Andy Aquila, volunteered to go overseas with the battalion.  Their reason for doing this was that the three friends wanted to see the world.  Having been trained as a truck driver, Lester was assigned to Headquarters Company.
   The battalion sailed 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 shore leave and were allowed to explore the island.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, on Sunday, November 16th, 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 Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.  The maintenance section of HQ Company remained at the pier to unload the tanks.

    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who 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, but the fact was he learned of their arrival just days before they arrived.  He stayed with the battalion until they had received their Thanksgiving Dinner. Afterwards, he went for his own dinner.
    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 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th was assigned the northern half of the battalion while the 192nd was assigned the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew were to remain with their vehicles.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalion were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier and ordered to their companies.  Being that most of the members of HQ Company had no weapons, they remained in the battalion's bivouac.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Clark Field was bombed by the Japanese.  Most of the Army Air Corps was destroyed during the attack.  Lester and his company could do little more than take cover during the attack. Afterwards, the saw the damage done by the attack.

    During the Battle of Bataan, Lester drove supplies to the various companies of the 192nd.  When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, Lester became a Prisoner Of War.  Lester with Harry Norowul was selected to remain on Bataan to drive cars and trucks for the Japanese.  After five days, the Japanese ended the detail. 
   Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender the night of April 8th.  He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  Somehow Bruni came up with enough bread and pineapple juice to hold what he called, "Their last supper."
    On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M.  The members of the company remained in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Lester was now a Prisoner of War.  On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
    The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.   
    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
    Later in the day, Lester's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  The Japanese ordered the POWs to move, they had no idea that they had started the death march.
    The POWs were ordered to rest by the Japanese where
four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.     
    It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
    How long the POWs remained in the bull pen is not known.  The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns of 100 men and took them to the train depot at San Fernando. 
Lester was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could each hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  From Capas, Lester walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.   

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink simply because the guards turned off the water.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day. 
    To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Lester, Peter Pirnet and Andy Aquila volunteered to return to Bataan to rebuild bridges.  The detail was under the command of Lt. Col. Theodore Wickord who had been the commanding officer of the 192nd.  The bridge detail first worked at Calaun and than Batangas.  They were next sent north to Candelaria.  In each of the towns, the Filipino people did their best to provide food and medicine to the men on the detail.

    Halfway through the detail, the soldiers were divided into two groups, one group was sent to a sawmill to cut timbers for the bridges.  The other group was sent to build bridges.  Lester was sent to the sawmill.  While at the sawmill, guerillas attacked and wiped out the Japanese guards.  To their dismay, the POWs were too sick to escape.  All but one man remained behind.

    When the Japanese retook control of the sawmill, they enforced the "Blood Brother" rule.  Each POW would be given a number. The five prisoners with numbers higher or lower than the escaped prisoner would be executed.

    The ranking officer on the detail had to select ten POWs for execution.  No matter what he did, he could not win.  He finally picked ten men who slept closest to the escaped prisoner.  Five slept on one side of the man and the other five slept on the other side.  Those who were selected were forced to dig their own graves.  After they had finished, they stood in the graves and were shot.  One of the men survived the first shot.  He stood up and spat at the Japanese guards and was shot a second time and died.  The other POWs were forced to watch the execution. 

    When this detail was over, Lester returned to Cabanatuan.  It was while he was a POW at the camp that Lester became developed beriberi.  According to POW roster kept by the medical staff at Cabanatuan, Lester was admitted to "Zero Ward," on September 3rd, because he was suffering from beriberi.   He remained in the hospital until February 1, 1943, when he was discharged. 
    While being held at Cabanatuan, he was selected for another detail as a replacement worker and sent to Las Pinas to build runways at Nielson Airfield.  The POWs built the runways with picks and shovels and had to remove hills by hand.

    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men and than exercises.  After this came breakfast, which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.

    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 told 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 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.

    Medical records indicate that Lester was became ill and, at some point, was returned to Cabanatuan.  According to the medical records from Cabanatuan, Lester was admitted to Hospital Building #4 from Division I, Building #2, on July 22, 1944.

     In October of 1944, Lester's name was placed on a POW list for shipment to Japan.  He and the other men were driven to Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila.  Although they were scheduled to be boarded onto the  Hokusen Maru, the POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11, 1944.  This was done because the other POWs had not all arrived at the pier.  All 1803 POWs were packed into the ship's second hold which was large enough for 400 men.  Within 48 hours, five men died.

     The ship sailed but instead of heading for Japan, they headed south and anchored in a cove off the Island of Palawan.  The reason the ship was sent there was to prevent it from being attacked by American planes.  While in the cove, the Japanese opened a second hold and moved 800 POWs into it to lower the death rate.  They did this because they realized that the ship was becoming a death ship.  

    On October 20th the Arisan Maru returned to Manila Bay.  While the ship had been off Palawan, the port area had been bombed by American planes.  The ship joined a convoy of eleven other ships.  The convoy sailed on October 21st for Formosa.

    Around 5:00 pm on October 24th, the ship was in the Bashi Channel in the South China Sea.  Twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner when they saw the Japanese guards suddenly run to the stem of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship.  The Japanese ran to the stern of the ship and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  Two more torpedoes were spotted heading directly at the ship.  Both hit amidships.  The ship shook and came to a stop.

   To get the POWs on deck back into the holds, the guards began aiming his machine-gun at them.  Once the POWs were in the holds, the guards cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds.  Since orders were given to abandon ship, they did not tie the covers down.

    After the Japanese were gone, some POWs in the ship's first hold made it on deck and reattached the rope ladders to both holds.  The POWs climbed out of the holds to the deck.  Some men realizing the ship was slowly sinking swam to the nearest Japanese ship which was picking up Japanese survivors.  When they reached the ship, the crew pushed the POWs away with poles.  Those who tried to climb onto the ship were hit with clubs.  

    Those POWs who could not swim, raided the ship's food locker and ate their last meal.   Others tried to find anything that floated in an attempt to save their lives.  At some point, the ship split in two. 

     Three POWs climbed into an abandoned lifeboat.  The boat had no sail or oars, so they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the surviving POWs, the Arisan Maru sunk sometime after dark.  The cries for help could be heard all around the men in the boat.  Finally, there was silence.  The next morning they rescued two more men.

    Of the 1803 prisoners who had been boarded onto the ship, only nine survived its sinking,  Eight of these men survived the war.

    Pvt. Lester C. Cale died when the Arisan Maru sank in the South China Sea on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  Since he was lost at sea, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.

    The photo at the top of this page shows Pvt. Lester C. Cale firing a machine-gun at Ft. Knox.  Next to him is Andy Aquila of B Company.  When the photo was taken, both men were in basic training at Ft. Knox.


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