Pfc. Robert Vernon Cloyd
| Pfc. Robert V.
Cloyd was born on February 15, 1921, in Mercer
County, Kentucky, to Vernon Cloyd & Jessie May
Smith-Cloyd. With his four sisters and one
brother, he grew up outside of Harrodsburg, but in
1940, they were living at 937 Moreland Avenue in
Harrodsburg. He was known as "Bobby" to
his family and friends.
Robert joined the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. When he was called to federal service on November 25, 1940, he was working on a dairy farm. At Fort Knox, his tank company was given the designation of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He remained in the company until Headquarters Company was formed - with men from the four letter companies of the battalion - in January 1941. It is not known what duties he performed.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd went on
maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these
maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp
Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft.
Knox. It was on the side of a hill that they
learned that they were being sent overseas.
Most of the men received leaves home to say their
By train through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona,
the companymade its way to San Francisco,
California. They were ferried to Ft.
McDowell on Angel Island were they received
physicals and inoculations. Men with minor
medical conditions were held back and scheduled to
rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some
men were simply replaced.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Fred Bruni, the commanding officer of HQ Company, told his men that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor just ten hours earlier. Robert and the rest of HQ Company were sent to the north end of the main runway at Clark Field.
All morning long, Robert and the his company watched as the sky was filled with American planes. Around 12:30 in the afternoon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. American B-17's loaded with bombs to be used on Formosa were left on the runway.
At 12:45, Robert and his company noticed planes approaching the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were American. It wasn't until they saw the bombs falling from the planes and exploding that they knew that the planes were Japanese.
For the next four months, Robert and his company worked to keep the tanks supplied with ammunition and gasoline. He most likely did not see front line action.
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. 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. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
On April 11th, Robert and the other soldiers had
their first contact with the Japanese. A Japanese
officer ordered the company, with their
possessions out to the road that ran near their
encampment. Once on the road, they were
ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with
their possessions in front of them. Robert
was now officially a Prisoner of War. The Japanese soldiers,
passing them, took whatever they wanted from the
Americans. The POWs remained along the sides
of the road for hours.
The company boarded their trucks and rode to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once there, they were disembarked the trucks and ordered to Mariveles airfield. They sat at the airfield for hours without food or water. They did not know it at the time, but they were experiencing the "sun treatment".
As the POWs sat at the airfield, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form in front of them. The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad. As Robert and the other men watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out. He spoke to the sergeant in charge and got back into the car and drove off. The sergeant ordered his men to lower their guns.
Robert and the rest of the men were ordered to move to a schoolyard and ordered to sit. They soon realized that the Japanese were using the them as human shields. Not too long after they were put into the field, four Japanese guns began firing at Ft. Drum and Corregidor. Within minutes the two American fortresses began returning fire. Since there was no place to hide, the POWs hit the dirt. Several were killed during the artillery exchange. The American artillery did knock out three of the four guns. The POWs were ordered to move again, this time they had no idea that they had started what became known as the "death march".
On the march, Robert and the other men received no water and little food. Those POWs who fell were killed by the Japanese. At San Fernando, the POWs were put into small wooden boxcars which could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs in each car and closed the doors. They were packed in so tightly that the dead remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars.
At Capas, the POWs disembarked from the cars and
walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The camp was a death trap with as many as 50 POWs
dying each day. He remained in the camp until the
Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
It is known that Robert was
held at Cabanatuan which was opened to relieve the
conditions at Camp O'Donnell. Almost
immediately after arriving in the camp, Robert was
sent, on June 2, 1942, to "zero ward" because he
was having an attack of malaria. "Zero Ward"
which was the camp hospital which had been given
the name since most of the POWs sent there did not
come out alive. Robert was discharged from
the hospital, but no date was recorded for the
In July 1943, Robert went out on a work detail for
Las Pinas. The POWs worked to build runways
with picks and shovels at Nichols Airfield.
The POWs were housed in eighteen rooms at the
shown to the POWs
The first Japanese
commander of the
camp, a Lt. Moto,
was called the
because he wore a
was commander of
the camp for
day a POW
working on the
was told about the
man and came out
and ordered him to
get up. When
he couldn't four
were made to carry
the man back to
The welfare of the
POWs was of no
concern to the
They only concern
they had was
getting the runway
the number of POWs
being sick was too
simply walk among
the POWs, at the
school, and select
men who did not
physical signs of
pellagra could not
get out of
On October 11, 1944 the POWs was sent to Pier 7 in Manila. Once there, it was determined that one of the his detachment had not received its full compliment of men, but their ship was ready to sail. The Japanese swapped groups so it could sail. Robert's detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru. The hold the POWs were put in could hold 400 men but the Japanese put almost 1800 POWs in it. Within 48 hours, five POWs had died.
The ship sailed and took a southerly route away from Formosa. In a cove off the Island of Palawan, the ship dropped anchor. This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes. Some of the POWs discovered that the blowers in the hold could be hooked up to the holds lighting system. For two days the POWs breathed fresh air. When the Japanese found out what the POWs had done, they cut the power. The Japanese later transferred 800 POWs to the ship's number three hold to relieve the conditions because the ship was becoming a death trap.
The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 21st. There, it joined a twelve ship convoy bound for Formosa. On October 23rd, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea. American submarines did not know what cargo the ships were carrying 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, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea, off the coast of China. The POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those POWs who were still in the ship's two holds. The POWs, on deck, watched as the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship. A torpedo from an American submarine passed just in front of the ship. Moments later, the Japanese ran toward the stern of the ship. Once again a torpedo missed and passed just behind the ship.
There was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit amidships by two torpedoes. 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 guards took their weapons and began to beat the POWs on deck with them. The men climbed back into the holds. Once they were in, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on but did not tie the hatch covers down. When this was done, they abandoned ship.
Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached and lowered the ladders to those in the first hold. The POWs made their way on deck. On the ship's deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, "Boys, we're in a hellva a jam - but we've been in jams before. Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers. Let's play it that way to the very end of the script." Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, "Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men."
Many of the POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Others stuffed themselves with what was their last meal. Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue them. The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pushed away the POWs with poles or pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.
Three POWs found an abandoned life boat and got
into it. The boat had no oars, so they could
not maneuver it. According to these men, the
Arisan Maru slowly got lower in the
water. At some point it split in two.
The exact time of the sinking is not known since
it took place at night. As time went on,
there were fewer cries for help. Then, there