Cloyd

 

Pfc. Robert Vernon Cloyd


    Pfc. Robert Vernon Cloyd was born on February 15, 1921, in Mercer County, Kentucky to Vernon Cloyd & Jessie May Smith-Cloyd.  He and his four sisters and one brother grew up outside of Harrodsburg, but in 1940, they were living at 937 Moreland Avenue.   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 he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.

    Over different train routes, the 192nd traveled to San Francisco.  After receiving physicals and inoculations, they were boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott  The ship sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. 
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    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 frontline action.

    The morning of April 9, 1942, Capt Bruni told his men of the surrender of Filipino and American forces on Bataan to the Japanese.  He ate breakfast with his men and ordered them to destroy anything that could be used by the Japanese.  Only the company's trucks would not be destroyed.

    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.  Robert was now officially a Prisoner of War.  As the POWs knelt, their possessions were in front of them.  The Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  

    Robert with his company were ordered into the 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 Japanese sergeant in charge and got back into the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered his men to lower their guns.

    Robert and the rest of the men were ordered to move and marched to a schoolyard.  At the schoolyard, they were 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.  Each car could hold 40 men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs in each car.  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.  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 discharge. 

    On 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 Pasay School. 
    Each morning, the POWs were marched to the airfield after morning exercises and breakfast.  As they marched, the Filipinos would show sympathy toward them because they how sickly they looked.  Their clothes were rags, and many of the men had no shoes.  The sympathy shown to them, by the Filipinos, made the Japanese angry. 

    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 POWs what had happened  White Angel told them that this was what would 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.
   

    On October 11, 1944 the POWs was sent to Pier 7 in Manila.  Once there, it was determined that one of the POW groups had not received its full compliment of men.  It was decided by the Japanese that Robert's group would be boarded onto this group's ship.  The ship they were boarded onto was the Arisan Maru.  The hold the POWs were put in could hold 400 men.  The Japanese put 1803 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.  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.. 

    The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 21st.  There, it joined a twelve ship convoy 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 watched as the Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship.  A torpedo from an American submarine pass 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 shoot at the POWs on deck.  The men climbed back into the holds.  The Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie the hatch covers down.  They then 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.  They also dropped rope ladders to the POWs in both holds. 

    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.

    Five 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 was silence.
 
    Pfc. Robert V. Cloyd lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea.  Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.  Eight of these men survived the war.  Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Robert Cloyd's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila


 

 

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