Cloyd

 

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 goodbyes.

    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 soldiers
were boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott which sailed on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  The ships had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.       
   
When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila.  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.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M, on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M. the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those assigned to trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind and unloaded the tanks. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Ccolonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
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.
    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.  

    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 discharge. 
    In January 1943, Robert was sent out on the work detail to Lipa Batangas.  The POWs built runways and revetments at Lipa Airfield and worked on a farm.  Within days of going out on the detail, Robert was admitted to the hospital ward at Bilibid, on January 24th, and remained there until he was discharged to Building 18 at Bilibid on March 4th.  He was then transferred to Cabanatuan on April 2, 1943.

    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 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 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 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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