Pfc. Ancel Edgar Crick

    Pfc. Ancel E. Crick was born on July 23, 1917, to Sam Crick and Zetta Mae Smith-Crick in Whitley County, Kentucky.  It is known he had four sisters and one brother.  He joined the Kentucky National Guard and was called to federal service on November 25, 1940.  During his training at Fort Knox, he was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created in early 1941.

    In the late summer of 1941, Ancel took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after the maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, that he and the rest 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, 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 Wednesday, November 5th, 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.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 to unload the tanks.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.    
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure they had what they needed and that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance while they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion. 
    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, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ancel and the other members of the battalion learned of the Japanese attack.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, they lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.

    For the next four months, Ancel worked to supply the tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion with gasoline and ammunition in the fight against the Japanese.  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, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  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.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.

   HQ Company then boarded 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 there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up to the soldiers in a car.  He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  While he was driving away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns. 

     Later in the day, the men were moved to a schoolyard in Mariveles.  In the schoolyard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and the guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells.

    The POWs were ordered to move and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march they received no water and little food.  At San Fernando, he was put into a wooden boxcar known as a "Forty or Eight," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a death trap with as many as fifty men dying each day.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  To get out of the camp, many of the POWs volunteered to go out on work details.  The death rate got so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.

    Ancel was next held at Cabanatuan.  After arriving in the camp, he was sent to "Zero Ward," or the camp hospital, on July 9, 1942, suffering from malaria.  It was given its name since most of the POWs who entered it did not leave alive.  No date for his release is given on the roster of POWs in the hospital.
    Ancel remained in the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail to Nichols Field.  It is not known if he was sent there in the original POW draft, or if he was sent there as a replacement for a POW who had died or been sent to Bilibid.  This detail was also known as the Pasay School Detail.  The POWs were housed in eighteen rooms inside the school building.  30 POWs slept in each room, but no beds were provided.  Meals consisted of the scraps from the Japanese mess hall kitchen.
    To reach Nichols Airfield, the POWs marched about a mile.  As they marched in their tattered clothes and without shoes, the Filipino civilians expressed their sympathy to them which angered the Japanese guards.

    The POWs on the this detail built runways with picks and shovels literally leveling hills by hand.  The rubble from the hill was put into mining cars and pushed by two POWs who dumped the cars in a swamp to create landfill for the runway.    

    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.
    While he was on the detail, Ancel on a couple of occasions was sent to the hospital ward at Bilibid.  Medical records kept at the prison show he had been admitted on January 12, 1943, with pellagra.  It appears that while he was there, an appendectomy was performed before he discharged, on April 2, 1943, to Cabanatuan.  At some point he returned to Las Pinas, but was again admitted to the hospital on September 22, 1943, suffering from beriberi.  At this time, no date of discharge is known.
    As American forces approached the Philippines, the Japanese began to send large numbers of POWs to safer parts of the Japanese Empire.  In early October,  Ancel's name appeared on a roster of POWs being sent to Japan.  The detachment was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, but the ship was ready to sail and not all the POWs had arrived.  So that the ship could sail, the Japanese switched his detachment with another POW detachment. 

    On October 11, 1944, Ancel was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  With him were Vernon Bussell, Robert Cloyd, John Cummins, John Babb, James Sallee, George Boyce, James Carter and William Jardot.  At one time or another, all these men had been members of D Company.

    The Arisan Maru set sail for Japan and took a southerly route away from Formosa and dropped anchor in a cove off the Island of Palawan.  This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes.  It should be mentioned that the POWs lived through one attack, by American planes, while in the cove.

    For eleven days, John and the other prisoners were held in the ship's holds while the Japanese formed a convoy.  By this time, the men began to pray that the ship would be sunk by an American submarine.  To relieve the situation, some resourceful prisoners hooked up the hold's blowers to an electrical line for the hold's lights.  The Japanese had removed the light bulbs but had not turned off the power.  Doing this brought fresh air into the hold.  Two days later, the Japanese discovered what had been done and cut the power.  Conditions became so bad that the POWs developed heat blisters.  The Japanese finally acknowledge the conditions and opened the ship's second hold.  Six hundred POWs were transferred the hold which was partially filled with coal. 

    The ship returned to the Manila on October 20th where it joined twelve ship convoy.  On October 23rd, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The American submarines, in the area, had no idea what the cargo of the ships was, 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 5:00 P.M., POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds.  About half the POWs had been fed.  The waves were high since a storm had just passed.  The ship was off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel, of the South China Sea.  As the POWs watched, the Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo passed to the front of the ship.  The Japanese next ran to the stern and watched another torpedo pass behind the ship.  There was a sudden jar caused by the ship being hit, amidships, by two torpedoes killing POWs.  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 used their guns to beat the POWs on deck so they would go into the holds.  Once they were in, they cut the rope ladders into the holds and covered the hatches before they abandoned ship, but they did not tie the hatch covers down. 
The POWs in the first hold were able to climb out and attached and lowered the rope ladders to those in the first hold.  They also dropped rope ladders down to the POWs in the second hold.

    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."
Most of the POWs remained on the ship.  Those who could not swim raided the food lockers.  They wanted to die on full stomachs.   The ship slowly got lower in the water.  At one point it split in two.

    Many of the POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue them.  The Japanese destroyers deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.  When POWs attempted to climb onto ships, the Japanese beat them with clubs until they fell off the ship, or they pushed them under water with poles to drown them.

    According to the three POWs who found an abandoned lifeboat, the Arisan Maru slowly got lower in the water, and at some point the ship split in two.  The exact time that it sank is unknown since it sank after dark.  Cries for help could be heard from every direction.  Finally, there was silence.

    Pfc. Ancel Crick lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea.  Of the 1783 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking, and only eight men would survive to the end of the war.  Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Ancel E. Crick's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.



Return to D Company