DuttH
Pfc. Homer Rea Dutt
    Pfc. Homer R. Dutt was born in Marion, Ohio, on July 20, 1915, to Henry F. Dutt and Idella Fisher-Dutt and was the couple's only child.  With his parents, he lived at 366 Hane Avenue in Marion and attended Vernon School and Marion Central Junior High School.  Before he entered the service, he worked at a Chevrolet dealership and operated his own gas station.  He was next employed at Marion Steam Shovel Company until he entered the army. 
    Homer was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 22, 1941, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, and joined the 192nd Tank Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He was assigned to Headquarters Company and attended tank mechanics school.

    During his time at Ft. Knox, Homer qualified as a tank mechanic.  In the late summer of 1941, Homer 's battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected.  It was on the side of a hill, that the battalion was being sent overseas.  It was at this time that he received leave home to say his goodbyes. 
    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco.  There, they were ferried to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  On the island, they received physicals and were inoculated.  Men determined to have a medical condition were either replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date after receiving medical treatment. 
    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 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.  Many of the tankers rode buses to Ft. Stostenburg, while other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.
  The maintenance section of the battalion remained at the pier and unloaded the battalion's 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.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with the battalion and made sure they received their Thanksgiving Dinner before leaving to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the trip to the Philippines.  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 battalion was put on full alert the morning of Monday, December 1st, and the tanks and half-tracks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  At all times, two tank and half-track crew members remained with their vehicles. 
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalion were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Most of the battalion members were ordered to the airfield, but HQ Company remained in the battalion's bivouac.  All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and were parked in a straight line.  The pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, planes were scene approaching the airfield from the north.  When bombs began falling on the runways, the Americans knew the planes were Japanese.
    After the attack, the battalion remained at Clark Field for about two weeks before being ordered to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing. 
Being a member of HQ Company, Homer did not take part in fighting the Japanese, but he worked to keep the tanks supplied and running.  Since there was no air cover, he did live with the constant bombing and strafing by Japanese planes.
    The evening of April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni - the commanding officer of HQ Company - came to his men and informed them that they would be surrendered the next morning at 7:00 A.M.  He told them to destroy anything that the Japanese may be able to use.  He somehow came up with enough bread and pineapple juice to have what he called. "Their last supper."

    On April 9, 1942, Homer became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  That morning, the company received word of Bataan's surrendered to the Japanese.  The soldiers found a mule which they slaughtered and cooked for its meat.  As they were eating, a Japanese officer and soldiers showed up and took charge of the area.  When the Japanese order the Prisoners of War to move, Homer's company members made their way to the road that ran past their bivouac.  Once on the road, the prisoners were made to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them went through the POWs possessions and took what they wanted from them. 

    After they had been searched, the company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  Once there, they were herded onto an airfield and left in the sun.  As they sat in the sun without water, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming in front of them.  The POWs realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad, and that they were the intended victims.  Just when it looked like the Japanese were ready to take action, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out.  He spoke to the Japanese sergeant, in charge of the detail, and got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese soldiers received orders from the sergeant to lower their guns. 

    Not too long after this happened, Homer and the other POWs were marched to a school yard and ordered to sit once again in the sun.  They remained there most of the day until they were ordered to move.
    The POWs marched until they were ordered to take a break.  Behind them in the field, were four Japanese artillery pieces firing at Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Corregidor and Ft. Drum, which had not surrendered, were also firing on the Japanese.  Shells from the American guns began landing among the POWs.  The prisoners sought shelter, but since there was none, some of the POWs were killed.  During this incident, the American artillery managed to knock out three of the four Japanese guns.

    Once again, the POWs received orders to move.  It was upon receiving this order that Homer started what became known as the "death march."  For Homer, and the other Prisoners of War, the two hardest things about the march were the hunger cramps and the senseless killing of men who could not keep up with the column.  Those who could no longer walk were left behind and in most cases killed.  He witnessed many men flattened into the ground by Japanese tanks as they headed south toward Mariveles. 

    On the march, Homer made his way to San Fernando.  There, he and the other Prisoners of War were first put into a bull pen and remained there most of the day.  The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station.  There, they were packed into small wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese put 100 men in each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall.   The POWs rode a train to Capas and disembarked.  From there, the POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.  

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water spigot for the entire camp which was turned off whenever a guard decided to do so.  Men literally died for a drink.  Disease ran wild among the POWs and many began to die.  The burial detail worked endless to bury the dead.  The number of deaths became so bad that the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.

    It is not known if Homer went out on a work detail or if he was sent to the new camp when it opened.  What is known is that on Tuesday, March 2, 1943, he was admitted to Ward 9 of the camp hospital.  No reason for admittance or date of discharge were given. It was while he was a POW at Cabanatuan that his parents received word, on April 15, 1943, that he was a POW.

    As American forces got closer to the Philippines, the Japanese began sending large numbers of POWs to other parts of their empire.  Homer was put in a group of almost 1800 POWsand sent to the Port Area of Manila on October 10, 1944. 

    Homer's group was scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru.  At the same time, another detachment of POWs was waiting to be boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  Homer's ship was ready to sail, but many of the POWs from his detachment had not arrived, the Japanese  switched detachments so that the shop could sail. 

    When the remaining POWs arrived, the POWs were  boarded onto the Arisan Maru and packed into the ship's number two hold.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks.  These bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while lying down, while those standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans.  Since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans.  The floor of the hold was soon covered with human waste.

    The Arisan Maru sailed to a cove off Palawan Island to avoid American planes.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs died in the ship's hold.  Only those POWs near the hatch got a good meal when food was lowered into the hold.  Each day, each POW was allowed three ounces of water.  As more POWs died, the Japanese moved about half the POWs into the ship's first hold which was partially filled with coal.  Although the ship was sent to the cove to hide from American planese, it was attacked, at least once, by American planes.

    At some point, some of the POWs figured out how to wire the ventilation system of the hold into the wiring for the hold's lights.  Although the Japanese had removed the bulbs, they had failed to turn off the power.  For several days the POWs had fresh air until the Japanese discovered what had been done and cut the power to the light system.

    The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th.  There, it joined a convoy which sailed on October 21st, and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  This made the ships targets for submarines.  It should be noted that although the United States had cracked the Japanese Naval Code, the crews of the submarines had no idea that some of the ships they were attacking were carrying POWs.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds.  The ship was off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel, of the South China Sea.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard.  The men inside the holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted. They began to chant, "Sink us Navy".

    As the POWs on deck watched, the Japanese, on deck, ran toward the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the aft of the ship and watched a second torpedo pass the ship's stern.  There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water when it was hit by two torpedoes amidships in its third hold where there were no POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    One of the Japanese guards aimed his machine gun at the POWs who were on deck and motioned for them to get into the holds.  Others used their rifles as clubs and hit the POWs.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie them down.

    As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds.  Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders.  They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.  Most of the POWs had survived the explosion and climbed onto the ship's deck.

    At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship even as the ship got lower in the water.  A group of 35 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed them away, or underwater with poles, and hit with clubs.  The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

    As the ship got lower in the water, some POWs took to the water.  These POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking.   At some point, the ship split in two. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.

    Three of the POWs found a abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, as the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer until there was silence. The next morning, two more men were pulled into the boat.  Of the 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking, and only eight of these men survived to the end of the war.

    Pfc. Homer R. Dutt died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on October 24, 1944.  Since he was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.


 

 

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