| 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. He 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 then 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.
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, on
the side of a hill, that he learned his battalion
was being sent overseas. He received a leave
home to say his goodbyes.
Being a member of HQ Company, Homer did not take part in fighting the Japanese. Since there was no air cover, he did live with the constant bombing and strafing by Japanese planes.
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. His company burnt everything they could and damaged everything else beyond use. At least, they hoped that the things could not be repaired and used by the Japanese. His company remained in their bivouac for two days before receiving orders to move.
The soldiers found a mule which they slaughtered and cooked for its meat. As they started to eat, 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, Homer and his company 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 in front of the line and a Japanese officer got out. He spoke to the Japanese sergeant in charge of the detail and then got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese soldiers received orders from the sergeant and lowered 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. Behind them on the field, were four Japanese artillery pieces firing at Corregidor. Corregidor, which had not surrendered, was also firing on the Japanese. Shells from the American fortress 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. 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 packed into small wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane. The POWs rode a train to Capas. At Capas, the bodies of those who had died fell out of the cars as the living climbed out to walk the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
In the camp, meals for Homer and the other men consisted of two watery cups of rice a day. Death was something that the POWs lived with 24 hours a day. The POWs in the camp were dying from sickness, starvation and the stress of making the march. It was estimated as many as 40 to 50 Americans and 200 to 300 Filipinos were buried each day. The dead were buried 30 per grave.
In October, 1942, Homer was selected for a work detail at Davao, Mindanao. The POWs were boarded on the Interland Steamer. The ship sailed on July 1, 1942 and arrived at Davao on July 9th. There, he worked on a farm and built runways. During Homer's time as a POW, his parents received a number of form post cards that indicated that he was in good health. The fact was he and the other prisoners were suffering from malnutrition, beriberi, malaria, and other tropical diseases.
It is not known how long Homer remained on this
detail, or when he and the other prisoners were
taken back to Manila. After spending time in
Bilibid Prison, Homer was returned to
Cabanatuan. It is known 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 that he
was a POW on April 15, 1943.
As American forces got closer to the Philippines, the Japanese began sending large numbers of POWs to other parts of their empire. Home was put in a group of 1802 POWs. The POWs were taken 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. The ship was ready to sail, but since many of the POWs from this second detachment had not arrived, the Japanese boarded Homer's POW group onto the ship.
On the ship with Homer were other members of his battalion. The POWs were 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. 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 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. As the ship waited in the cove, it was attacked 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 they had removed the bulbs, the Japanese had failed to turn off the power. For several days the POWs had fresh air. When the Japanese discovered what had been done, they cut the power to the light system.
The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th. There, it joined a convoy. On October 21st, the convoy left Manila 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 ideas 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, in 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".
A detachment of POWs was on deck cooking rice for the POWs' dinner. They watched as the Japanese on deck ran toward the bow of the ship. As the POWs watched, a torpedo passed in front of the ship. Moments later, a second torpedo passed the ship's stern. There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water. It had been hit by a torpedo 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 took a machinegun and began firing on the POWs who were on deck. 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. A group of 35 swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed 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.
Five 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, the Arisan Maru sank sometime after dark. As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer until there was silence. Of the 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking. 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.