Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt
| Pfc. Clyde D.
Ehrhardt was born on August 9, 1917, in Wheatland,
Wyoming, and was the son of Jacob & Elizabeth
Ehrhardt. It is known that he had a
half-brother, and that the family would move to
Saginaw, Michigan, where his father had a
farm. Clyde moved to Bellwood, Illinois,
with his friend, Art Campbell, to work on the
construction of a subway in Chicago. Since
Clyde's brother was married and living in
Bellwood, the two men resided with him.
Clyde was known for having a
good sense of humor and playing the accordion at
In 1940, Clyde was working as a press operator at a company that made milk cans. When it became apparent that a draft act was going to be passed, Clyde joined the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard in Maywood, Illinois, because the company was going to be federalized for one year. In the fall of 1940, the tank company was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28th, and designated as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. During this time, Clyde trained as tank driver.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent
to Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.
It was after these maneuvers that the battalion
was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of
returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a
hill, the battalion learned that they were not
being released from federal service but being
sent overseas as part as Operation PLUM.
Within hours, most men had figured out that PLUM
stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
Those men 29 years old or older were given the
chance to resign from federal service.
Afterwards, many of the soldiers were allowed to
return home to say their goodbyes.
Polk, the battalion traveled west over four
different train routes. Arriving in
San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to
Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the
island, the soldiers were given physicals
and inoculated for tropical diseases.
Those with major health issues were released
from service and replaced, while those with
minor medical issues were held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later
attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg
for almost two weeks. During this
time, they lived through several more
attacks on the island.
When it became apparent to the Japanese that it was just a matter of time until the Americans would invade the Philippines, they began transporting the POWs to Japan or other parts of the empire. Clyde and the other members of the Bachrach Garage detail were sent to Bilibid Prison to await shipment.
In early October, Clyde was marched to the Port
Area of Manila, where his POW detachment was
scheduled to board the Hokusen Maru,
which was ready to sail. Not all the POWs
in the detachment had arrived at the pier so the
Japanese put another POW detachment, which had
completely arrived, on the ship so it could
packed into the ship's number one hold. Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks. The bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while laying down, while those who were standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans, but the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans, so the floor of the hold was covered with human waste.
On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a
southerly route away from Formosa. Within
the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.
The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island
where it remained for ten days. The
Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp, so that
during the night, the POWs were in total
Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice. Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters. Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights. Some of the prisoners were able to hot-wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines. This allowed fresh air into the hold. The power was turned off when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
When the POWs began to develop heat blisters, the Japanese finally acknowledged that if they didn't do something many of the POWs would die. To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs to it. At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.
The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on
October 20th, where it joined a twelve ship
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 making them targets for
American submarines. In addition, American
Military Intelligence was reading Japanese
messages as fast as the Japanese, but did not
want to tip off the Japanese of this, so
they did not inform the submarines that there
were transports carrying POWs.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds. The ship was, in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China. Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard signaling that submarines had been spotted. The men in the holds began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.
The Japanese, on deck, ran to the bow of the ship. As they watched, a torpedo passed in front of the bow of the ship. Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship. There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water. It had been 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.
The Japanese guards took their rifles and used
them as clubs on the POWs who were on
deck. To escape, the POWs dove back into
the holds. After they were in the holds,
the Japanese put the hatch covers on but did not
tie them down. When they were done, they
cut the rope ladders into the holds and
The POWs had stopped chanting since they now
knew they were facing death. Some of the
POWs in the first hold were able to climb out
and reattach the rope ladders which allowed the
POWs to climb onto the deck. Once on deck,
an America major spoke to the men. He
said, "Boys, were in
a hellva 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
after he spoke, a chaplain
For the next few hours, the ship remained
afloat, and many of the POWs raided the ship's
food lockers because they wanted to die with
full stomachs. The ship slowly sunk lower
in the water, and when the stern began taking on
water, the ship split in two, but both halves of
the ship remained afloat. Many POWs took
to the water and attempted to find anything that
would float, while other POWs swam to other
Japanese ships but were pushed underwater with
poles to drown them or clubbed by Japanese
Three of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles and the sea was rough, 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 and fewer until there was silence.
Pfc. Clyde D. Ehrhardt lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea on Tuesday, October 24, 1944. Of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking. Eight of these men would survive the war. Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Clyde D. Erhardt's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.