Pfc. Roy J. Flippen
    Pfc. Roy Flippen was born on October 6, 1917, in Ferris, Texas, to Lon S. Flippen & Virginia Mae Jordan-Flippen.  With his four sisters and two brothers, he resided on Fourth Street in Ferris, Texas.  He graduated from Ferris High School in 1937 and had the highest grade point average for a male student.  After high school, he worked construction after high school.
    Roy was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 21, 1941, in Dallas, Texas, and did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Afterwards, he went to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent there from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
After the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941, the National Guardsmen in the 192nd who were 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.  Roy volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to HQ Company. 
    Roy returned home to say his goodbyes and married Virginia.  She had grown up in the next town over from Ferris, but she resided at 3409 Worth Street in Dallas when they married.  He returned to Camp Polk, awaited orders, and packed up the battalions equipment. 
    The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they were inoculated and given physicals.  Any man who needed some sort of medical treatment was held back and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th, for as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd, and the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  They sailed morning of the next day for Manila.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7  After three hours, most of the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg, while some drove trucks to the base.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload the tanks from the ship.
    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 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 since they had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the trip to the Philippines. They also loaded ammunition belts, did tank maintenance, and prepared for maneuvers that were scheduled to take place.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion was assigned the northern half of the airfield while the 192nd protected the southern half.  At all times, two crew members had two remain with their tank or half track and received their meals from food trucks.
   At six in the morning, on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered, with all the members of the tank and half-track crews, to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
When the members of HQ Company were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor they laughed.  Having been in the Philippines for eighteen days, they believed that this was the start of the extended maneuvers.  The company commander, Capt Fred Bruni, told them to listen up because what he was saying was the truth.  He again told them that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and they were given guns and told to clean them.  As they did this, they still believed that they had started maneuvers.  It was around noon that this belief was blown away. 
   
The tankers watched that morning as the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.  During the attack, the company members hid in a dry latrine that was near their tents.  They stayed in it until the attack was finished.
    When the Japanese had finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The tankers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, or anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.  The sight sickened them. 
    That night, there was one air raid after another. 
Since they did not have any foxholes, the men used an old latrine pit for cover.  Being that it was safer in the trench than in their tents, the men slept in the pit.  The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes.  The next morning the decision was made to move the company into an tree cover area.  Without knowing it, Roy had slept his last night on a cot or bed.  From this point on, he slept in a blanket on the ground.  
    Roy
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had advanced and been pushed back.  Two pockets of Japanese were cut off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I and only one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks. 

    The evening of April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni, the commanding officer of HQ Company, called his men together.  He informed them that they would surrender to the Japanese the next morning at 7:00 and instructed them to destroy any weapons or supplies that the Japanese could use.  He instructed the sergeants, to destroy the three tanks assigned to the company, but that they should not to destroy the company's trucks.  As he spoke, his voice choked and he turned away from his men for a moment.  When he turned around and face them again, he continued and emphasized that they would surrender together.  Somehow, Bruni came up with enough bread and pineapple juice for the men to have what he called, "Their last supper."    
    On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M.  The members of the HQ Company remained in their bivouac, until
April 11th, when the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Roy 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.
    The company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside Mariveles and walked to Mariveles Airfield and where they were ordered to sit and wait.  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 watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
    Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours, and the Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs, but the POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs who hid in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
    The POWs were ordered to move again, by the Japanese, and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
    
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried him.  The POWs were formed into detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station.
    
At the train station, the POWs were put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as "Forty or Eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  To get out of the camp, POWs went out on work details.
    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.

    The death rate in the camp got so bad that Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.  Roy, being one of the healthier POWs was sent to the camp.  It appears Roy became ill, since hospital records show that he was in the camp hospital on July 23, 1942.  At that time, he was tested for tuberculosis.  His results were negative.
    According to Roy's family, Roy's cousin, M.C. was a Marine who was captured on Corregidor when it surrendered on May 6, 1942.  M.C. - after he was liberated at the end of the war - told his family that his POW detachment was marching toward the POW camp when they saw another POW detachment marching in the opposite direction.  As the detachments passed each other, M.C. saw that Roy was one of the POWs marching in the other direction.  M.C. was the last member of the Flippen family to see Roy alive.     
    It is known that Roy went out on a work detail to Bataan on what was called "The Bataan Detail.," which appears to have been a scrap metal detail.  The POWs collected the scrap metal and took it to a central location so it could be sent to Japan.  While on the detail, Roy was working with John Koleczek, HQ Company, when both men had their fingers crushed.  In Roy's case, it was the fingers on his right hand.  He was sent to the Naval Hospital at Bilibid Prison and was admitted on May 21, 1943, and was discharged on June 28th and sent to Cabanatuan.

    After returning to Cabanatuan, Roy was sent, as a replacement worker, to Neilsen Airfield to build runways.  At the airfield, the Japanese built four Nipa barracks for the POWs.  Each barracks was 150 feet long by 20 feet wide.  Although they were large, the POWs still slept shoulder to shoulder since part of the barracks were used for officers quarters and sick wards.  The entire POW compound was 300 feet by 200 feet.   When work was completed at Nielson Field, the POWs were sent to Camp Murphy, where they built a runway at Zablan Field.
    On August 20, 1944, Roy was selected to be sent to Japan.  He and the other POWs were sent to Bilibid and housed in Building 12 which was designated as "the Casual Group."  He was admitted to the hospital on September 1, 1944, from Building 12.  When he was considered to have recovered, he returned to Building #12 at Bilibid.  By the time he was discharged, the original POW draft he had been a member of had already sailed for Japan.     
   In early October, Roy was one of the prisoners taken to the Port Area of Manila.  When they arrived their ship, the Hokusan Maru, was ready to sail but not all of the POW detachment had arrived.  There was another detachment of POWs scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru which was not ready to sail.  Roy's cousin, M.C. was in this detachment.  The Japanese switched detachments so that the Hokusan Maru could sail.   When all the POWs in Roy's detachment had arrived they were boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  The POWs were packed into the ship's first hold which comfortably could hold 400 men.  During the first two days, five POWs died.
    The ship sailed on October 10th but instead of heading for Formosa it headed south to Palawan Island where the ship dropped anchor in a cove to avoid American planes.  During the time in the cove, the ship was attacked once by American planes.  The POWs, in the hold, realized the the ligh bulbs had been removed, but the power to the lights had not be turned off, so they hot wired the hold's ventilation system into the lights.  For two days they had fresh air until the Japanese discovered what they had done and turned off the power.  The situation grew worse and many of the POWs developed heat blisters.  It was at this time that the Japanese opened the second hold and transferred POWs into it.  During the transfer, one POW tried to escape and was shot.
    The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th and joined another eleven ships to form a convoy.  The ship sailed again on October 21st as part of the convoy.  The second day at sea, the Japanese issued each POW a life jacket which would keep a man afloat for two hours.  Doing this confirmed the belief many of the POWs had that they would never reach Japan.
    In the South China Sea, the convoy came under attack by American submarines.  Since the POW ships were not marked with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs, the subs had no idea if there were POWs on any of the ships.  The U. S. Military, which could read the Japanese code, also did not inform the POWs that there were POWs on some of the ships.  They did this so that the Japanese had no idea that they had broken their code.
    On Tuesday, October 24, 1944, around 5:00 P.M., some POWs were on deck cooking dinner for the other prisoners.  The ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea off the coast of China when sirens suddenly the POWs heard bells rang.  The Japanese guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo went wide of the bow.  The guards next ran toward the stern of the ship and watched as a second torpedo went wide of the stern.  The next two torpedoes hit the ship amidships,in a hold where there were no POWs, which caused the ship to stop dead in the water.
    The Japanese guards chased the POWs on deck into the holds by aiming their guns at them.  Once in the holds, the Japanese  covered the holds and cut the rope ladders into the holds, but they did not tie down the hatch covers.  After the Japanese had abandoned ship, some of the POWs in the second hold were able to make it on deck.  They reattached the ladders so the other POWs could get out. 

    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."
   
    Since a number of POWs could not swim, they raided the ship's food lockers, since they wanted to die with full stomachs.  As the ship slowly sank lower in the water, one group of POWs swam to a Japanese destroyer.  When they reached the ship and the crew realized the men were Americans, they were pushed away with poles or hit with clubs as they climbed onto the ship.        

    Sometime after dark, the ship split in two but stayed afloat for two hours.  Those who could swim attempted to build rafts from what they found on the ship's deck.   The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it occurred after dark.  Before it sank, many of the POWs took to the water on anything that would float.  A storm had just passed, so the waves were as high as five feet.  Three POWs made it to an abandoned life boat and managed to climb into it.  Since the boat had no oars, they could not maneuver it to help others in the water.  The survivors stated, that as the night went on, the cries for help became fewer and than there was silence.  The next morning they found two other POWs clinging to wreckage and pulled them into the boat.
    Of the 1783 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking of the Arisan Maru.  Of the nine, eight saw the end of the war.  Pfc. Roy Flippen was not one of these men.  Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Roy Flippen's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the new American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. 
His wife later received his Purple Heart.
    It is worth mentioning that Roy's family kept in touch with Roy's wife, Virginia, while he was a POW.  Once the news of his death reached them, and Virginia, they slowly lost touch with each other.  They did know that she moved away and remarried.
    In 2014, Virginia's son, from her second marriage, contacted the Flippen family.  He told them that he had Roy's Purple Heart and wanted to return it to his family.  He returned the medal to Roy's sister, Edna, and told her that as a child he found the medal and a few other possessions of Roy's.  When he asked his mother who the medals belonged to, she told him that she was holding the things for a friend.  He also said his mother never spoke about Roy until near the end of her life on her death bed.








Return to HQ Company

 

Next