S/Sgt Warren A. Hildebrandt
S/Sgt Warren A. Hildebrandt was the son of Cecil L.
Hildebrandt and Marie Bergen-Hildebrandt and born on
July 9, 1921, in Arizona With his brother and
sister, he was raised in Saginaw, Michigan, and
later Maywood, Illinois. He attended Irving Grammar
School and was a 1939 graduate of Proviso Township
High School. While at Proviso he participated in
football. After graduating from Proviso, he
attended Elmhurst College for one year.
Warren enlisted in the Illinois National Guard as a member of the 33rd Tank Company from Maywood, Illinois, while he was still in high school with his best friend, Roger Heilig. Since he was only sixteen, his parents had to sign the enlistment papers. He was nicknamed "Hildy" by the other members of the company.
In November of 1940, he was called to federal duty and trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. At Fort Knox, he was trained to operate all the equipment used by the company. The company was now known as Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. Next, he took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941. The members of the battalion were unaware that the 192nd had already been selected by General George S. Patton for duty in the Philippine Islands.
The 192nd arrived in the Philippine Islands where they were supposed to receive more training. As it turned out, this training would be against the Japanese invasion force. The 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions were assigned the job of slowing the Japanese advance so that the withdrawal into Bataan could take place. It was during this action that Warren rescued a Filipino soldier who had been wounded. He did this while under constant enemy fire. For gallantry under fire, he was awarded the Silver Star.
On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and Americans on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. It is not known if Warren surrendered on that day or escaped to Corregidor. It is known that Warren was held as a Prisoner Of War at Cabanatuan. He was later assigned to the Bachrach Garage work detail. He and the other POWs repaired trucks and other vehicles for the Japanese.
When the Japanese concluded that it was just the a matter of time before the Philippines would be liberated, they disbanded the detail and sent the men to Pier 7 in Manila. Roger and the other POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru. The ship sailed on October 11th to avoid attacks by American planes. The ship returned to Manila to join the convoy. For the next twelve days as the ship waited, the POWs remained in the holds until the ship sailed a second time.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944, near dinner time, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds. The ship was, in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China, in the South China Sea. There was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes. The ship stopped dead in the water. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S. Snook.
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 lowered a ladder to those in the first hold. They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.
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 in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.
S/Sgt.Warren Hildebrandt lost his life when the Arisan
Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea on
Tuesday, October 24, 1944. Of the 1800 POWs on the ship, only
nine survived the sinking. Since he was
lost at sea, S/Sgt. Warren Hildebrandt's name is
inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at
the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.