| Pvt. Thomas E.
Hurtt was born in Kemper County, Mississippi, on
October 18, 1912, to William J. & Alice
Hurtt. His mother died when he was a child
and his father remarried. He had one
brother, two half-brothers, and five
half-sisters. He joined the army, in
September 1939, and did his basic training at Fort
Benning, Georgia. On May 7, 1941, he
reenlisted and was assigned to A Company, 753rd
September 1941, the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk,
Louisiana. Maneuvers were going on in
Louisiana, but the battalion did not take part
in them. It was at Camp Polk that Thomas
become a member of the 192nd Tank
Battalion. The battalion had received
orders for overseas duty, and he replaced a
National Guardsman who had been released from
federal service. He was assigned to A
company traveled by train to San Francisco,
California, where they ferried to Ft. McDowell
on Angel Island. On the island, they
received inoculations and physicals. Those
members of the battalion who were found to have
treatable medical conditions were held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later
date. Some men were simply replaced.
was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh
L. Scott and sailed on Monday,
October 27th. During this part of the
trip, many of the tankers suffered from
seasickness. Once they recovered, they
spent their time breaking down machine guns, cleaning
weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at
Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and
had a two day layover, so the soldiers
were given shore leave so they could see the
November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam
but took a southerly route away from the main
shipping lanes. It was at this time it was
joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S.
Louisville and, another transport,
the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to
bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11th. During the night,
while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Date Line. On Saturday,
November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was
seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved
up its engines, its bow came out of the water,
and it shot off in the direction of the
smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a
ship that belonged to a friendly country.
arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th,
the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and
vegetables before sailing for Manila the next
day. At one point, the ships
passed an island at night and did so in total
blackout. This for many of the soldiers
was a sign that they were being sent into harm's
way. The ships entered Manila
Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th,
and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.
At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by
bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove
trucks drove them to the fort, while the
maintenance section remained behind at the pier
to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they
were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who
apologized that they had to live in tents along
the main road between the fort and Clark
Field. He made sure that they had what
they needed and that they received Thanksgiving
Dinner before he went to have his own
dinner. Ironically, November 20th
was the date that the National Guard members of
the battalion had expected to be released from
The members of the
battalion pitched the tents in an open field
halfway between the Clark Field Administration
Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents
were set up in two rows and five men were
assigned to each tent. There were two
supply tents and meals were provided by food
trucks stationed at the end of the rows of
next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove
cosmoline from their weapons. The grease
was put on the weapons to protect them from rust
while at sea. They also loaded ammunition
belts and did tank maintenance as they readied
their tanks to take part in maneuvers.
1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter
of Clark Field to guard against Japanese
paratroopers. From this time on, two tank
crew members remained with each tank at all
times. Their meals were brought to them by
The morning of
December 8, 1942, the tankers were informed of
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just hours
earlier. They returned to their tanks
around the airfield. Many of them believed
that this was nothing more than the start of the
maneuvers they had expected to take part in
after arriving in the Philippines.
The planes of the Army
Air Corps took off about 8:00 in the morning and
filled the sky. At noon the planes landed,
to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch in
the mess hall. At 12:45 in the afternoon,
the tankers were at food trucks receiving lunch
when they spotted planes approaching the
airfield from the north. Many of the men
counted 54 planes in a "V" formation and
commented that they thought they were
American. When bombs began exploding on
the runways, the tankers knew the planes were
The men ran to their tanks
or took cover wherever they could. They
could do little more than watch since their
weapons were not meant to fight planes.
They also had been ordered not to fire at the
Japanese were 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, and 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.
That night the
soldiers had slept their last night in a
bed. For protection, they slept under
their tanks or in them.
Four days after the
attack, on December 12th, the company was sent
to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a
highway and railroad and protect them against
sabotage. From there, the company was sent
to join the other companies of the 192nd just
south of the Agno River.
On December 23rd and
24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta,
where the tankers lost the company commander,
Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried,
the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno
River. As they did this, they ran into
Japanese resistance early in the evening, but
they successfully crossed at the river in the
On December 25th, the
tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of
the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the
tanks of the 194th holding the line on the
Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks were
asked to hold the position for six hours, but
they held the position until 5:30 in the morning
on December 27th.
The 192nd and
part of the 194th fell back to form a new
defensive line the night of December 27th and
28th. From there they fell back to the
south bank of the BamBan River which they were
suppose to hold for as long as possible.
The tanks were at Santo Tomas near
Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as
a rear guard against the Japanese.
Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an
area east of Pampanga. It was there that
they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William
Read. That night, on a road
east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company
was bivouacked for the night and posted
sentries. The sentries heard a noise on
the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed
Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine
guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle
battalion rode into their bivouac. When
the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers
opened up on them. When they stopped
firing, they had completely wiped out the
bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the
tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
As the Filipino and
American forces fell back toward Bataan, A
Company took up a position near the south bank
of the Gumain River the night of December 31st
and January 1st. Believing that the
Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the
tankers to get some sleep. It was that
night that the Japanese lunched an attack to
cross the river.
As the Japanese
attempted to advance they were cut down by the
tankers. The tankers created gaping holes
in their ranks. To lower their losses, the
Japanese tried to cover their advance with a
smoke screen. Since the wind was blowing
against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese
line. When the Japanese broke off the
attack, they had lost about half their men.
January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open
from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern
forces could escape. It was also in
January 1942, that the food ration was cut
in half. It was not too long after this
was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue
fever began hitting the soldiers. January
that the food rations were cut in half.
Not long after this, malaria, dysentery, and
dengue fever soon spread among the soldiers.
A Company, on
January 5th, while attached to the 194th Tank
Battalion, withdrew from the line. Lt.
Kenneth Bloomfield received orders to launch a
counter-attack against the Japanese on a tail
picked by Provisional Tank Group command.
Bloomfield, while attempting to attack, radioed
the tank group that the trail did not exist.
It was evening and the
tankers believed they were in a relatively safe
place near Lubao along a dried up creek
bed. Bloomfield told his men to get some
sleep. Their sleep was interrupted by the
sound of a gun shot at about 1:50 A.M. The
tankers had no idea that they were about to
engage the Japanese who had lunched a major
offensive across an open field wearing white
shirts which made them easy targets. There
was a great deal of confusion and the battle
lasted until 3:00 A.M., when the Japanese broke
off the attack. Within days of this
action, the company returned to the command of
The company was next sent in
support of the 194th, to an area east of
Pampanga. At Guagua, A Company with
the 11th Infantry Division, Philippine Army,
attempted to make a counterattack against the
Japanese. Somehow, the Filipinos mistook
the tanks as Japanese and accurately used
mortars on them knocking out three tanks.
A Company rejoined the 194th east of Guagua.
As American and
Filipino forces entered Bataan, the company
waited for orders to cross the bridge over the
Culis Creek the night of January 7th.
Receiving none, many of the tankers went to
sleep. Col. Ted Wickord, Commanding
Officer of the 192nd, crossed the bridge and
went looking for the company when they did not
cross. He did this because the
engineers wanted to blow up the bridge.
Wickord found the company, woke them, and
ordered them across the bridge. A Company
was the last American unit to enter Bataan,
before the last bridge was blown by the
The next day
the tanks received maintenance. It was the
first rest that the two tank battalions had
since December 24th.
and Filipino forces were withdrawing from
Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the
Japanese from overrunning the position and
cutting off the withdrawing troops. The
morning of January 27th, a new battle line had
been formed and all units were suppose to be
beyond it. That morning, the tanks were
still holding their position six hours after
they were suppose to have withdrawn. While
holding the position, the tanks, with
self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank
range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent
28th, the tank battalions were given the job of
protecting the beaches. The 192nd was
assigned the coast line from Paden Point to
Limay along Bataan's east coast. The
Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding
the beaches prevented them from attempting
The company also took part in the Battle of the
Pockets. The Japanese offensive had been
stopped and two groups of Japanese soldiers were
trapped behind the main line of defense.
The tanks were sent in to help eliminate the
pockets. The tanks would
enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank
in the pocket. Another tank did not enter
the pocket until the tank, which had been
relieved, had left the pocket.
To wipe out the
Japanese two methods were employed. The
first method was to have three Filipino soldiers
sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand
grenades. When the Japanese dove back into
their foxholes, the tank would go over it and
the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into
the foxhole. Since the ordnance was from
World War I, one out of three hand grenades
would usually explode.
method was simple. The tank was parked
with one track across the foxhole. The
driver gave power to the opposite track and spun
the tank dragging the other track. The
tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese
soldiers were dead.
were hungry and began to eat everything they
could get their hands on to eat. The
Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long
enough they could be eaten. They also
began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U.
S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the
soldiers' rations were cut in half again on
March 1, 1942. This meant that they only
ate two meals a day.
also were dropping surrender leaflets with a
scantly clad blond on them. The Japanese
would have been more successful at getting the
Americans to surrender if the picture had been
hamburger, since the men were so hungry that
they most likely would have surrendered for a
During the Battle of
the Points, on March 2nd and 3rd, the tanks were
sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had
broken through the main defensive line and than
trapped behind the line after the Filipino and
American troops pushed the Japanese back toward
the sea and wiped out the pockets.
company's last bivouac area was about twelve
kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on
the China Sea. By this point, the tankers
knew that there was no help on the way.
Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L.
Stimson on short wave. When asked about
the Philippines, he said, "There are times when
men must die." The
soldiers cursed in response because they knew
that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a
attack supported by artillery and
aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops
came over Mount Samat and descended down the
south face of the volcano. This attack
wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a
large area of the defensive line open to the
Japanese. When General King saw that the
situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender
talks with the Japanese.
On April 9, 1942, Thomas became a Prisoner of
War. He took part in the death march and
was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.
During his time as a POW, he was sent to
Batangas, Batangas, to build runways at an
Thomas was returned to
Cabanatuan when the detail ended and remained
there for the rest of his time as a POW in the
Philippines. According to medical records
kept at Cabanatuan, he was sent to Building 8 on
September 4, 1944. When he was discharged
is not known.
As American forces approached the Philippines,
the Japanese began sending large numbers of POWs
to other parts of the empire. In early
October, he was sent to Manila for shipment to
Japan. When Thomas' group
of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila, on
October 10, 1944, they were boarded onto the Arisan
Maru. The POWs had been
scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen
Maru, but since one of the POW
groups, in his detachment, had not arrived on
time, and the ship was ready to sail, the
Japanese switched the POW groups and the Hokusen
Maru sailed on October 3rd.
Thomas' POW group was crammed into the
first hold of the ship. They were packed
in so tightly that they could not move.
Those who used the wooden bunks along the hull
found that once they laid down, the bunks were
so close together that they could not sit up in
them. Five men died in the hold in the first
On October 10, 1944, the ship sailed.
Instead of heading toward Formosa, it headed
south to Palawan Island, where the ship dropped
anchor in a cove. This was done to avoid
American planes. While it was there, the
Port of Manila were bombed by American
planes. Within the first 48 hours,
five men had died.
It was during this time that the POWs figured
out how to turn the hold's ventilation fans on
by wiring them into the ship's lighting
system. Although the Japanese had removed
the lights, they had not turned off the
power. For two days conditions in the hold
improved because the POWs had fresh air.
When the Japanese discovered what the POWs had
done, they turned off the power to the hold.
After this, the prisoners began to develop heat
blisters. The Japanese soon realized that
if they did not do something, the ship would be
a death ship. To relieve the situation in
the hold, they transferred 600 of the POWs to
the ship's first hold which was partially filled
with coal. During the move, one of the
POWs was shot and killed while attempting to
escape. During this time, the POWs, each
day, were allowed three ounces of water and two
rations of rice. Twice every 24 hours, the
POWs received half a mess kit of rice.
The ship returned to the
Manila on October 20th, where, it joined a
convoy. On October 21st, after
loading bananas and other foods, the convoy left
Manila and entered the South China Sea.
The Japanese also issued life jackets to the
POWs which could float for about two
hours. According to
survivors, all this did was reinforced in the
Americans the fear of being killed by their own
refused to mark POW ships with red crosses
to indicate they were carrying POWs. In
addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading
the Japanese messages as fast as the
Japanese. To protect this secret, they did
not tell the crews, of the submarines, that
ships were carrying POWs which made the ships
targets for the submarines.
The evening of
October 24th at about 5:00 P.M., the convoy was
in the Bashi Channel, of the South China Sea,
off the coast of China, when it came under
attack by American submarines. The waves were
high since a storm had just passed.
At about 5:50 P.M., a number of POWs were
on deck preparing dinner. About half the
POWs on the ship had been fed. When the
guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched a
torpedo as it barely missed the ship.
The guards next ran to the stern of the ship,
and a second torpedo passed behind the ship.
Suddenly the Arisan
Maru shook, it had been hit
by two torpedoes from the U.S.S.
Shark, amidships, killing
POWs while those still alive began cheering
wildly. A little while later the cheering
ended and the men realized they were facing
The guards went after the POWs who cooking
dinner and began beating them with their guns
and forcing them into the #2 hold. Once
they were in the hold the Japanese cut the rope
ladders and slammed down the hatch cover.
The Japanese abandoned ship, but cut the rope
ladders into the ship's holds before they
left. A few POWs managed to get out of the
first hold and reattached the rope ladders and
dropped them into the holds to the other
POWs made their way onto the deck. On the
ship's deck an American major spoke to the POWs
and 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
According to surviving POWs, the stern of the
ship began going under which caused the ship to
split in half but remain afloat. It was
about this time that about 35 POWs swam to the
nearest Japanese ship. When the Japanese
realized that they were POWs, they pushed them
underwater with poles and drowned them or hit
them with clubs. Those POWs who could not
swim raided the food lockers for a last
meal. These men wanted to die with full
Three POWs found a lifeboat abandoned by the
Japanese and manged to climb into it.
According to them, as night fell, the cries for
help grew fainter and fainter until there was
silence. Only nine of the nearly 1800 men
who boarded the ship survived the sinking. Eight
of these men survived the war.
Pvt. Thomas E. Hurtt died in the sinking
of the Arisan Maru in the
South China Sea 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.