Pfc. Donald Eugene Knipshield
Pfc. Donald Eugene Knipshield was born on August 31,
1921, to Mae Loretta Conroy-Knipshield and William
Isaac Knipshield in Janesville, Wisconsin. He
was one of the couple's five children. The
family's home was on Parker Avenue on the Rock River
Donald attended St. Mary's Grade School and later Janesville High School. He graduated from high school in 1939. After high school, he worked as a typist for a lumber yard. While he was working, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Divisional Tank Company, with his friend, Wesley Elmer. The company was headquartered in the armory in Janesville. He did this to earn some extra spending money.
On November 25, 1940, Donald's tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where it joined three other tank companies to form the 192nd GHQ Light Tank Battalion. For the almost a year, the battalion trained at Ft. Knox. While he was at Ft. Knox, Donald's brother, Bill, visited him. He was the last member of Donald's family to see him.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers, on the side of a hill, that the members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas. Although many members of the battalion received furloughs home, Donald remained at Camp Polk.
Over different train routes, the companies of the battalion arrived in San Francisco. They were ferried to Angel Island. There, the battalion's doctors gave them physicals and inoculations.
The soldiers boarded the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott which sailed on Monday, October 27th and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd at 8:00, and the soldiers received shore leave. The ship sailed on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam. Arriving there, the ship took on water, bananas, vegetables, and coconuts.
Sailing, the ship arrived in Manila Bay the morning of November 20, 1941, at 8:00. The soldiers disembarked the ship about three hours after it docked. Most took buses to a train station and rode a train to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were greeted by Col. Edward King who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He remained with the battalion until every member had had Thanksgiving dinner. Afterwards, he went to have his own.
After arriving in the Philippines, Donald was reassigned to Headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group. He was a messenger between headquarters of the tank group and the two tank battalions.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers were getting lunch when they noticed a formation of planes approaching the field from the north. At first the tankers admired the planes. It was only when they saw and heard bombs falling from the planes did they know that the planes were Japanese.
The morning of April 9, 1942, the soldiers at the tank group received the news of the surrender of all Filipino and American forces on Bataan. Sometime after this, the members of tank group made their way to a road that ran passed the HQ. It was from there that Donald began what became known as the death march. Donald made his way to San Fernando. There, he and the other Prisoners of War were packed into small boxcars and rode to Capas. At Capas, the POWs climbed out of the boxcars. The bodies of the dead fell out as they did so. From Capas, Donald and the other POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Donald's life as a POW is vague. It is known he was sent to Cabanatuan when it opened in late May 1942. Within weeks of arriving in the camp, Herb came own with malaria and was hospitalized on June 6, 1942. It is not known when he was discharged from the hospital. Donald may have remained in the camp for over two years. In early October 1944, Donald was selected for transport to Japan. He was sent to Bilibid Prison and received a physical.
On October 10, 1944, Donald and other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. They were boarded onto the Arisan Maru and put in the ship's second hold. The ship sailed on October 11th, but instead of heading to Formosa, the ship sailed south away from the island. It would anchor in a cove off the Island of Palawan to avoid American planes.
While the ship was in the cove, it came under attack from American planes. During the attack, one POW was killed by the Japanese while attempting to escape. On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila and joined other ships to form a convoy.
The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th. After loading bananas and other food, it set sail a second time for Taikao, Formosa the night of October 21st. This time they joined convoy which was composed of twelve ships. The second day in the holds, the Japanese issued lifejackets to the POWs. According to survivors, all this did was reinforced the Americans fear of being killed by their own countrymen.
The convoy was in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China, when it came under attack by nine American submarines. The submarines began picking off the ships one at a time. The crews of the submarines did not know that American POWs were in the holds of some of the ships. Only three of the 37 ships in the convoy would make it safely to Formosa.
About 5:50 pm on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, a number of POWs were on deck preparing dinner. Suddenly the Arisan Maru shook, it had been hit by two torpedoes from the U.S.S. Shark. One of the torpedoes hit the ship in its third hold. There were no POWs in this hold. The ship stopped dead in its tracks.
The Japanese began abandoning ship. Before they left, they cut the rope ladders that went into the holds. Some of the POWs managed to get out of the second hold and reattached and lowered the ladders to the POWs.
According to surviving POWs, the ship split in half but remained afloat. All of the POWs had survived the attack. About 35 POWs swam to the nearest Japanese ship. When the Japanese realized that they were POWs, they pushed them away with poles and hit them with clubs. Those who could not swim raided the food stores for a last meal. These men wanted to die with full stomachs.
As the ship got lower in the water, some of the POWs attempted to survive by putting on lifebelts, clinging to hatch covers, clinging to rafts, and clinging to other flotsam and jetsam. The majority of the POWs still were on the ship. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark. The surviving POWs stated that the cries for help slowly faded away. Most of the POWs, if not all, were dead.
In the end, only nine men out of the 1800 men who boarded the Arisan Maru in Manila survived the sinking. Only eight of these men survived the war. Pfc. Donald E. Knipshield was not one of them. He was 23 years old.
Since Pfc. Donald Eugene Knipshield was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. A memorial to Donald also was created by his brother, Bill, at the family's gravesite in Janesville.