Sgt. Leslie H. Krause
| Sgt. Leslie H.
Krause was one of the seven children of Herman F.
& Emma M. Krause. He was born on April 8,
1920. He was known as "Les" to his family and
friends. With his five brothers and sister, he
grew up in Milladore Township in Wood County,
Wisconsin, and worked on his family farm.
In January of 1941, Les was transferred to the Headquarters Company when it was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion. On April 8, 1941, he was promoted to sergeant and made a tank commander. It was his 21st birthday. After training almost a year, Les took part in maneuvers in Louisiana in September of 1941.
After the maneuvers, on the side of a hill at Camp Polk, Louisiana, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. Les at this time was hospitalized at Camp Polk. When he was considered healthy, he was released and returned to his battalion.
After loading the battalion's equipment on train cars, the battalion traveled to San Francisco 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 health issues were released from service and replaced.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii, on the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott, as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on October 29th for Guam. When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King. King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Les lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. During the attack, the tankers could do little more than watch since their tanks were not equipped to fight planes.
Since Les was a tank commander, he saw action against the Japanese. The tanks assigned to HQ were often assigned to one of the letter companies of the battalion when a company was short on tanks.
For the next four months. Les lived with the constant shelling and strafing by Japanese guns and planes. On April 9, 1942, Les became a Prisoner of War when the Filipino and American forces were surrendered to the Japanese. The night before, the tank crews destroyed their tanks.
Les and the other members of Headquarters Company remained in their bivouac for two days. They were then ordered out onto the road that passed near their encampment. Once on the road, they had to kneel along the sides of the road facing the center. In front of them were their possessions. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from the Prisoners of War.
The POWs boarded trucks and rode to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once they got there, they got out of the trucks and walked to Mariveles Airfield. Once there, they sat and waited. As they waited, Leslie and the other men 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 Les and the other men sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out of it. He went up to the sergeant in charge of the detail and spoke with him. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Les and the other POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles. In the school yard, they found themselves between the Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. In response, the Americans on Corregidor and Ft. Drum began returning fire. Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide. Some of the POWs were killed by the incoming shells.
The POWs were again ordered to move by the Japanese. Les and the other men had no idea that with this move they had started what became known as the death march.
During the march Les received no water and little food. At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. As he and the other prisoners disembarked from the cars, the bodies of those who had died fell out. From Capas, Les walked the last few miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was a nightmare. As many as 50 men died each day from the diseases running wild in the camp. For water, the POWs had to stand in line for days to get water from the one spigot in the camp. Many died of thirst as they waited to get a drink. Since so many were dying, the POWs worked endlessly to bury the dead.
When the new POW camp was opened at Cabanatuan, Les was sent there. It was while he was a POW there, that he was selected to go out on a work detail at Camp 10-C at Lipa, Batangas. The POWs in this camp were used as labor on a farm and to build runways for a Japanese Airfield. It was during this time that his family received a postcard from him. In the card, he stated he was well.
When the detail ended, the Japanese sent Les and many of the other POWs back to Cabanatuan. He was sent out to Clark Field to build runways. When it became apparent to the Japanese that it was just a matter of time before the Americans invaded the Philippines, he was sent to Bilibid Prison in late September, 1944. While there, he waited to be transported to Japan.
On October 11, 1944, the POWs from Bilibid were joined by POWs from the Bachrach Garage Detail at Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila. A good number of these men were from Les's battalion. Les's POW group was scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, but since the other POW group had not completely arrived, his group was boarded onto their ship, the Arisan Maru. All 1803 POWs were packed into one of the ship's holds which could hold 400 men.
The Arisan Maru sailed, on October 11th, but it headed south away from Formosa. The ship dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island. This was done to prevent it from being attacked by American planes. Within the first 48 hours five POWs died in the hold. Conditions were so bad in the hold that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.
Some of the POWs discovered that the light bulbs had been removed from the hold, but the power to the light system had not be turned off. They managed to wire the hold's ventilators into the system and had fresh air for two days. When the Japanese discovered what they had done, they turned off the power. The Japanese finally acknowledged that something had to be done, so they transferred 800 POWs into a second hold that was partially filled with coal. One POW was also killed during the transfer when he attempted to escape.
During the next nine days, the ship was attacked by American planes at least once. On October 20th, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila. There it joined eleven other ships in a convoy. While the ship had been at Palawan, the Americans had bombed the harbor and airfields around Manila.
The convoy set sail on October 21st. On Tuesday, October 24th, the ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. Twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the men in the holds. Suddenly, the Japanese began running toward the bow of the ship. A torpedo passed just in front of it just missing the ship. The Japanese then ran to the stern of the ship. A second torpedo passed behind the stern. As the POWs watched, two more torpedoes were spotted heading directly toward the ship. Both hit amidships. The ship shook in the water and came to a stop.
The Japanese began to abandon ship. Before they left the ship, they fired their guns at the POWs on deck forcing them back into the holds. The Japanese cut the rope ladders into the holds and covered the holds with their hatch covers but did not tie them down. They then abandoned ship.
After the Japanese were gone, some of the POWs were able to get out of the holds. Once on deck, they reattached the rope ladders and dropped them into the holds. The remainder of the POWs climbed out of the holds.
The POWs who could not swim raided the ship's kitchen. Many wanted to die on full stomachs. Others attempted to save themselves by attempting to reach the Japanese ships that were picking up the Japanese who had abandoned the Arisan Maru. These men put on life belts, tied themselves to hatch covers, or swam to the ship. When they reached the ships, the Japanese pushed them away with poles. Those who attempted to climb onto the ship were beaten with clubs. The Japanese had no intention of rescuing the POWs.
The seas were extremely rough. A couple of POWs managed to climb into a life boat that the Japanese had abandoned. In all, five POWs would reach the boat. Since they had no oars, they could not rescue other POWs.
The POWs who survived the sinking stated that as the evening went on, the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence. Of the 1803 POWs who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine men survived the ship's sinking. Only eight of these men would see the end of the war. Sgt. Leslie H. Krause was not one of them.
Sgt. Leslie H. Krause died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on October 24, 1944. He was 23 years old. Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.