Sgt. Leslie H. Krause
| Sgt. Leslie H.
Krause was one of the seven children of Herman F.
& Emma M. Krause and 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.
At some point, Les joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company in Janesville, Wisconsin. In the late summer of 1940, the company was notified that it was being federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 27th, the company traveled by train to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for what was suppose to be one year of military service.
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. It is known that the company had three tanks assigned to it. 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. Others were scheduled to rejoin the company at a later date.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, on the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott, as part of a three ship convoy which arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the island. 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 later that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded buses and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila. Those assigned to trucks drove them to the base, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind and unloaded the tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who 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. After the soldiers had their Thanksgiving Dinner, King went to have his dinner.
On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by 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 to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield. All morning 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 were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese. .
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. The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
Les and the other members of Headquarters Company remained in their bivouac for two days. When a Japanese officer and soldiers entered their bivouac, the members of HQ Company were now Prisoners of War. 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 with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from the Prisoners of War. They remained there for hours.
The POWs finally boarded trucks and rode to an area just outside of Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once they got there, they got out of the trucks and walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit. As they waited, they 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 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. As he drove away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a schoolyard in Mariveles. In the schoolyard, they found themselves in front of 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 American guns knocked out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were again ordered to move by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march, they received no water and little food. At San Fernando, the POWs were put into small wooden boxcars known as a "Forty or Eights," because each car could hold forty men or eight horses, and taken to Capas. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floor. As the prisoners disembarked from the cars, the bodies of those who had died fell to the floors. From Capas, they walked the last few miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was a nightmare with as many as 50 men dying 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. Each morning when they returned to the cemetery, many of the dead had either been dug up by wild dogs or were sitting up in their graves.
When the new POW camp was opened at Cabanatuan, and 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 an Lipa Airfield. It was during this time that his family received a postcard from him which 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. He remained on this detail for most of his time as a POW in the Philippines. When it became apparent to the Japanese that it was just a matter of time before the Americans invaded the Philippines, they ended the detail and sent the POWs 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. The POW group he was in was scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, but since the ship was ready to sail and not all the POWs in his detachment had arrived, the Japanese switched his detachment with another POW detachment that was ready to sail. Les' detachment was boarded onto their ship, the Arisan Maru which had been the ship the other POW detachment was scheduled to sail. The Japanese put nearly 1800 POWs 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 and 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's lighting system, 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 600 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 and on Tuesday, October 24th, the ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. It was about 5:00 P.M. and twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the men in the holds. Suddenly, the Japanese guards ran toward the bow of the ship. A torpedo passed just in front of the ship. The Japanese ran to the stern of the ship, and a second torpedo passed behind the stern.
The guards turned their attention to the POWs on deck and began beating them with their guns to get them back into the holds. Once the POWs were in the holds, they put the hatch covers on and cut the rope ladders.
It was about this time that two torpedoes hit the ship amidships in its third hold killing POWs while those men still alive cheered wildly. The ship shook in the water and came to a stop. The Japanese began to abandoned ship and left the POWs to drown.
POWs in the first hold managed to make their way onto the deck and reattached the rope ladders and dropped them into the holds. The surviving POWs made their way onto the deck. 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."
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 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.
Three POWs found a lifeboat that the Japanese had abandoned, but since they had no oars and the waves were rough, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs. The surviving POWs stated that the cries for help slowly faded away. Most of the POWs, if not all, were dead. The next morning, they rescued two other men.
The POWs who survived the sinking stated that as the night went on, the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence. Of the nearly1800 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.