Lustig

 

Pfc. Maurice E. Lustig


    Pfc. Maurice E. Lustig was born on June 13, 1920, in Janesville, Wisconsin, to Edmund & Ardena Lustig and raised at 719 North Harding Street.  He attended Janesville schools and was a member of the 1939 graduating class of Janesville High School.  He was known as "Morris" to his family and friends.

    As a child, Morris did many odd jobs to help support his family.  He later joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 107th Quartermaster Regiment, Company B, to help support his family.

    On October 18, 1940, Morris' company was federalized and sent to Camp Beauregard for training.  During the late summer of 1941, Morris was sent to Louisiana to take part in Louisiana maneuvers.

    After the maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, Morris was convinced by members of A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, which was also from Janesville, to transfer to the company which was looking for replacements for men released from federal service.  Morris volunteered to join A Company and was transferred to the company.

    Morris was given a ten day furlough and went home to say his goodbyes.  At the end of his furlough, his family took him to the train station.  As he prepared to leave for Camp Polk, his little sister, Phyllis, hid behind her mother.  She did this because she didn't want him to see her cry. 

    Morris returned to Camp Polk and helped prepare the company's equipment for shipment to the west coast.  The company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals, and those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd 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 island.
    On Wednesday, 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.
    During this part of the voyage, 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 took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
    When they 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 federal service.
    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 tents.
    For the 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.
    On December 1st, the tank battalions were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th was given the northern part of the airfield to defend and the 192nd received the southern half to protect.  At all times, each tank or half-track had to be manned by two members of its crew.  Those on duty were fed by food trucks.
    The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the were brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field after being told of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  At 8:00 A.M., American planes took off and filled the sky in every direction.  At noon they landed to be refueled and lined up near the mess hall while the pilots went to lunch. 
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American until they saw what was described as raindrops fall from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese. 
    When 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.    
    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 to protect them from 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 that 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 and successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
    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 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.
    A 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.
    From 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.
    The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan.  The night of January 7th, A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
    A Company was next sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the tanks were mistaken by the Filipinos to be Japanese, and the 11th Division accurately used mortars on them.  The result was the loss of three tanks.  The company rejoined the 194th west of Guagua.
    The night of January 7th, A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed. 
    While American 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 casualties.
    On January 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 landings. 
    The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points.  The pockets was an extremely dangerous operation.  When tanks were sent into a pocket, they entered one tank at a time.  The next tank would not enter until the tank that had been relieved exited the pocket. 
    To wipe out the Japanese, two methods were employed.  One had three Filipino soldiers sitting on the back of each tank.  When the tank passed over a foxhole the soldiers each dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  Being that the ordnance was from WWI, one of the three hand grenades usually exploded.
    The second method was to park the tank with one tread over foxhole.  The crew would give power to the other track causing the tank to spin and dig its way into the ground.

    The Japanese landed Marines on a point that stuck out from Bataan.  These troops were quickly cut off.  When they attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating a second pocket that was cut off.  A and B Company supported the Philippine Army as the two pockets were wiped out.

    The soldiers 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.  
    The Japanese 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 good meal.
    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 them out.
   The 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, Morris became a POW when the defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  With the other members of A Company, he made his way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.

    Morris took part in the death march and went without food and water.  Arriving at San Fernando, Morris and the other prisoners were crammed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. They were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing since they had no room to fall to the floors.

    At Capas, the POWs disembarked the boxcars and the bodies of the dead fell to the floors of the cars.  From Capas, Morris walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    The living conditions at Camp O'Donnell were poor.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp and men stood in lines for days for a drink.  It is not known if Morris remained in the camp or went out on a work detail.

    In June, Morris was sent to the new POW camp at Cabanatuan.  The living conditions for the POWs were better.  Medical records from the camp show that he was admitted to the camp hospital on Thursday, November 12, 1942, suffering from beriberi, edema, and pellagra.  He remained in the hospital for almost three months, until he was discharged on Monday, February 1, 1943.  It was after this that he was assigned to the work detail at the Bachrach Garage in Manila.  The POWs on this detail repaired mechanical equipment for the Japanese.   With him on the detail were Henry and John Luther and John Burke of A Company.

    Morris remained on this detail into early October 1944, when the detail was ended and the POWs were sent to the Port Area of Manila. When Morris' group of POWs arrived at the Port Area, they were part of a POW detachment scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail.   Since some of the POWs in his detachment had not arrived, the Japanese switched his detachment with another POW detachment which was ready to sail.

    Morris' detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru, the ship the other POW detachment had bee scheduled to sail on for Japan.  The POWs were 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 first twenty-four hours.  

    On October 10, 1944, the ship sailed but instead of heading toward Formosa it headed south to Palawan Island, where the ship dropped anchor in a cove to avoid American planes.  While it was at Palawan, the Port Area of Manila was bombed by American planes.

    It was during this time that the POWs figured out how to turn the hold's ventilation fans 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.

    Returning to Manila on October 20th, the Arisan Maru waited in the harbor while the Japanese formed a convoy.  During this time, the prisoners remained in the holds of the ship.  On October 21st, the Arisan Maru joined a convoy of twelve ships bound for Formosa.  The ships proceeded toward Formosa and were in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea the evening of Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  

    It was almost dinner and twenty POWs were on deck cooking dinner about half of the POWs in the holds had been fed.  According to the POWs, as they watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship.  The Japanese next ran to the stern of the ship and a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  Two more torpedoes hit the ship amidships - killing POWs - and the ship immediately stopped.
    The POWs who were on deck were hit by the guards - who used their guns as clubs - and chased back into the holds.  The Japanese cut the rope ladders to the ship's holds and put the hatch covers on the holds, but they did not tie them down.  After doing this, the Japanese abandoned the ship.
    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.  The surviving POWs made their way onto the ship's deck.   Once on deck, an American major climbed onto a set of stairs and 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 ship stayed afloat for hours but got lower in the water.  At one point, the stern of the ship began going under which caused the ship to split in half but the halves remained 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.  Other POWs took to the water with anything that would float.

    Three of the POWs found a lifeboat that had been abandoned by the Japanese and were able to climb into it. Unfortunately, there were no oars and they could not maneuver the boat.  According to the survivors, the cries for help grew fainter and fainter during the night, and then there was silence.  The next morning, the men in the boat picked up two more survivors.

    Of the nearly 1800 POWs who had boarded the Arisan Maru in Manila, only nine survived the ship's sinking.  Of the nie survivors, eight would live to see the end of the war.
    Pfc. Maurice E. Lustig died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru in the South China Sea on Tuesday, 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.  Below his name are the names of John & Henry Luther, from Janesville, who also died in the sinking.


 


 

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