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
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.
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.
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
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.