Pfc. Maurice E. Lustig
| Pfc. Maurice E. Lustig was born
on June 13, 1920, in Janesville, Wisconsin, and
was raised at 719 North Harding Street. He
was the son of Edmund and Ardena Lustig. 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, Maurice 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, Maurice's company was federalized and sent to Camp Beauregard for training. During the late summer of 1941, Maurice was sent to Louisiana to take part in Louisiana maneuvers.
After the maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, Maurice 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. Maurice volunteered to join A Company and was transferred to the company.
Maurice 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.
Maurice returned to Camp Polk and helped prepare
the company's equipment for shipment to the west
coast. The battalion
traveled by train to San
Francisco. After arriving,
they were ferried to Ft.
McDowell on Angel Island.
On the island, they received
physicals. Those members
of the battalion who were found
to have treatable medical
conditions remained behind on
the island. They were
scheduled to join the battalion
at a later date.
On April 9, 1942, Maurice became a POW when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. With the other members of A Company, he made his way to Mariveles.
Maurice took part in the death march and went without food and water. Arriving at San Fernando, Maurice and the other prisoners were crammed into small boxcars. They were pushed in so tightly that those men who died remained standing.
At Capas, the Prisoners Of War disembarked the boxcars. As they did, the bodies of the dead fell out of the cars. From Capas, Maurice walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The living conditions at Camp O'Donnell were poor. There was only one water spigot for the entire camp. To get a drink, men stood in lines for days. It is not known if Maurice remained in the camp or went out on a work detail.
In June, Maurice was sent to the new POW camp at Cabanatuan. The living conditions for the POWs were better. Medical records from the camp show that Maurice 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. He was discharged from the hospital on Monday, February 1, 1943. It was after this that at some point - between October 1941 and January 1942 - he was assigned to a 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.
Maurice and the other POWs remained on this detail into early October, 1944. At that time, the Japanese closed down the detail and sent the POWs to the Port Area of Manila. When Maurice's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila on October 10, 1944, they were boarded onto the Arisan Maru. They had been scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusan Maru, but since one of the POW groups had not arrived on time to be boarded, his group was put on their ship.
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. There, the ship dropped anchor in a cove. This was done to avoid American planes. While it was there, the Port of Manila were 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 cut the power to the hold.
The Japanese attempted to improve the conditions in the hold by moving 800 POWs to one of the other holds. The POWs were put in this hold on top of the coal that was already in it.
Returning to Manila on October 21st, 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 23rd, the Arisan Maru joined a convoy of twelve ships bound for Formosa. The ship proceeded toward Formosa, in the Bashi Channel, the evening of Tuesday, October 24, 1944.
It was almost dinner and twenty POWs were on deck cooking dinner. According to the survivors, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship. A second torpedo missed the stern of the ship. Two more torpedoes hit the ship amidships. The ship immediately stopped in its tracks.
The Japanese abandoned ship, but cut the rope ladders to the ship's holds before they left. A few POWs managed to get out of the second hold and reattached the rope ladders and dropped them into the holds to the other POWs.
Those POWs who could swim attempted to escape the sinking ship by clinging to rafts, hold hatches, flotation belts, flotsam and jetsam. Many of those who could not swim remained on the ship and gorged themselves with food from the ship's food locker.
Some POWs attempted to swim to nearby Japanese destroyers. They were shot at, clubbed, or pushed away with poles or clubbed. The destroyers pulled away leaving the Americans to fend for themselves.
After several hours, the ship split in two. A few hours later it sunk. According to the survivors, the cries for help grew fainter and fainter. Then there was silence.
Pfc. Maurice E. Lustig died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru in the South China Sea on 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.