Luther_H

 

S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther


    S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther was one of the twin sons of Walter P. Luther & Sibylla Bennagalee-Luther born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in September 18, 1918, but lived in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where he graduated from St. John the Baptist Catholic School.  In 1934, the family moved to Janesville where his four sisters, his brother, and he grew up at 341 North High Street in Janesville.  He graduated from Janesville High School and worked in a hotel's laundry room after graduation. 

    In 1939, Henry and his brother, John, joined the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard.  In the fall of 1940 on November 28th, the tank company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of federal service.  The company was renamed A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

    During this time, Henry rose in rank quickly and also became a tank commander.  It seemed as if he was promoted to a rank, his brother was promoted soon after he was.  While he was training at Ft. Knox, his mother died on July 21, 1941, and his brother and him were given leaves home to attend her funeral.

    In the September, 1941, the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  According to members of the battalion, they were members of the Red Army which fought the Blue Army under the command of General George S. Patton.  One day the battalion broke through the Blue Army's defenses and were on their way to capturing Gen. Patton's headquarters when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled. 
    It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign to from federal service and were replaced by men of the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion also received the tanks of the 753rd.

    By train, the company traveled to San Francisco, California., where it was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals, and those men with treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other 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 on Saturday, November 15th, 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 shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When the ships 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 Ft. Stotsenburg and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they had 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, which had been greased 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 with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    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 had 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.

    Ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Henry lived through the attack on Clark Field.  The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the 192nd was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.  At 8:00 A. M., the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon, to be refueled, and were lined up in a straight line near the mess hall. While the planes were being refueled the pilots went to lunch. Many of the tankers still believed that this was just the start of the maneuvers.
    The tankers were eating lunch, at about 12:45, when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American and had enough time to count them.  As they watched, raindrops fell 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 else 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.   

    That night the they lived slept in or under their tanks for protection.  O December 12th, after the initial attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad and protect them from saboteurs.  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 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 but 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 had been ordered to hold the position for six hours, but they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    While attached to the 194th Tank Battalion, on August 30th, the company lost 2ndLt. William Read.  That night, on a road east of Zaragoza, the company was bivouacked and had 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.   

    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.
    A Company, on January 5th, was near the Gumain River attached to the 194th Tank Battalion.  It was evening and they believed they were in a relatively safe place. Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep.  Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gun shot.  The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had lunched a major offensive. 
There was a great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 3:00 A.M., when the Japanese broke off the attack.

    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.   
    During the engagement there was a great deal of confusion which the Japanese took advantage of during the fight.  One Japanese soldier managed to plant a thermite bomb on a tank's bow gun port, and the crew was wounded when it went off.  To prevent the loss of the tank, Henry climbed into it and drove it to a safe location.  For his actions, he received the Silver Star.  At three in the morning, the Japanese broke off the engagement.

    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.  They 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, and 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 the foxhole.  The crew would give power to the other track causing the tank to spin and dig its way into the ground killing the Japanese.
    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 been landed behind the main defensive line and than trapped.  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, Henry became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered.  He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnoll and Cabanatuan.  Sometime after this, he was sent to Bilibid Prison.  It is known he was there in January 1943.  

    From Bilibid, he went out on a work detail to POW Camp #8.  The POWs on this detail were held at the Bachrach Garage on an island off Manila and repaired mechanical equipment for the Japanese.  With Henry on this detail was his brother, Maurice Lustig, and John Burke of A Company.

    When it became apparent to the Japanese that the American invasion of the Philippines was not far off, Henry and the other POWs were next sent to Bilibid Prison outside Manila in early October 1944.  After receiving a rudimentary physical, he was sent to the Port Area of Manila as part of a POW detachment. 
    When his POW group arrived at the pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on, the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived at the pier.  Another POW detachment had completely arrived, but their ship was not ready to sail.  It was at that time that the Japanese made the decision that they switch POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail. 
    On October 11th the POWs boarded the Arisan Maru and
1800 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the Arisan Maru which could hold 400 men.  They were packed in so tightly that they could not move.  Those POWs who had lain down in the wooden bunks along the haul could not sit up because the bunks were so close together.  Eight large cans served as the washroom facilities for the POWs.

    The ship sailed the same day, but instead of heading for Formosa, it went to a cove off Palawan Island to avoid American planes.  Within the first 48 hours, five men had died.  It was discovered that the Japanese had removed the light bulbs, in the hold, but had not turned off the system's power.  Some of the POWs managed to wire the hold's ventilation system into the lighting system.  This provided fresh air to the POWs for two days.  When the Japanese discovered what had been done, they turned off the power.
    After this was done, the POWs 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 second 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 every 24 hours, the POWs received two half a mess kits of rice.

    While the Arisan Maru was anchored off Palawan it was attacked once by American planes.  The ship returned to the Manila on October 20th, where, it joined a convoy.  On October 21st, after loading bananas and other foods, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese also issued life jackets to the POWs which could float for about two hours.  According to survivors, all this did was reinforce, in the Americans, the fear of being killed by their own countrymen.  
    The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  In addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading the Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese.  To protect this secret, they did not tell the crews, of the submarines, that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines.

    The evening of October 24th at about 5:00 P.M., the convoy was in the Bashi Channel, of the South China Sea, off the coast of China, when it came under attack by American submarines. The waves were high since a storm had just passed.  At about 5:50 P.M., a number of POWs were on deck preparing dinner.  About half the POWs on the ship had been fed.  When the guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo as it barely missed the ship.  The guards next ran to the stern of the ship, and a second torpedo passed behind the ship.

    Suddenly the Arisan Maru shook, it had been hit by two torpedoes from the U.S.S. Shark, amidship, killing POWs while those still alive began cheering wildly.  A little while later the cheering ended and the men realized they were facing death. 

    The guards went after the POWs who cooking dinner and began beating them with their guns and forcing them into the second hold.  Once they were in the hold the Japanese cut the rope ladders and slammed down the hatch cover before abandoning the ship.
    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 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 men managed to get into a lifeboat that had been abandoned by the Japanese.  But since the sea was rough and they had no paddles, they could not maneuver the boat.  According to the men as the night went on, the cries for help became fewer until there was silence.  The next morning, they rescued two more POWs.

    Of the approximately 1800 men who had boarded the Arisan Maru in Manila, only nine survived the sinking, and only eight of these men survived to see the end of the war.  S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther was not one of them.

    S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther died on October 24, 1944, in the South China Sea.  Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.

    After the war, Henry's father accepted his Silver Star and educational equipment was donated in his name and his brother's name to St. Patrick's Catholic School in Janesville.


 



 

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