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.
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.
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
That night the they lived through
several more air raids. About a
week 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. There, their tanks, with A
Company, 194th, held the position.
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.
The tankers sprayed a withering fire on the Japanese. Taking heavy casualties, the Japanese put down a smoke screen. Because of the wind, the smoke blew back on their own troops.
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.
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. The company returned
to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
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.
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.
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 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
it had been hit by two
torpedoes from the U.S.S.
killing POWs while those still
alive began cheering
wildly. A little while
later the cheering ended and
the men realized they were
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
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
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.
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