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 1918.  In 1934, the family moved to Janesville where his four sisters, his brother, and he grew up 341 North High Street in Janesville.  He attended Janesville schools, and after high school, he worked in a hotel's laundry.

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

    During this time, Henry rose in rank quickly.  He 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, that his mother died in July, 1941.

    In the September, 1941, Henry accompanied the 192nd to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that he learned that the tank company was not being released from military service but sent overseas.

    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and 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.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.   At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
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.

    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 ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  A week earlier, they had been given assigned positions around the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon 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. As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.    
    About a week after the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position.

    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, 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. They successfully crossed at 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.

    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.  One Japanese soldier managed to plant a thermite bomb on a tank's bow gun port.  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 Reed.  The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
    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.  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.

    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.  There the POWs 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 late 1944.  He was next sent to the Port Area of Manila.  When his POW group arrived, the Japanese made the decision that they board the Arisan Maru.  Another POW group was suppose to sail on the ship, but they had not arrived and the ship was ready to sail.

   1803 prisoners were crammed into the second hold of the Arisan Maru.  They were packed in so tight 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 on October 11th, but instead of heading for Formosa, it went to a cove off Palawan Island.  It was sent there to avoid American planes.  While in the cove, the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  Some POWs found a way to wire the ship's ventilation system into its lighting system.  The Japanese had removed the lights but had not turned off the power.  For two days the POWs had fresh air.  When the Japanese discovered what had been done, they turned off the power.

    On October 20th, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila.  There it joined twelve other ships bound for the Island of Formosa.  On Tuesday, October 24, 1944, in the early evening, the Arisan Maru was, off the coast of China in the Bashi Channel in the South China Sea. 

    Some POWs were preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  Suddenly, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship.  A torpedo passed in front of the ship.  The Japanese ran to the stern.  A second torpedo passed behind the ship.  Suddenly the ship shook and stopped dead. It had been hit amidships by two torpedoes.  

    The guards began firing at the POWs on deck.  These men dove into the holds to save their lives.  Once in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and covered the holds with their covers.  They did not lash the covers down, since they had already been ordered to abandon ship.

    Some POWs made it out of the second hold and reattached the rope ladders.  The POWs left the holds and milled around on the ship's deck.  The ship sank lower into the water.  When it became apparent that the ship was sinking, many of the POWs attempted to find anything that would float.  A group of 30 POWs swam to a nearby ship.  When they reached it, they were hit with clubs and pushed away with poles.  

    Five POWs fond an abandoned life boat.  They climbed in and found it had no oars.  With the rough seas, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to these men, the Arisan Mau split in to two and sank sometime after dark.  They heard cries for help.  Then, there was silence.

    Although most of the prisoners survived the submarine attack, the y died when the Japanese refused to allow them on other ships.  Henry Luther was one of the 1794 POWs who went into the water as the ship sank.  He was not one of the nine American POWs who survived the ship's sinking.

    S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther died on October 24, 1944.  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.


 

 

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