MartiniC

 

Pvt. Clement Francis Martini


    Pvt. Clement F. Martini was born to Andrew P. Martini & Mary C. Miller-Martini in East Connersville, Indiana, in August 1918.   He had five sisters and two brothers grew up at 6235 Ashtubula Street, Delhi Township, Hamilton County, Ohio.  He attended Electrical High School and worked at Gibson Art Company as a machinist. 
    Clement was inducted into the Army on March 1, 1941, and did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia.  Maneuvers were taking place at the fort, but the 753rd did not take part in them. 
    After the maneuvers, the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion were kept at the base without being told why.  It was on the side of a hill that they learned their battalion was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Men 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service.  Many of those who remained were allowed to go home to say their goodbyes.
    Clement joined the 192nd Tank Battalion at Camp Polk to replace a National Guardsman released from federal service.  Upon joining the battalion, he was assigned to Headquarters Company. 

    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.  It was at this time that his family received a letter from him which turned out to be the last time they would hear from him.
   
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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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.  I 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 Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men 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.
    On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of the battalion were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  The tanks and half-tracks were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
   The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.

    Clement most likely was never involved in front line action, but he did live the constant strafing by Japanese planes.  Clement was assigned to a half-track and did reconnaissance.  A picture of a half-track, taken on Bataan, shows Clement sitting on the hood of the half-track.

    On April 9, 1942, Clement became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  He took part in the Death March and was held as a prisoners at Camp O'Donnell.  He was next held at Cabanatuan when the camp opened to lower the death rate among the POWs. 
    It is not known what work details he went out on as a POW.  Records kept at the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison, Clement was admitted to the hospital, suffering from optical neuritis caused by beriberi, and discharged on June 15, 1944.   When he was released he was sent to Cabanatuan.

    Clement remained at Cabanatuan when the Japanese began evacuating POWs to prevent them from being liberated by the advancing American forces.  On October 7th, his name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan.  Trucks were sent to the camp and the POWs were taken to Bilibid Prison near Manila.  They were issued heavy Japanese Army uniforms which too small for a large number of the men.  Many of the men had a good laugh about how they looked in the uniforms.

    In the afternoon of October 10th, Clement, with other prisoners, was marched to the Port Area of Manila.  When they arrived, they were scheduled to sail on the Hokusan Maru.  As it turned out, the ship was ready to sail, but the entire POW detachment hadn't arrived at the port.  Another POW detachment was at the port and waiting for their ship to sail.  The Japanese made the decision to swap the POW detachments so that the Hokusan Maru could sail. 
    Clement's POW detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11th.  1803 POWs were packed into the ship's number two hold which was large enough for 400 men.  Along the sides of the hold were three tiers of wooden bunks.  They were so low, anyone who lay in one could not sit up. 

    Within the first 48 hours in the hold, five POWs had died.  The ship sailed but instead of heading to Japan, it headed south to Palawan Island.  In a cove off the island, the ship hid from American planes.  During this time, the ship was attacked by American planes.  The POWs discovered that the Japanese had removed the lights bulbs from the hold, but they had left on the power.  The POWs hot wired the hold's fans and the POWs had fresh air for two days.  When the Japanese figured out what the POWs had done, they turned the power off.
    Acknowledging that the situation in the hold was extremely bad, the Japanese opened the first hold and moved 600 POWs to it. 
During this move, one man attempted to escape and shot.  The hold was full of coal, so the POWs sat and slept on it.  

    On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila to join a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21, 1944, the Arisan Maru sailed for Takao, Formosa, as part of the convoy.  Around 5:00 PM, on Tuesday, October 24th, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea, twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner.  The Japanese on deck ran toward the bow of stem of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship.  Moments later the Japanese ran to the stern of the ship as another torpedo missed the ship.

   The ship shook and came to a dead stop in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships.  The Japanese guards fired on the POWs on deck to get them back into the ship's holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on.  A short time later, the Japanese abandoned ship.  Before they left, they cut the  rope ladders hanging down into the holds.  They also put the hatch covers in place.

   Since the hatch covers had not been tied down, some of the POWs made their way back on deck.   These men reattached and dropped the rope ladders to the men in the holds.  For the next two hours, the ship remained afloat.  Many of the POWs raided the hip's foof lockers.  If they were going to die, they wanted to die with full stomachs.  At some point, the ship split in two.  POWs attempted to find anything that would float.  Some POWs swam to other Japanese ships, but they were pushed away with poles and clubbed.  The waves were as high as fifteen feet because there had been a storm.

    Three POWs reached a lifeboat that the Japanese had abandoned.  Since it had no oars, they could not maneuver it to rescue other POWs.  According to these men, the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence.  The next morning, they rescued two more men.

    Of the 1803 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the attack. Eight of these men survived the war.  Pfc. Clement Martini was not one of them.  Since he was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.


 

 

Return to HQ Company

 

Next