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 with his 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 4, 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.  Although maneuvers were taking place in Louisiana, the 753rd did not take part in them. 
    After the maneuvers, the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion were ordered to Camp Polk 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.  Within hours, most hd decoded PLUM to mean Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  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.  It is not known if he volunteered to join the battalion or if he had his name drawn.  Upon joining the battalion, he was assigned to Headquarters Company and was assigned to reconnaissance and a member of a half-track crew. 

    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.  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 on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy. 
After many of the members of the battalion got over their seasickness, they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.  The ships arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and the soldiers were given shore leaves so they could see the island.  On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam and took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  At one point smoke was seen on the horizon, the escort cruiser revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off after the ship.  It turned out the ship belonged to a friendly nation.
    When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables, before sailing the next morning. 
During this part of the trip, the ships - in total blackout - passed an island at night.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay st 8:00 A.M. on Thursday, November 20th, and docked later in the morning at pier 7.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
 
   
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 Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  All members of the tank companies were sent to the airfield.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. 
    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled, they were lined up in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps. 

    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    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, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.

    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.    
    The battalion
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had advanced and been pushed back.  Two pockets of Japanese were cut off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I and only one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks. 
   
    The evening of April 8, 1942,
Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment, and a Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road most of the day.         
    The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit and wait.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
   

    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  As he drove away, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
    Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles and left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
              


    The POWs were ordered to move again, by the Japanese, and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, they received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. 

    During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.   The Japanese ordered the POWs to form 100 men detachments and marched them to the train station where they were put into a small wooden boxcars, used to haul sugarcane, and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From there, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a POW camp.  The camp was a
death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp which meant men had to stand in line for hours to get a drink.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.  
    The dead in the camp were buried in camp cemetery in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.   
    It is known that Clement went out on a work detail that was referred to as the Av. Bu. Detail.  The exact meaning of these letters is not known at this time.  It is believed the POWs on the detail built runways and revetments at airfields.  While on the detail, he developed beriberi and was sent to Bilibid Prison where he was admitted to the hospital on December 9, 1942, and discharged on December 14th and sent to what was called "sick in quarters."  He was readmitted, to the hospital, the same day because of his beriberi.  Other records kept at the hospital ward at the prison, show that he was admitted to the hospital, suffering from optical neuritis caused by beriberi and discharged on June 15, 1944, and 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 were 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 11th, the POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila.  When they arrived, they were scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail, but the entire POW detachment hadn't arrived at the port.  Another POW detachment, at the pier, had completely arrived and was waiting for their ship to sail.  The Japanese made the decision to swap the POW detachments so that the Hokusen Maru could sail. 
    Clement's POW detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11th.  About 1800 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. 

    The ship sailed later on October 11th but instead of heading to Japan, it headed south to a cove at Palawan Island to hide from American planes.  Within the first 48 hours in the hold, five POWs had died.  During this time, the ship was attacked at least once by American planes.  The POWs discovered that the Japanese had removed the lights bulbs from the hold's lighting system, but they had left on the power.  The POWs hot-wired the hold's fans, into the lighting system, and the had fresh air for two days.  When the Japanese figured out what the POWs had done, they turned the power off.
    The POWs began to develop blisters since it was so hot in the hold.  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 partially filed with 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, and POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the other POWs.  About 5:50 that evening, sirens and bells began to sound warning of submarines.  As the POWs watched, the Japanese ran toward the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the it.  Moments later the Japanese ran to the stern of the ship as another torpedo passed behind the ship.

   The ship shook and came to a dead stop in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes, amidships, in a hold where no POWs were being held, but it still killed some POWs.  The men in the holds cheered. The Japanese guards used their rifles as clubs 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 the holds.  A short time later, the Japanese abandoned ship.  Before they left, they cut the rope ladders hanging down into the holds and put the hatch covers in place but did not tie them down.

    Since the hatch covers had not been tied down, some of the POWs made their way back on deck and reattached and dropped the rope ladders to the men in the holds.  The POWs climbed out of the holds 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."
   
For the next few hours, the ship remained afloat, and many of the POWs raided the ship's food lockers because they wanted to die with full stomachs.  The ship slowly sunk lower in the water, and when the stern began taking on water, the ship split in two, but both halves of the ship remained afloat.  Many POWs took to the water and attempted to find anything that would float, while other POWs swam to other Japanese ships but were pushed underwater with poles to drown them or clubbed by Japanese sailors.  Since a storm had just passed, the waves were as high as fifteen feet.

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

    Of the nearly 1800 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the attack and only 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.


 


 

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