Moser

 

Tec 5 Paul E. Moser III


    T/5 Paul E. Moser III was born in 1919 in Jeffersonville Township, Clark County, Indiana.  He was the son of Anna & Paul E. Moser Jr.  With his older sister, Augusta, he grew up at 310 Harrison Avenue in Clarksville, Indiana.   After high school, he worked as an accountant at a cresol plant.

    Paul was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 29, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  He was assigned to the medical detachment of the 192nd Tank Battalion.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. During the maneuvers the medical detachment took care of injuries and snake bites the members of the battalion suffered while taking part in the maneuvers.  It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was informed they were being sent overseas.
   The reason the battalion was being sent overseas was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island.  When the squadron landed he reported what he had seen.  By the time a Navy ship was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
     Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations.  The members of the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies.  Men with minor medical conditions were held on the island and 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 tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in 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.  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 they 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 they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received 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 spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had the grease put on them to prevent them from rusting at sea.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tankers learned about the attack.  That morning, they were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against paratroopers.  The medics remained behind in the bivouac.  At 12:45 P.M., the Japanese attacked the airfield.  During the attack, the medics took cover since they had no weapons.  After the attack he and the other members of the medical detachment provided aid to the wounded and dying.  

    The morning of December 8, 1941, the battalion was informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just ten hours earlier.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared over the airfield.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack Paul witnessed the carnage from the attack.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was on the main road, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything 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.  The members of the medical detachment provided aid to the wounded and dying.  

    For the next four months, Paul provided first aid to the members of the 192nd.  Gen. Edward King facing the reality that only about 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight and most likely last one more day.  He decided to send his staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender since he wanted to avoid the slaughter of 6000 wounded and sick troops and 40000 civilians.  At 10:30, these orders were given, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
    When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese he became a Prisoner of War.  He took part in the death march and was held at Camp O'Donnell.  As a medic, he attempted to treat the sick and dying without any medical supplies.

    When a new POW camp was opened at Cabanatuan, Paul was sent there.   From medical records kept at the camp, it is known that Paul was hospitalized on April 4, 1943. Why he was hospitalized and when he was discharged are not known.   It appears that he remained tin the camp until 1944.

     One day the POWs at Cabanatuan witnessed a dogfight above them.  For the first time, they saw that two of the planes involved had stars on their wings.  When one of the Japanese planes crashed near the camp, the POWs cheered.  They soon heard the sound of shelling.  This was a sign that American troops had returned to the Philippines. 

    Knowing that it was just a matter of time before the POWs would be liberated, the Japanese attempted to send the healthy POWs to Japan and other countries to work as slave labor.  It was not too long after this that Paul's name appeared on a list of POWs to be sent to Japan.

    When Paul's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila on October 10, 1944, they were scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru.  Another POW group was scheduled to be boarded onto the Arisan Maru, but since their entire compliment of POWs had not arrived, the Japanese put Paul's group onto the ship.

    Paul and  another 1805 POWs were packed into the ship's number one hold.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks.  These bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up.  Those standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans.  Since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans.  The floor of the hold was covered with human waste.

    On October 11th, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp. During the night, the POWs were in total darkness.  This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes, but the ship was attacked by American planes.

     During the time off Palawan, the ship was attacked by American planes.  Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice.  Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not cutoff the power.  Some of the prisoners were able to wire the ship's blowers into the power lines.  This allowed fresh air into the hold.  The blowers were disconnected two days later when the Japanese discovered what had been done. 

    The Japanese realized that if they did not do something many of the POWs would die.  To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs into it. This hold was partially filled with coal.   At some point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.
    In early October 1944, almost 1800 other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila.  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 ship 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.
    Later in the day on October 11th, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp so during the night, the POWs were in total darkness.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died.  Being in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes, but the ship was attacked once by American planes while there.
    Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice.
Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights.  Some of the prisoners were able to hot-wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines.  This allowed fresh air into the hold, until the power was disconnected, two days later, when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
    After this was done, the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  The Japanese realized that if they did not do something many of the POWs would die.  To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs into it.  At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.
    The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th, where it joined a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21st, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs making them targets for American submarines.  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 submarine crews that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines.  The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.
    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard.  The men inside the holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.
    The waves were high since a storm had just passed.  At about 5:50 P.M., as the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and a torpedo passed in front of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in its third hold where there were no POWs, but it still killed some POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S. Snook.
    The Japanese guards took their guns and used them as clubs on the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds, but they did not tie them down.  They then abandoned the ship.
    Some of the POWs from the first hold climbed out and reattached the ladders and dropped them to the men in the holds.  The POWs left the holds but made no attempt to abandon ship.  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."  The ship sank lower into the water.
    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, because they wanted to die with full stomachs.  Other POWs took to the water with anything that would float.  
    Three POWs found an abandoned life boat and managed to climb in but found it had no oars.  With the rough seas, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru and sank sometime after dark on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  The men in the boat heard cries for help, which became fewer and fewer, until there was silence.  The next day they picked up two more survivors.

     T/5 Paul E. Moser III lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea.  Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.  Eight of these men would survive the war. 

    Since T/5 Paul E. Moser III was lost at sea, his name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 


 

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