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
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.
For the next four months, Paul provided first aid to the members of the 192nd. 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.
The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th. There, it joined a 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. This made the ships targets for submarines. The POWs in the hold were so desperate that they prayed that the ship be hit by torpedoes.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds. The ship was, in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China. Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard. The men inside holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.
The Japanese on deck began running around the ship. As the POWs watched, a torpedo passed the bow of the ship. Moments later, a second torpedo passed the ship's stern. 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. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.
To get the POWs on deck into the holds, the Japanese guards began beating the POWs with their rifles. To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds. After they were in, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie them down.
As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds. Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders. They also dropped rope ladders down to the POWs in the first hold.
The POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship and only a few attempted to escape the ship. A group of 35 swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed under water poles and hit with clubs. The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.
As the ship got lower in the water, some POWs took to the water. These POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking. At some point, the ship split in two. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
Five of the POWs found a abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs. According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru sank sometime after dark. As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer until there was silence.
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.