Pvt. Peter Nakavich
| Pvt. Peter
Nakavich was born in Ohio in 1919, in Cuyahoga
County, Ohio, to Thomas & Casimira
Nakavich. With his two brothers and four
sisters, he grew up in Cleveland.
He was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 19, 1941, and did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. At Ft. Knox, he was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The company's purpose was to maintain and supply the tanks of the battalion. It is not known what specific training that he received.
In the late summer of 1941, Peter traveled to
Camp Polk, Louisiana to take part in
maneuvers. HQ Company did not actively
participate in the maneuvers, but kept the tanks
of the battalion running.
Over different train routes, the companies
of the battalion traveled to San Francisco,
California, and after arriving, ferried to Angel
Island. At Ft. McDowell, the soldiers
received physicals and inoculations. Those
who were found to have minor medical conditions
were held back and scheduled to rejoin the
battalion at a later date. Those with
major medical conditions were simply
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.
For the next four months, Peter worked with the
other members of HQ Company to keep the tanks
supplied. This was often a difficult task
since the defensive lines were fluid.
Peter most likely never saw front line action,
but he did live with the constant strafing by
morning of April 9, 1942, Peter became a
Prisoner of War, but the first Japanese soldiers did
not appear in HQ company's encampment until
April 11th. 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 on the sides
of the road for hours.
The company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were 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 did, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Peter's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where the POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours without being water or food. 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 to protect themselves, since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed from the 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.
It appears that at some point Peter disappeared from the march. According to 2nd Lt. Tom Savage's records, on the 192nd, indicate that Peter never reached Camp O'Donnell. It is known that POWs were selected by the Japanese to return to Bataan to start cleaning up the junk left behind from the battle. At some point he was a taken to Cabanatuan.
On October 26, 1942, Peter and other POWs were transferred to Bilibid Prison. He remained in the prisoner for two days. On the the 28th, Peter and the other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Erie Maru. The ship sailed the same day for Lasang, Mindanao. During the trip, the ship stopped at Iloilo and Cebu, Mindanao. It arrived at Lasang on November 11th. For the next two years, Peter worked building runways and farming at Davao.
At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide. A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks. In each barracks, were eighteen bays. Twelve POWs shared a bay with a total of 216 POWs living in each barracks. Four cages were later put in a bay for the POWs to sleep in at night. Each cage held two POWs.
The camp discipline was poor. The American commanding officer changed frequently. The junior officers refused to take orders from the senior officers. Soon, the enlisted men spoke anyway they wanted to, to the officers. The situation improved because all majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive.
At first, the work details were not guarded while the POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops. The sick POWs made baskets. By April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied. Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment and were beaten for not meeting quotas. Most of the misunderstandings, between the POWs and guards, and were caused by a translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.
As the American forces got closer to the Philippine Islands the Japanese began to send as many POWs to Japan or other occupied countries as possible. On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindano, by truck. Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed. The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano, for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17th. The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse. The POWs were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship and arrived at Manila on June 25th. On June 28th, Peter was returned to Cabanatuan.
During Peter's time at
Cabanatuan, he worked the camp farm. One
day, while the POWs were working, they saw
what appeared to be a dogfight between
fighters. As they watched a plane caught
fire and fell to the ground. It crashed
near the camp. One of the other planes
had followed the plane down, on this plane's
wings the POWs saw white stars. It was
the first time that they had seen American
planes in over three years.
On October 10th, Peter, with other prisoners,
was marched to the Port Area of Manila.
Peter and the other POWs were scheduled to be
boarded on the Hokusen Maru, which was
ready to sail, but part of the POW detachment
had arrived at the pier. Another POW
detachment was on the pier and ready to
sail. The ship they were scheduled to
sail on was not ready, so the Japanese swapped
POW detachments so the Houksen Maru
The ship sailed but instead of heading to Japan, it headed south to Palawan Island and hid in a cove off the island from American planes. The POWs attempting to improve their situation discovered that the lights had been taken out of the hold, but the Japanese had not turned off the power. Some of the prisoners managed to wire the hold's ventilation system into the lighting system and the POWs had fresh air for two days. When the Japanese discovered what they had done, they turned off the power to the lights.
Acknowledging that the situation in the hold was extremely bad, the Japanese opened the first hold and moved 800 POWs to it. The hold was half filled with coal so the POWs stood on it. During the move one POW attempted to escape and was shot. At some point during its stay in the cove, the ship was attacked by American planes.
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. The convoy was in the Bashi Channel of the South China sea on Tuesday, October 24th, with twenty POWs were on deck preparing dinner. As the POWs watched, the Japanese guards on ran toward the bow 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 passed behind the ship.
Suddenly, the ship shook and came to a dead stop in the water. It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in an unoccupied hold. The Japanese guards aimed their guns at the POWs, who were on deck, to get them back into the ship's holds. After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds. A short time later, the Japanese abandoned ship.
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 but slowly sunk in the
water. Those POWs who could not swim
raided the ship's food lockers so they could
die on a full stomach.
Three POWs found a lifeboat that the Japanese had abandoned but could not maneuver it since it had no oars. The men reported hearing cries for help for several hours after dark until there was silence. Of the nearly 1800 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the its sinking, and only eight of these men survived the war. Pvt. Peter Nakavich was not one of them.
Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Peter Nakavich's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.