Peterson_M

 

Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson


   Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson was born in 1921 and was the son of Clarence A. Peterson and Orpha Flora-Peterson.  With his three brothers and sister, he grew up in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.  It is known that in 1930, he was living  with his grandparents on his mother's side of the family.  It appears his parents divorced and his mother would later marry J. W. Brackin.  He moved to Janesville in 1938, and in 1939, Marvel was living at 319 North Jackson Street.  Sometime after arriving in Janesville he made an important decision and joined the Wisconsin National Guard.

    On November 25, 1940, his National Guard company was designated A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and on November 28th rode a train to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of federal duty.  It was there that the tankers attended various schools for specific training.  It is not known what training Marvel received.
    A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
    At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13th, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.   At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and dinner was at 5:30.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played. 

    After nearly a year of training, Marvel took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1st through 30th.  It was after these maneuvers that he and the other members of his tank battalion were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side of a hill, that the tankers learned they were going overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
   After being given leave home, Marvel married Gladys. 
Marvel returned to Camp Polk to prepare for duty overseas.

    The company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry 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 and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th at 9:00 P.M. 
After 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.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover.  The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southern route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time that it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and the S.S.Calvin Coolidge.  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 took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from 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 in the day.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The truck drivers drove their trucks 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 that they 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. 
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 worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they readied their tanks 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 tankers had orders that if an attack came that they were suppose to use their .37 millimeter guns as anti-aircraft guns.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.  The tanks were brought up to full strength at the airfield.  Many of the men believed this was the start of the maneuvers.  At 8:30 A.M., American took off to intercept any Japanese planes.  Sometime before noon, the planes landed to be refueled and lined up near the mess hall, and the pilots went to lunch.

    The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45.  Many of the tankers had enough time to count 54 planes.  As the planes approached the airfield, the tankers watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.

    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The tankers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything else that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics placed the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
   Those members of the company not assigned to half-tracks or tanks
walked around Clark Field to look at the damage and saw that there were hundreds of dead.  Some were pilots who had been caught asleep in their tents, during the first attack, because they had flown night missions. Others were pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes.
    Since another attack was expected, vehicles were dispersed and camouflaged.  The tanks remained around the perimeter of Clark Field to prevent a paratroop assault. The soldiers had no idea if an invasion would soon follow.    
    Four days after the attack, on December 12th, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad to protect them against sabotage.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd to the north at Lingayen Gulf

    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
    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 were ordered the line for six hours; they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.

    Lt. William Read was killed on December 30th. On a road east of Zaragoza, that night, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
    It was at the Gumain River on December 31st, while the company was attached to the 194th Tank Battalion, that they believed they were in a relatively safe place.  Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep.  Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gun shot.  The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had lunched a major offensive.
    The tankers sprayed a withering fire on the Japanese who were easy to see because they were wearing white shirts.  Taking heavy casualties, the Japanese put down a smoke screen, which blew back on their own troops because of the wind.  There was a great deal of confusion which the Japanese took advantage of during the fight.  One Japanese soldier managed to plant a thermite bomb on a tank's bow gun port which wounded the crew when it went off, but the tank was driven to a safe location which prevented it from being lost.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered 50% casualties.
    At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese.  The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them.  The result was the loss of three tanks. 

    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  The company returned to the command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.

    A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until the tank, that had been relieved, left the pocket.
    To wipe out the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank, and as the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three grenades usually exploded.
    The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks of the tanks.

   The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea.  By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.  Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave.  When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die."  The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    When Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, Marvel became a Prisoner Of War and took part in the death march.  The first five miles of the march was uphill which was made harder since most of the men were sick.  They made their way north to San Fernanndo, where, they were packed into small wooden boxcars known as forty or eights.  This name came from the fact the car was large enough to hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese put 100 POWs in each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since there was not enough room for them to fall to the floors.  When the train arrived at Capas, the living left the cars and walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base.  There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs, and men literally died for a drink of water.  Since there was little medicine, disease ran wild among the POWs and the camp cemetery soon filled with the bodies of the dead.
    Those assigned to the burial detail had to carry the bodies to the cemetery and dig a grave.  Since the water table was high, the graves quickly filled with water, so the body was held down with a pole until it was covered with dirt.  In the morning, the men on the detail would find that wild dogs had dug up the bodies, or that they were siting up in the graves.

    To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Marvel volunteered to go out on a work detail to Pampanga Province.  This was a scrap metal detail and the POWs' job was to drive disabled vehicles.  The  vehicles were tied together by rope and tied to an operating vehicle.  A POW sat in each vehicle driving it as they were pulled to San Fernando.  From San Fernando, the vehicles were taken to Manila and sent to Japan as scrap metal.

    At some point, Marvel may have broken a rule, since he was sent to the Provincial Hospital at Pampanga with bruises which were the result of a beating.  On August 24th, Marvel was taken by the Japanese from the hospital but it is not known if he returned to the detail or taken to Cabanatuan.  It is known he was held at Cabanatuan which had been opened while he was on the work detail. 

    In July 1943, Marvel went out on the Las Pinas Work Detail, which was also known as the Pasay School Detail, since the POWs were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen classrooms.  30 POWs were assigned to sleep in each room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy at Nielsen Field.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war, but the Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment.  Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942, and the work was easy until the runway reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The dirt was pushed in wheelbarrows to the swamp where it was dumped as landfill.  When this became inefficient, the Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
    At six in the morning each day, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15, in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast, which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
 

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months. 
    One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't, four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The rest of the Americans were ordered back to the school.  As they stood in formation, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling."  The White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him, and as the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The White Angel told them that this would happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway, and the Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He took the man to the showers and drowned him in the shower basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him as he walked away.  The guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was left there all day and was dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes, and the Japanese had death certificates - with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor - sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began arriving at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
   
     

    The Japanese realizing that the Americans would be invading the Philippines ended the detail, and Marvel was sent to Bilibid Prison, where he remained until October 1944.  In October 1944, Marvel was marched to the Port Area of Manila to be sent to Japan.  When they arrived, the ship they were scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but the entire POW detachment had not arrived at the pier.  There was another detachment of POWs which had completely arrived but was waiting because their ship, the Arisan Maru was not ready to sail.
    The Japanese switched the POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.  Marvel remained at the pier until October 11th, when his POW detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  Nearly, 1800 POWs
were packed into a hold that could hold 400 men.  The ship sailed later in the day but took a southerly route and dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island.  This was done to avoid being attacked by American planes.  Within 24 hours,
five men had died in the hold.  
    During this time, the POWs wired the hold's ventilation system into the hold's lighting system.  The Japanese had removed the bulbs, from their sockets, but had not turned off the power.  For two days, the POWs had fresh air, but this ended when the Japanese found out what the POWs had done and turned off the power.

    After this was done, the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  The Japanese soon realized that if they did not do something, the ship would be a death ship.  To relieve the situation in the hold, they transferred 600 of the POWs to the ship's second hold which was partially filled with coal.  During the move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape.  During this time, the POWs, each day, were allowed three ounces of water and every 24 hours, the POWs received two half a mess kits of rice.

    On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila, where it joined twelve other ships bound for the Island of Formosa.  The convoy left Manila on October 21st, and by Tuesday, October 24, 1944, the convoy, including the Arisan Maru was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. 
    The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  In addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading the Japanese code as fast as the Japanese.  To protect this secret, they did not tell the crews, of the submarines, that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines.
    The evening of October 24th at about 5:00 P.M., the convoy was in the Bashi Channel, of the South China Sea, off the coast of China, when it came under attack by American submarines. The waves were high since a storm had just passed.  At about 5:50 P.M., a number of POWs were on deck preparing dinner.  About half the POWs on the ship had been fed.  As the POWs watched, the guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo as it barely missed the ship.  The guards next ran to the stern of the ship, and a second torpedo passed behind the ship.

Suddenly the Arisan Maru shook, it had been hit by two torpedoes from the U.S.S. Shark, amidship, killing POWs while those still alive began cheering wildly.  A little while later the cheering ended and the men realized they were facing death.
    The guards went after the POWs who had been cooking dinner and began beating them with their guns and forcing them into the second hold.  Once they were in the hold the Japanese cut the rope ladders and slammed down the hatch cover before abandoning the ship, but they did not tie the hatch covers down.
    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.

    Five POWs found an abandoned life boat and were able climb into it, but found that there were no oars.  With the rough seas, they could not maneuver the boat to help other POWs.  Other POWs attempted to use anything that would float.  The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it sunk sometime after dark. 
    The men in the lifeboat stated that they heard cries for help which became fewer and fewer until there was silence.  The next morning, two more men were pulled into the lifeboat.

    Although most of the prisoners survived the submarine attack, they died when the Japanese refused rescue them.  According to U. S. Army records, Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on October 24, 1944.  Since he was lost at sea, his name appears of The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila. Unfortunately, he is inaccurately listed as a member of the 194th Tank Battalion on the tablets.


 

 

 

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