Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson

   Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson was one of the original Wisconsin National Guardsmen called to federal duty in November 1940.  He was born in 1921 and was the son of Clarence A. Peterson and Orpha Flora-Peterson.  He and his three brothers and sister and 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.  In 1939, Marvel was living at 319 North Jackson Street.    

    In the autumn of 1940, he traveled with his National Guard Company to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training.  It was there that the company was designated as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

    After nearly a year of training, Marvel took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that he and the other members of his tank battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.  After given a leave home, Marvel returned to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to prepare for duty overseas.  It appears that Marvel married before going overseas.  His wife's name was Gladys.  

    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken 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.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.   At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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 as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.  The tanks were put on alert and took their positions around the airfield.   At 8:30 A.M., American took off to intercept any Japanese planes.  Sometime before noon, the alert was canceled and the planes landed and were lined up near the mess hall.  Their 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 counted 54 planes.  The planes approached the airfield and watched hat was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.

    The members of A Company lived through the bombing of Clark Field.  During the attack, they could do little since their guns were not made to use against planes.  For some reason, not known to the tankers, the Japanese did not attack the tanks.
    After the attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  There, the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the position. 
    On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that 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. They successfully crossed at 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 held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.

    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 Reed.  The company returned to 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 Marines 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 a tank had 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.  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 usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. 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.

    When Bataan was surrendered, Marvel became a Prisoner Of War.  He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.

    To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Marvel volunteered to go out on a work detail to Pampanga Province.  The POWs' job was to drive vehicles together and drive them to San Fernando.  From San Fernando, the vehicles were taken to Manila and sent to Japan.

    At some point, Marvel may have broken a rule.  What is known that he was sent to the Provincial Hospital at Pampanga with bruises.  The bruises were the result of a beating.  On August 24th, Marvel was taken by the Japanese from the hospital.  Marvel was next held at Cabanatuan which had been opened while he was on the work detail. 

    In July 1943, Marvel was sent out on the Las Pinas Work Detail.   The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  30 POWs were assigned to a room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war.  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.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  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, 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 than 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 other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, 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." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to 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.  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 then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, 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 dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  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 to arrive 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, Marvel was sent to Bilibid Prison.  He remained at Bilibid until October 1944.

    In October, 1944, Marvel and other members of A Company were marched to the Port Area of Manila.  When they arrived, the Japanese switched the POWs from sailing on the Hokusen Maru to the sailing on the Arisan Maru.  This was done since the Hokisen Maru was ready to sail and the POWs scheduled to sail on the ship had not all arrived.  

    On October 10th, 1803 POWs were packed into a hold that could hold 400 men of the Arisan Maru.  The ship sailed but headed to Palawan Island.  There it dropped anchor in a cove to avoid American planes.  The conditions in the hold were so bad that five POWs died in the first 48 hours.  The POWs wired the hold's ventilation system into the lights.  The Japanese had removed the bulbs but had not turned off the power.  For two days, the POWs had fresh air.  This ended when the Japanese found out what the POWs had done and turned off the power.

    When the POWs began to develop heat blisters, the Japanese decided it was time to do something.  800 of the POWs were transferred from the second hold to the first hold which was partially filled with coal.  

    On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila.  There it joined twelve other ships bound for the Island of Formosa.  The convoy left Manila on October 21st.  On Tuesday, October 24, 1944, the Arisan Maru was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea.  

    A group of POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ships holds.  Suddenly, they saw the Japanese run to the bow of the ship.  A torpedo passed in front of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the stern, a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  The ship shook and came to a stop.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships.

    The Japanese were ordered to abandoned ship.  Before they did, they fired their weapons at the prisoners on deck until they reentered the holds.  The Japanese cut the rope ladders into the holds and covered them with their hatch covers, but they did not tie them down.  They then abandoned ship.

    Some of the POWs from the second hold climbed out and reattached the ladders.  The POWs left the holds but made no attempt to abandon ship.  The ship sank lower into the water.  When it became apparent that the ship was sinking, many of the POWs attempted to find anything that would float.  A group of 30 POWs swam to a nearby ship.  When they reached it, they were hit with clubs and pushed away with poles.  

    Five POWs fond an abandoned life boat.  They climbed in and found it had no oars.  With the rough seas, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  Others attempted to use anything that would float.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Mau split in to two and sank sometime after dark.  They heard cries for help until there was silence.

    Although most of the prisoners survived the submarine attack, they died when the Japanese refused to allow them on other ships.  Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson was one of the 1794 POWs who went into the water as the ship sank.  He was not one of the nine American POWs who survived the ship's sinking.

    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.




Return to A Company