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.
With his company, Marvel traveled by train to San Francisco, from there he was ferried to Angel Island. After physical examinations and inoculations, the members of Marvel's company sailed for the Philippine Islands. During the trip, the transports stopped at Hawaii and Guam.
Arriving in the Philippines, Marvel with his battalion lives in tents along the made road between Clark Air Field and Ft. Stotsenburg. On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacked Clark Field. Marvel and the other tankers could do little but watch as the Japanese destroyed the American Army Air Corps.
For four months, Marvel fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. 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.
1943, Marvel was sent to Lipa, Batangas, on the
Las Pinas Work Detail. It was there that
he built runways, at camp Murphy, for a Japanese
airfield. The POWs on this detail had
nothing but picks and shovels to build the
runways. At first the work was hard but
not as hard as it was going to get. About
400 yards from where they began working where
hills. The POWs removed these hills with
picks and shovels. The dirt was put into
wheel barrows and carried to a swamp and dumped
as landfill. This turned out to be
ineffective, so the Japanese brought in mining
cars and railroad track. Two POWs pushed
each car to where it was to be dumped. He
would remain on this detail for almost seventeen
The welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese. They only concern they had was getting the runway built. If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury. Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.
In particular, "the Wolf" was was hardest to convince that a man was sick. If a man's arm or leg was bandaged, he would kick the man's leg, in the spot it was bandaged, and see how the man reacted. If the man showed a great deal of pain, he was not required to work. In one case, a man whose broken wrist was in a splint, was twisted by the Wolf while the man trembled in pain.
The remains of the
POWs who had died on
the detail were
brought to Bilibid
Japanese had death
with the boxes with
the causes of
American doctor was
forced to sign
Americans from the
boxes, would not
tell the POWs at
Bilibid what had
was only when the
sick, from the
detail, began to
arrive at Bilibid
did they learn what
the detail was
men were sent to
Bilibid to die since
it would look better
when it was reported
to the International
The Japanese realizing that the Americans would be invading the Philippines ended the detail, John 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.