|Cpl. Bruno J. Pierotti
At this time, little is known about Cpl. Bruno J.
Pierotti. It is known that he was the son of
Colombo and Odetta Pierotti and was born on October
10, 1914. With his brother and two sisters, he
was raised at 233 East Second Street in Pomeroy, Ohio,
and attended Pomeroy High
School and Miami University of Ohio, where he played
basketball. Before he was inducted into the
army, he worked in the family's restaurant.
It is not known when Bruno became a member of the 192nd, but it may have been in early 1941 when Headquarters Company was formed. The company was filled with men from the home states that the letter companies had been National Guard Companies.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii, as part of a three ship convoy. The ships arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover, so the soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island. They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers, and that they had to love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner. Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.
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.
As a member of HQ Company, Bruno remained in the bivouac of the battalion. After the attack, the tankers saw the carnage done during the attack. The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps. The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
HQ, B, and C Companies received orders, on December 21st, that they were to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough gasoline for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
For the next four months, Bruno worked to supply the letter companies of the battalion with the supplies needed to fight. The morning of April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni informed his company of the surrendered and gave orders that any supplies that could be used by the Japanese should be destroyed. It was on this date that Bruno became a Prisoner of War.
Bruno with his company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. 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.
Later in the day, Bruno's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles and left sitting in the sun for hours without food or water. 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 incoming American shells. One group of POWs tried to hide in a small brick building but died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march they received no water and little food. At San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen and left sitting there for most of the day. They were ordered to form detachments of 100 men, and when this was done, they marched to the train deport in the barrio. There, the POWs were packed into small wooden
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner Of War camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp. To get a drink, men stood in line for days. Many died while waiting for a drink.
Seeing that they had to do something to lower the mortality rate among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. The healthy POWs were sent to the camp, while those too ill to be moved remained at Camp O'Donnell. Camp hospital medical records, from Cabanatuan, show that Bruno was admitted on April 15, 1943. No illness or date of discharge was recorded in the report.
Bruno was selected for a work detail to repair trucks and other equipment for the Japanese. The POWs worked at the Bachrach Garage which was on an island off Manila. He was spent over a year on this detail. He most likely became ill and returned to Cabantuan.
At some point, Bruno was sent on a work detail to Nichols Field. The POWs were housed in the Pasay School over a mile from the airfield. 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, and when they arrived back at the school, they were counted one more time.
Afterwards, they would rush to the showers, since there were only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs. After this, they were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and after dinner 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
At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible. The other Americans were ordered back 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,
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.
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 Japanese, knowing the it was just a matter of time before the POWs would be liberated, began to ship large numbers of the POWs to Japan or another occupied country. On October 11, 1944, Bruno, with other POWs, was marched to the Port Area of Manila. They were scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru but the entire POW detachment had not arrived at the pier. Since another POWs had completely arrived and their ship was not ready to sail, Bruno's group was swapped with the other POW detachment so that the Hokusen Maru could sail. Bruno's POW detachment was later boarded onto the Arisan Maru in their place.
On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa and dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. Within the first 48 hours in the ship's hold, five POWs died. The POWs managed to wire the ventilation system into the lighting system which brought fresh air into the hold. The Japanese had removed the lights from the system, but had not turned off the power. When the Japanese discovered what had been done turned off the power.
Most of the POWs developed heat blisters, so the Japanese conceded that unless they did something about the situation in the hold, more POWs would die. The Japanese moved 800 POWs to the ship's first hold which was partially filled with coal. During the movement of the POWs, one prisoner was killed attempting to escape.
The stay in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes on ships in Manila Bay. It is known that the ship was attacked once by American planes while in the cove. The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th, where it joined a convoy with eleven other ships.
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 U.S. Military also was reading the Japanese military code and knew their were POWs on a ship in the convoy. To preserve the secret that they could read the code, they did not inform the submarines of this.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, at 5:00 pm, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea, and some POWs were on deck preparing dinner for those POWs in the ship's two holds. Suddenly, sirens and alarms went off warning American submarines were in the area. The POWs in the holds starting chanting for the ships to sink the ship. The Japanese guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship. The Japanese next ran to the ship's stern and watched another torpedo pass behind the ship. There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water. Two torpedoes had hit the ship 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.
The Japanese guards used their rifles as clubs and beat the POWs on deck so they would go into the holds.2 After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie down the covers. The Japanese abandoned ship leaving the POWs to die.
Some of the POWs in the first hold were able to climb out, reattach the rope ladders into the holds, and dropped them down to the other POWs. The POWs climbed out of the holds and no longer were chanting. 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."
At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship as it got lower in the water. The aft began to take on water and go under. This caused the ship to split into two halves but stayed afloat. This was when most of the POWs took to the water. Those POWs too weak to swim raided the ship's food lockers, because they wanted to die with full stomachs. Many POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam, and jetsam. Three POWs found an abandoned lifeboat which had no oars. Since the seas were rough, with waves as high as fifteen feet, they could not maneuver the boat to rescue other POWs. These men stated that most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking.
The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark. According to the survivors, as the night got later the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence. The next morning, two more POWs were pulled into the lifeboat.
Only nine POWs survived the sinking of the Arisan Maru, and only eight lived to see the end of the war. Cpl. Peter J. Pierotti was not one of them. Since he was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.