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
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. The ships took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship, was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the ship was from a friendly country.
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The ships sailed the next day for Manila. 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. About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. Many of the tankers rode buses to Ft. Stostenburg. Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila. The men assigned to tank maintenance remained at the pier and unloaded the tanks from the ship.
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.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
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. At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength around Clark Airfield. The tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north. At first they thought they were American planes and had enough time to count 54 planes. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
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.
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ Company's encampment. A Japanese officer ordered Joseph and the rest of his 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. They were told to put 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.
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 boxcars which were called, "Forty or Eights," because each car could hold forty men or eight horses. 100 hundred POWs were packed into each car, the doors were closed, and the POWs were taken to Capas. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars. From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
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, 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 get up, four other Americans carried the man back to the 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 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, "Tell them I went down smiling." The officer told them that the White Angel shot the POW as the man looked at him with a smile on his face. As the man lay on the ground, he was shot a second time. 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, 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 10, 1944, Bruno, with other POWs, was marched to the Port Area of Manila. They were scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru. Since another POWs group had not completely arrived and their ship was ready to sail, Bruno's group was swapped with another POW detachment which was ready to 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. When the Japanese discovered what had been done turned off the power.
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 POWs in the convoy. To preserve the secret that they could read the code, they did not inform the submarines that there were POWs being transported to Japan in the convoy.
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, the Japanes 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 aimed their machine-guns at the POWs who were on deck who climbed into the holds to escape. 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 second hold were able to climb out, reattach the rope ladders into the holds, and dropped them down to the other POWs. They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds. Those POWs still living were able to get onto the deck of the ship.
At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship. As the ship got lower in the water, more 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. Since it had no oars and the seas were rough, 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. At some point, the ship had split in two. According to the surviving POWs, as evening became night, 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, but Cpl. Bruno J. Pierotti was not one of them. Since Cpl. Bruno J. Pierotti died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military cemetery outside of Manila. His parents also had a memorial headstone placed at Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Pomeroy, Ohio.