RickmanH

Pvt. Howard Edward Rickman


    Pvt. Howard E. Rickman was from Washington County, Oklahoma.  He was born in October 1, 1917, in Pineville, Missouri.  He was the son of Emmet & Ida Maude Rickman.  It is known that he had seven brothers and two sisters.  At some point, his family moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

    Howard was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 19, 1941 in Oklahoma City.  He did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  In the late summer of 1941, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had recently been sent to Louisiana. 

    In October, Howard volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion.  He did this to replace a National Guardsman who had been released from federal service because the man was considered "too old" for overseas duty.  Howard was assigned to Headquarters Company.

    The 192nd was sent west over four different train routes to San Francisco.  Once there, the battalion was taken by ferry to Angel Island.  Each man received a physical and inoculations.  The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  
    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.  The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.

    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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.
    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 December 8, 1941, Howard lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  After the attack, he and the other members of HQ Company worked to keep the tanks supplied with ammunition and gasoline.  Doing this was an  amazing accomplishment since the battle lines were fluid and the soldiers often had no real idea where the tanks where.

    When Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, Howard became a Prison of War.  Howard's company burnt everything they could and damaged everything else beyond use.  At least they hoped that the things could not be repaired and used by the Japanese.  Howard and his company remained in their bivouac for two days before receiving orders to move.

    The soldiers found a mule which they slaughtered and cooked for its meat.  As they began to eat, a Japanese officer and soldiers showed up and took charge of the area.  When the Japanese order the Prisoners of War to move, Howard and his company made their way to the road that ran past their bivouac.  Once on the road, the prisoners were made to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them went through the POWs possessions and took what they wanted. 

    After they had been searched, Howard's company drove to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  Once there, they were herded onto an airfield and left in the sun.  As they sat in the sun, without water, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming in front of them.  The POWs realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad, and that they were the intended victims.  Just when it looked like the Japanese were ready to take action, a car pulled up in front of the line and a Japanese Naval Officer got out.  He spoke to the Japanese sergeant in charge of the detail and then got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese soldiers were ordered by the sergeant to lower their guns.   

    Not too long after this incident, Howard and the other POWs were marched to a school yard and ordered to sit. Once again, they sat in the sun without food or water.  Behind them in the field, were four Japanese artillery pieces firing at Corregidor.  Corregidor, which had not surrendered, was also firing on the Japanese.  Shells from the American fortress began landing among the POWs.  The prisoners sought shelter, but since there was none some of the POWs were killed.  During this incident, the American artillery managed to knock out three of the four Japanese guns.

    Once again, the POWs received orders to move.  It was upon receiving this order that Howard started what became known as the "death march".  

    For Howard, and the other Prisoners of War, the two hardest things about the march were the hunger cramps and the senseless killings of POWs who could not keep up with the column.  Those who could no longer walk were left behind.  The members of his company witnessed many men flattened into the ground by Japanese trucks and tanks as the equipment headed south toward Mariveles.

    Howard made his way to San Fernando.  There, he and the other Prisoners of War were packed into small wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane.   The POWs rode a train to Capas.  At Capas, the bodies of the dead fell out of the cars as the living climbed out to walk the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.  

    In the camp, meals for Howard and the other men consisted of two watery cups of rice a day.  Death was something that the POWs lived with 24 hours a day.  The POWs in the camp were dying from sickness, starvation and the stress of making the march.  It was estimated as many as 40 to 50 Americans and 200 to 300 Filipinos were buried each day.  The dead were buried 30 per grave.

    In early 1943, Howard was sent to the Bachrach Garage in Manila.  There, he and the other prisoners repaired cars and trucks for the Japanese.  He would remain on this detail for 20 months until the detail was ended.

    In October 1944, the Japanese, knowing that it was just a matter of time before the American forces would invade the Philippines, began sending large numbers of POWs to Japan or other occupied countries.  On October 10, 1944, Howard was taken to Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila.  His POW group was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru.  After arriving at the pier, his group of POWs was boarded onto the Arisan Maru and packed into the ship's number two hold.  The reason this was done was that the ship was ready to sail, but the POWs scheduled to be boarded onto the ship had not completely arrived.

    On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa.  The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  Within the first 48 hours, five POWs died because of the conditions in the hold.  The POWs managed to wire the hold's ventilation system into the ship's lighting system.  For two days the POWs had fresh air until the Japanese discovered what they had done and turned off the power to the hold.  

    A short time later with the number of POWs developing heat blisters increasing, the Japanese transferred a large number of POWs from the second hold to the ship's number one hold.  The Japanese did not want the ship to turn into a death ship.  800 POWs were moved to this hold which was partially filled with coal.  During this move, one POW was shot attempting to escape. 

    The stay in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes on ships in the 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.  There, it joined a convoy of twelve 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 which made the ships targets for American submarines.  In addition, American military intelligence knew that the ships were carrying POWs, but did not inform the submarines of this.  The reason was that they did not tell the submarine captains of the cargo is that they did not want the Japanese to know their military dispatches were being read.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, at 5:00 P. M., the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea.  On deck, a small group of POWs was preparing the meal for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The Japanese crew members ran to the bow of the ship and watched at torpedo pass in front of the ship.  They then ran to the stern of the ship and watched another torpedo miss the ship.  Suddenly, there was a jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes amidships.  The ship stopped dead in the water.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U. S. S Snook.

    One of the Japanese guards took a machinegun and began firing at the POWs who were on deck.  To escape the fire, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds.  They did not tie the covers down.  The Japanese then abandoned the ship.

    Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattach the rope ladders into the holds.  They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.  All of the surviving POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship.  At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship.

    A group of 30 prisoners swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs.  Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach the ships.

    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.  They wanted to die with full stomachs.  Many POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Five POWs swam to an abandoned lifeboat.  The boat did not have oars, and the rough seas made it impossible to maneuver the boat to save 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 split in two According to the surviving POWs, as evening became night, the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence.

    Of the 1803 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the sinking.  Of the survivors, only eight survived the war.  Pvt. Howard E. Rickman was not one of them.  Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila. 


 

 

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