Pvt. Howard Edward Rickman
| Pvt. Howard
E. Rickman was from Washington County, Oklahoma,
and 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, and 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, but it is
not known what specific training he
received. In the late summer of 1941, he
was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned
to the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent
to the base from Ft. Benning, Georgia.
In October, Howard either volunteered, or had his name picked, to join the 192nd Tank Battalion to replace a National Guardsman who had been released from federal service. The man he repplaced was considered "too old" for overseas duty or was released because he was married. After he joined the battalion, Howard was assigned to Headquarters Company.
The 192nd was sent west over four different
train routes to San Francisco. California.
Once there, the battalion was taken by ferry to
Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where the men
received physicals and inoculations. Men
were held back
battalion at a
Other men were
HQ, B, and C Companies
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
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. The POWs
remained along the sides of the road for hours.
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." 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.
The POWs made their way to San Fernando where they were put in a bull pen and remained there most of the day. The Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments, and when this was done they were marched to the train station. There, he and the other Prisoners of War were packed into small wooden boxcars used for hauling sugarcane which were known as "Forty or Eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. The POWs were packed in so tightly, that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars. At Capas, the living climbed out of the cars and walked 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. For the Americans, 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 remained on this detail for 20 months when 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. In
October 1944, Howard was taken from the detail
to Pier 7, in the Port Area of Manila, as a
member of a POW detachment which was scheduled
to sail on the Hokusen Maru. After
arriving at the pier, the Japanese switched his
detachment of POWs with another POW
detachment. This was done because the Hokusen
Maru was ready to sail, but not all the
POWs in Howard's detachment had arrived.
The other POW detachment was ready to sail, but
the ship they were scheduled to sail on, the Arisan
Maru, was not ready to sail. After
this was done, on October 11th, Howard's POW
detachment was boarded onto the Arisan Maru
and packed into the ship's number one
On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa and 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 which had no light bulbs but did have power. For two days the POWs had fresh air until the Japanese discovered what they had done and turned off the power to the system.
A short time later with the number of POWs developing heat blisters increasing, the Japanese transferred a large number of POWs from the first hold to the ship's number second hold, since the they 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, but 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 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 fact. The reason was that they did not want the Japanese to know their military codes had been broken and that they were reading the Japanese dispatches.
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. Suddenly, at about 5:50 P.M., sirens and bells began going off indicating American submarines had been spotted. The POWs in the holds began chanting for the submarines to sink the ship. As the POWs on deck watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship. They next ran to the stern of the ship and watched another torpedo pass behind the ship. Suddenly, there was a jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes, amidships, and the ship stopped dead in the water. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U. S. S Snook.
The Japanese guards took their rifles and used
them as clubs to get the POWs on deck into the
holds. After they were in the holds, the
Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch
covers on the holds, but they did not tie the
covers down. When this was done, the
Japanese the abandoned the ship. The POWs
had stopped chanting realizing the seriousness
of the situation.
Some of the POWs in the first hold were able to climb out and reattach the rope ladders and dropped them into the holds. All of the surviving POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship. 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 the ship got lower in the water, more POWs
took to the water. Those POWs too weak to
swim, or who could not 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. A group of 30
prisoners swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but
when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they
were pushed underwater with poles to drown
them. Other POWs were hit with
Three POWs swam to an abandoned lifeboat and managed to get in it, but there were no 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 stern
began to go under which caused the ship to split
in two, but
both halves remained afloat.
According to the surviving
POWs, during the night, the cries for help
became fewer and fewer until there was
silence. The next morning, the men in the
boat picked up two more POWs.
Of the nearly 1800 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.