Cpl. Howard Frank Stickel
| Cpl. Howard F.
Stickel was born in October 2, 1917, in Ohio, and
was one of four sons born to William A. Stickel and
Elenore Zwilling-Stickel. With his three
brothers, he was raised at 556 South 4th Street in
Columbus, Ohio. By 1940, Howard's family was
living at 113 Beck Street, and Howard was working as
a clerk at a leather company. On January 20,
1941, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and
assigned to HQ Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
After basic training at Fort
Knox, Kentucky, Howard was sent to maneuvers
in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers
that Howard and the other members of the 192nd
were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they
learned that they were being sent overseas.
Men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign
from federal service
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west by
train to San Francisco, California. They
were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where
they were inoculated and given physicals.
Those with minor medical issues were held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
Other men were simply replace.
Howard and the other soldiers were loaded onto
trucks and drove to Mariveles at the southern tip
of Bataan. Outside of the barrio, the POWs
got out of the trucks and were herded into a
schoolyard and ordered to sit.
The men were told to line up and required to kneel. The Japanese stood in front of them with guns aimed at them. The Americans realized that the Japanese were preparing to execute them. About that time, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the firing squad. The officer got back into the car and drove off. The sergeant ordered his soldiers to lower their guns.
The soldiers were ordered to move, they made their way to a field in which the Japanese had set up artillery. Not too long after arriving, the guns opened up on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered. Within minutes, the islands returned fire on Corregidor. The shells, from the American guns, began landing among the POWs. One group of POWs died when a shell hit the small brick shed they had hid in for protection. When the shelling stopped, three of the four Japanese guns had been knocked out.
The POWs were ordered to move again, this time the POWs had started the death march and made his way to San Fernando. There, they were put in a school yard that had been surrounded with barb wire. They remained there until the Japanese ordered the POWs to form 100 men detachments. After this was done, they were marched to the train station. At the station were small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The boxcars were known as "Forty and Eights," since they could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into the boxcars and closed the doors. Since they packed in so tightly, those who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floor. The POWs rode these cars to Capas. When they climbed out, the dead fell out of the cars onto the ground.
The POWs walked ten miles to Camp O'Donnell which
was an unfinished Filipino Army Base. Howard
was held as a POW in the camp until the new camp
at Cabanatuan opened. Cabanatuan was
opened since as many POWs were dying each day at
Camp O'Donnell, and the Japanese finally
acknowledged they had to do something to lower the
death rate among the POWs. During his time
in the camp, he was assigned to Barracks 5, Group
On October 10, 1944, Howard was taken to the Port
Area of Manila. His POW group was scheduled
to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, which
was ready to sail. Since the entire company
of POWs had not arrived, another POW group, which
had completely arrived at the pier, was boarded
onto the ship. His POWs detachment were
boarded onto the ship that detachment had been
scheduled to sail on to Japan.
Howard was one of almost 1800 POWs were packed into the number two hold of the Arisan Maru. Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks. These bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while laying down. Those standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans, but since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans which meant the floor of the hold was covered with human waste.
On October 11th, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa and dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes, but the ship was attacked by American planes at some point. Five POWs died in the first 48 hours because of the conditions in the hold.
Some of the POWs found that although the Japanese had removed the light bulbs in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights. They hooked the hold's ventilators into the lighting system and had fresh air for two days. When the Japanese realized what they POWs had done, they turned off the power to the lights.
After this, the prisoners began to develop heat blisters. The Japanese soon realized that if they did not do something, the ship would be a death ship. To relieve the situation in the hold, they transferred 800 of the POWs to the ship's first hold. During the move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape. During this time, the POWs, each day, were allowed three ounces of water and two rations of rice.
The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on
October 20th, where, it joined a
convoy. 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. In addition, U.S. military
intelligence was reading the Japanese messages as
fast as the Japanese. To protect this secret,
they did not tell the crews, of the submarines,
that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships
targets for the submarines.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea, off the coast of China. Some of the POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds. Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard. The men inside the holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.
The Japanese on deck began running around the ship. As the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo passed the in front of the ship. Moments later, the Japanese ran to the stern and a second torpedo passed behind the ship. There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water. It had been hit by two torpedoes, amidships, 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. To escape, 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, but hey did not tie down the hatches. When they were done with this, the Japanese abandoned ship.
Some of the POWs, in the second hold, were able to climb out and reattached the ladders and dropped the ladders and ropes to the POWs in both holds. The POWs climbed onto the deck of the ship, and, at first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship. A group of 30 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs. The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.
As the ship sank lower in the water, some POWs took to the water. The POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking. Those to sick to swim, or who could not swim, raided the ship's food locker to eat their last meal. At some point the ship split in two but remained afloat. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
Three of the POWs found
an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no
paddles, and the seas were rough, they could not
maneuver it to help other POWs. According
to the survivors, as the night went on, the
cries for help grew fewer and fewer until there
was silence. The next morning, they
rescued two other POWs.
Cpl. Howard F. Stickel died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on October 24, 1944. Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.