StickelH

 

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.
   
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, and the soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island.  The ships 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 unknown ship was from a friendly country. 
     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. 
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.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, at 8:00 A.M., and docked at Pier 7 later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind and unloaded the battalion's tanks.    
    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 o have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts preparing to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
 
    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.
    HQ Company remained in the bivouac of the battalion during the attack since they had no weapons to use against planes.  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 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 for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.  After the attack, the tanks were repeated sent on wild goose chases against factious Japanese paratroopers.      
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.  The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.
   
    The 192nd
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had been cut off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I, and one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks. 

    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."        
   
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  George was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the 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 with 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.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.

    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 2. 
    It is known that he was admitted to the camp hospital on Thursday, June 10, 1943.  The records for the hospital do not state why he was hospitalized or when he was discharged.  It appears that Howard spent his entire time as a POW at Cabanatuan.  In early October, 1944, Howard was selected to be sent to Japan. 

    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. 


 

 

Return to HQ Company

 

Next