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. HQ Company did not actively
take part in the maneuvers, but they maintained
the equipment of the battalion during the
maneuvers. It was after these maneuvers that
the 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, HQ Company took the southern train
route, through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and up
the west coast, to San Francisco,
California. From there, 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 replaced.
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 by truck. His POW group was
scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru,
which was ready to sail, but his POW detachment
had not completely arrived. Another POW
detachment, which had completely arrived at the
pier, was swapped with his detachment and boarded
onto the ship so it could sail. 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 packed into the number one hold of the Arisan Maru on October 11th. 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.
Later in the day 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. Five
POWs died in the first 48 hours because of
the conditions in the hold. Being
anchored in the cove resulted in the ship
missing an air raid by American planes on Manila
Bay, but the ship was attacked by American
planes during a raid on the island.
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 second hold. During the move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape. Rations for the POWs, each day, were three ounces of water and two rations of rice.
The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on
October 20th, where, it joined a twelve ship
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 code 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, at 5:50 P.M., sirens and other alarms were heard indicating submarines had been spotted. The men inside the holds knew what was happening 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 it. 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, but the explosion did kill some of the POWs in the other holds. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.
The Japanese guards used their rifles as clubs on
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 hatch covers. When
they were done with this, the Japanese abandoned
ship. The POWs had stopped cheering since
they were now aware what their fate could be.
Some of the POWs, in the first hold, were able to climb out and reattached the ladders and dropped them down to the POWs in both holds. The POWs climbed 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 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's stern went underwater, which caused the ship to split in two, but both halves remained afloat. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
A group of 30 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed them underwater with poles to drown them and hit them with clubs. The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.
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.