Cpl. Howard Frank Stickel
| Cpl. Howard F.
Stickel was born in October 2, 1917, in Ohio. He 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 learned that they were being sent overseas.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west by
train to San Francisco. They were ferried to
Angel Island. The
for Hawaii as
part of a
in Hawaii on
and had a
When the ships
ship since the
The morning of December 8, 1941, Howard lived through the Japanese bombing of Clark Field. For the next four months he worked to supply the tanks with ammunition and food.
On April 9, 1942, word reached Howard and the other members of HQ Company that the order had been given to surrender. That morning they were suppose to join up with other troops and surrender together. Howard and the other men took their ammunition and weapons and put them in piles in the last tank and half-track they had. They poured gasoline into the tank and on the half track. Both were set both on fire.
Captain Fred Bruni took the men of HQ Company into the jungle, near their camp site, and fed them what would become their last supper. It consisted of pineapple juice and bread. It was on this day that Howard became a Prisoner Of War. Bruni told his men, as they ate, that it was now every man for himself.
It was either the 10th or 11th of April when a Japanese officer appeared in their camp. He told the soldiers to line up along the sides of the road near their camp. They were told to kneel and put their possessions in front of them. The Japanese passing them on the road went through their things and took what they wanted from the Americans.
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.
The men were told to line up and required to kneel with the Japanese if 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 drove up in a car. He got out and spoke to the Japanese 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. Within minutes, the island returned fire on Corregidor. The American guns on Corregidor began returning fire with the shells 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 Howard had started the death march. Howard made his way up San Fernando, there he and the other POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars. Each Car could hold eight horses or 40 men. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. 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.
Howard was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.
He remained there until the new camp at Cabanatuan
opened. 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. In early October,
1944, Howard was selected to be sent to
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 his entire company of POWs had not arrived, another POW group, which had not completely arrived at the pier, was boarded onto the ship.
Howard and 1803 other 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. Since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans. 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. The ship anchored 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. 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. They hooked the hold's ventilators and had fresh air for two days. When the Japanese realized what they POWs had done, they turned off the power to the lights.
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, they transferred 800 of the POWs to the ship's first hold. During the POW move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape. Each day, each POW was allowed three ounces of water and two rations of rice.
The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th. There, 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. This made the ships targets for submarines.
It also should be noted that American Military Intelligence knew that some of the ships were carrying POWs, but did not inform the captains of the submarines of this. The reason was they did not want to tip off the Japanese that they were reading their messages.
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 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, a torpedo passed the bow of the ship. Moments later, a second torpedo passed the ship's stern. 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.
One of the Japanese guards took a machinegun and began firing on the POWs who were on deck. To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds. After they were in the hold, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds. They 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 into the holds. They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds. The POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship. 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. These 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. They ate their last meal. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
Five 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, after splitting in two, the Arisan Maru sank sometime after dark. As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer and fewer until there was silence.
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.