Pvt. Fay W. Baldon
Pvt. Fay Baldon was the son of Ozro Baldon Sr. & Mabel Parrish-Baldon, in Wisconsin on May 6, 1919, and resided in Vernon County. He was one of the couples' six children.
With his twin brother, Ray, he traveled around looking for work. Fay and Ray were living and working in Walworth County, Wisconsin, when they joined, with their friend, Donald Schultz, the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville. The brothers were also the cousins of Phil Parish another member of the tank company.
November 25, 1940, the 32nd Division's Tank
Company was called to federal duty as A Company,
192nd Tank Battalion and left Janesville on
November 28, 1940. Fay and the other
members became members of the regular army and
trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for nearly a year.
The reason for this move was an event
that took place in the summer of
1941. A squadron of American
fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf
when one of the pilots noticed
something odd. He took his plane
down and identified a buoy in the
water. He came upon more buoys
that lined up, in a straight line for
30 miles to the northwest, in the
direction of an Japanese occupied
island, with a large radio
transmitter, hundred of miles
away. The squadron continued its
flight plane and flew south to
Mariveles and then returned to Clark
Field. When the planes landed,
it was too late to do anything that
day, so the next day - when a Navy
ship was sent to the area - the buoys
had been picked up. It was at
that time the decision was made to
build up the American military
presence in the Philippines.
attack on December 12th, the company was sent to
the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a
highway and railroad and protect them from
sabotage. From there, the company was
sent north to join the other companies of the
192nd just south of the Agno River. There,
the tanks, with A Company, 194th held the
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 were asked to hold the
position for six hours; they held the position
until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th
Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a
counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow,
the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be
Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used
mortars on them. The result was the loss of
three tanks. The company returned to the
command of the 192nd.
While American and Filipino forces were
withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the
battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning
the position and cutting off the withdrawing
troops. The morning of January 27th, a new
battle line had been formed and all units were
suppose to be beyond it. That morning, the
tanks were still holding their position six hours
after they were suppose to have withdrawn.
While holding the position, the tanks, with
self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank
range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent
On April 9,
1942, Fay became a Prisoner Of War when the
Filipino and American forces on Bataan were
surrendered. The company circled their tanks
and fired an armor piercing shell into each tanks
engine., before opening the gasoline cocks and
dropping hand grenades into each tank.
morning, Fay and Ray were packed into small wooden
that were used for hauling sugarcane. The
cars were known as "forty or eights", which meant
they could hold forty men or eight horses.
The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and
closed the doors. During the trip, those men
who died remained standing since they could not
fall to the floors of the cars.
The POWs walked
the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which
was an unfinished Filipino Army Training
Base. The Japanese pressed the camp into use
as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they
arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any
extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to
return it to them. They searched the POWs
and if a man was found to have Japanese money on
them, they were taken to the guardhouse.
Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to
the southeast of the camp. These POWs had
been executed for looting.
Fay and Ray
volunteered to go out on a work detail back to
Mariveles to collect scrap metal. The POWs
would "drive" disabled cars and trucks to San
Fernando. To do this, the vehicles were tied
together by rope behind an operation vehicle, and
POWs would sit in each vehicle and drive them
while they were being pulled. From San
Fernando, the vehicles were taken to Manila to be
shipped to Japan. While they were on this
detail, Ray became ill and sent to Camp O'Donnell
where he died on May 7, 1942.
Fay also had an attack of malaria and was taken to the Provincial Hospital at Pampanga. When he was discharged on August 24, he was sent to Cabanatuan. This camp had been opened to relieve the conditions that existed at Camp O'Donnell. It was there that he learned of his brother's death. During his time in the camp, medical records show that Fay came down with malaria and was admitted to the camp hospital where he remained until August 27th when he was discharged.
In either late 1942 or early 1943, Fay was selected to work on the Bachrach Garage Detail. There the prisoners on this detail worked as mechanics repairing trucks and other machinery for the Japanese.
While he was POW on the Bachrach Garage Detail, his mother, Mabel, received a letter from him. In it he said:
Received your most welcomed letters and package. Was very glad to get them. Glad to hear Junior. (His brother who was twelve years old when he left the U.S. ) is getting along fine. Tell Clayton (brother-in-law) hello for me. Also tell Alma and June to write. Give my regards to Miss June Friske.
Your Loving Son,
It was in
October 1944, that the POWs on the detail were
sent to the Port Area of Manila for shipment to
Japan. The POWs were scheduled to sail on
the Hokusen Maru, but the ship was ready
to sail and not all the POWs had arrived at the
pier. Another detachment of POWs had
completely arrived at the pier, but their ship,
the Arisan Maru was not ready to
sail. So the Hokusen Maru could
sail, the Japanese switched POW detachments.
discovered that the Japanese had removed the
lights from the hold but had not turned off the
power to the lighting system. Some ingenious
POWs figured out a way to hook the hold's
ventilation system into this power line. For
two days the POWs had fresh air until the Japanese
discovered what had been done and turned off the
The ship lay at anchor in the cove for ten days. The reason this was done was to protect the ship from American planes. While in the cove, the ship was still strafed and bombed by American planes. During its time in the cove, the POWs were allowed on deck at certain times of day.
On the October
20th, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila
and remained in port while a twelve ship convoy
was formed. 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 American and
British submarines. In addition, American
military intelligence did not tell the submarines
that Japanese transports were carrying
prisoners. This was done because they did
not want the Japanese to know they were reading
their military messages.
According to the survivors of
the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944,
near dinner time, some POWs were on deck preparing
the meal for those in one the ship's two
holds. About half the POWs had already
eaten. The ship was, off the coast of China,
in the Bashi Channel, when sirens began to
blare. The Japanese crew ran to the bow of
the ship and watched as a torpedo pass in front of
it. They next ran to the stern and watched a
second torpedo pass behind the ship barely missing
The Japanese guards began to beat the POWs on deck with their guns to chase them back into the holds. After the men entered the holds, the guards cut the rope ladders and covered the hatches with their covers. Since they had received the order to abandon ship, they did not have time to tie the hatch covers.
Some of the POWs in the first hold were able to climb out and reattach and lower the rope ladders to those in the hold. They also dropped rope ladders to the POWs in second hold. The surviving POWs made their way onto the deck. 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."
According to surviving POWs, the stern of the ship began going under which caused the ship to split in half but remain afloat. It was about this time that about 35 POWs swam to the nearest Japanese ship. When the Japanese realized that they were POWs, they pushed them underwater with poles and drowned them or hit them with clubs. Those POWs who could not swim raided the food lockers for a last meal, so they could die with full stomachs.
According to the eight men who survived the sinking, the ship slowly got lower in the water. At some point it split in two and sunk not too long afterwards. As the night went on the cries for help became less frequent. Finally, there was silence.
Pvt. Fay Baldon died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on Tuesday, October 24, 1944. Since he was lost as sea, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. His family also had a memorial headstone placed at Billings Creek Cemetery in Vernon County, Wisconsin.
One final part of this story should be told. While Fay was a POW, his little brother, Jack, was treated with a new medicine known as penicillin that a doctor in Belvedere got permission to use. Not only did Jack recover from his illness, but he resided in Elroy, Wisconsin, near their childhood home, until his death in October 2016.