Bandych

 


Tec 4 Joseph S. Bandych


    What is known about T/4 Joseph S. Bandych was born in 1921 to Bruno & Amelia Bandych.  His father was a coal miner and the family resided at House #177 at the Glen Robbins Coal Company near Warren, Ohio.  Joseph enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 19th Ordnance Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  A Company of the battalion was later reorganized as the 17th Ordnance Company.

    In September 1941, the company was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands.  Arrving by train at 7:30 A.M. om September 5th, the company was ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.  The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8th at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands.  To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13th at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.    
    After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was one of its escorts.  The other was an unknown destroyer.  During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke.  Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
    The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several hours later.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field.  The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
    The company arrived at Ft. Stostenburg and were housed in tents since their barracks had not been finished.  The men would not get into their barracks until November 15th. When the 192nd Tank Battlion arrived in the Philippines, the company's members helped to unload the tanks and ready them for service.
    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Fred lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  Since the company had no weapons to use against planes, the men took cover.  Jospeh spent the next four months servicing the tanks of the the tank group.

    On April 9, 1942, Joseph became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando.  There, the POWs were boarded onto small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men.  One hundred men were packed into each car.  The dead remained standing until the living left the cars.  He then walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Camp which the Japanese pressed into service as a POW Camp.  As many as fifty men died each day.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Fred was sent to Cabanatuan, on June 1.  The POWs formed detachments of 100 men and were marched to Capas, where they were put into steel boxcars.  Each car had two Japanese guards.  During the trip at Calumpit, the train was switched onto a track that took it to Cbanatuan.  When the POWs left the cars, they were herded into a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onions soup.  They were marched to the new camp which was a former Philippine Army Base and had been the home of the 91st Philippine Army Division's home.  
    In the camp the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed. It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp. 
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  While on these details they bought or were given medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.  Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.

    Joseph was selected to go out on a work detail to Manila.  This detail was known as the Bachrach Garage Detail.  The POWs repaired trucks and other equipment for the Japanese.  He remained on this detail until it was disbanded and the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison for transport to Japan.

    On October 10, 1944, Joseph was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  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, which had bombed the airfield on the island, while in the cove.  During this time, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape.

    Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice. Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights.  Some of the prisoners were able to hot-wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines.  This allowed fresh air into the hold, until the power was disconnected, two days later, when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
    After this was done, the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  The Japanese realized that if they did not do something many of the POWs would die.  To prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold and transferred 600 POWs into it.  At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.
    The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila a on October 20th.  There, it joined a convoy.  On October 21 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.
    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel.  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 waves were high since a storm had just passed.  At about 5:50 P.M., as the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and a torpedo passed in front of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as 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 it still killed some POWs.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S. Snook.
    The Japanese guards took their guns and used them 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 they did not tie them down.  They then abandoned the ship.
    Some of the POWs from the first hold climbed out and reattached the ladders and dropped them to the men in the holds.  The POWs left the holds but made no attempt to abandon 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."  The ship sank lower into the water.
    According to surviving POWs, the ship stayed afloat for hours but got lower in the water.  At one point, the stern of the ship began going under which caused the ship to split in half but the halves remained 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, because they wanted to die with full stomachs.  Other POWs took to the water with anything that would float.  
    Three POWs found an abandoned life boat and managed to climb in but found it had no oars.  With the rough seas, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru and sank sometime after dark on Tuesday, October 24, 1944.  The men in the boat heard cries for help, which became fewer and fewer, until there was silence.  The next day they picked up two more survivors.

     T/4 Joseph S. Bandych died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru.  Posthumously, Joseph was awarded the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Unit Citation with Oak Leaves, the Victory Medal, the Foreign Service and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Ribbons.  Since he died at sea, T/4 Joseph S. Bandych's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.





Next


Return to 17th Ordnance