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
ust 17, 1941,
and received orders for overseas duty.
On August 15, 1941, orders were issued, to the company, for duty in the
Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. 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. By the
time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had
been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between
and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to
build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
On September 1, 1941, the company rode a train to Ft. Mason,
San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands.
Arriving on September 5, 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 company spent three
days removing the turrets of the 194th Tank Battalion tanks, spray painting the tank's
serial number of its turret, and readying the battalions guns for trans
to the Philippines. The
men 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. 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
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.
The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell. The camp 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.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to
eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the
next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation
improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when
it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp
and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing
since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the
POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American
doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he
was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp,
the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical
supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six
medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the
Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to
the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried
in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground
under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed
in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a
list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to
work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate
among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something,
so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
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 Cabanatuan. 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
On October 20, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila, where, it joined a
twelve ship convoy bound for Taiwan. The convoy sailed on October 21 after all the ships had been
loaded. The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying
POWs. This made the ships targets for submarines. 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
submarine crews which ships were carrying POWs.
, "The Japs told us that they'd be in Formosa the next day to pick up some cargo. They had to make
room on deck so they tossed a whole bunch of life preservers down into the hold. I held onto one but didn't
think anything about it."
It was about 5:00 P.M. on October 24, and some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the
POWs in the ship's holds and had fed about half the POWs. The waves were high since the ship had been
through a storm in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. Suddenly, bells and sirens sounded warning
of submarines. The POWs in the holds chanted for the submarine to sink the ship.
As the POWs, on deck, 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 or
U.S.S. Shark. Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said of the incident
, "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two."
A little while later the cheering ended and the men realized they were facing death.
Overbeck also commented on the reaction of the POWs in the holds.
"For about five second there was panic among us, but there were five or six chaplains who prayed fervently
and quieted the men."
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
before they abandoned the ship. Cichy recalled
, "The Japs closed the hatches and left the ship in lifeboats. They must have forgot about the
prisoners on deck who had been cooking. When the Japs were off the boat, the cooks opened the hatches
and told us to come up. I was just under the deck, but there were a lot of guys down below. One
of them escaped by simply walking into the water from a hole in the bulkhead. He was Lt. Robert S.
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. Overbeck also stated
,"We broke into the ship's stores to get food, cigarettes, and water -- mainly water, we were so
thirsty. All of us figured we were going to die anyway. The Japs ships, except for the
destroyers, had disappeared. All we had were life belts which the Japanese had fortunately thrown down
the hold the day before."
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
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
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
His family received this message:
"The information available to the war department is that the vessel sailed from Manila on October
11, 1944, with 1775 prisoners of war aboard. On October 24 the vessel was sunk by submarine action in
the south China Sea over 200 miles from the Chinese coast which was the nearest land. Five of the
prisoners escaped in a small boat and reached the coast. Four others have been reported as picked up by
the Japanese by whom all others aboard are reported lost. Absence of detailed information as to what
happened to the other individual prisoners and known circumstances of the incident lead to a conclusion
that all other prisoners listed by the Japanese as aboard the vessel perished."
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.