| 2nd Lt. Charles Edward Bennett
| What is known
about 2nd Lt. Charles E. Bennett is that he was from
Louisville, Kentucky, and lived at 826 Randolph
Avenue. Since he was not on the battalion's
roster at Fort Knox, he may have joined the battalion
at Camp Polk, Louisiana, from the 753rd Tank
Battalion, or he could have be assigned to the
battalion on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay as the
battalion readied to sail for the Philippine Islands.
The reason for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. 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 which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalion's medical detachment. Those with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply released and replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers, and that they had to live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. After he made sure the men had Thanksgiving dinner, he went to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. The grease had been put on the guns to prevent them from rusting. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers. From battalion records, Charles became the supply officer for the battalion.
On December 1, the 192nd and the 194th Tank Battalion - the other tank battalion at Clark Field - were ordered to their positions around the airfield. Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicle at all times. The morning of December 8th, the officers of the tank group were called to the radio room and listed to the reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They were ordered to their tanks at the perimeter of the airfield. That morning, as the tankers sat in their tanks, they watched as American planes filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch and the planes could be refueled.
The night of December 8, the officers were called to the radio room and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. They were ordered to report to their companies. When the soldiers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor they laughed. Having been in the Philippines for eighteen days, they believed that this was the start of the extended maneuvers that they were expecting. The company commander, Capt Fred Bruni, told them to listen up because what he was saying was the truth. He again told them that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and they were given guns and told to clean them. As they did this, they still believed that they had started maneuvers. It was around noon that this belief was blown away.
The soldiers were finishing lunch when 54 planes appeared in the northern sky and approached the airfield at 12:45 in the afternoon. At first they thought the planes were American, until they saw what looked like "rain drops" fall from the planes. It was when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese. Amazingly, every bomb dropped at the tanks landed in the area between the tanks and none of the tanks were lost.
For the next four months, Charles worked to see that the tanks received the necessary supplies to fight the Japanese. The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. He also told them that from this point on, it was each man for himself. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. The first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment on April 11th. A Japanese officer ordered the members of the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
The members of the company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles. Once there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited to see what was going to happen to them. As they sat there, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese Naval Officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers. He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail, before he got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Charles's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where the POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours. During this time, the Japanese did not feed them or give them water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. These two islands had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. Since they had no place to take cover, the POWs could do little - to protect themselves - as shells landed around them. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese. Charles and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march he received no water and little food. At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.
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.
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 Japanese lieutenant.
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.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. Other POWs worked in rice paddies. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs 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.
The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 men, but most had 60 to 120 POWs in them. The men slept on bamboo straps without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting which allowed diseases to spread quickly. In Charles' case he was assigned to Barracks 1-2.
Being an officer, Charles did not have to work unless he chose to work. Medical records kept at the camp indicate that he was hospitalized on July 3, 1942. The records show he was suffering from a parasitical condition that was a result of malaria, but they do not show when he was discharged.
At some point, Charles was selected as a replacement on the work detail at Clark Field. The POWs on the detail built a runway and revetments at the airfield. While they worked they were not allowed to talk to their friends, if they did, the POWs were beaten. To build the runway, the POWs used crushed rock for the base. When the POWs ran out of rock, the Japanese engineers decided that sand would be used as the base of the runway. The first time a Japanese bomber landed on the runway, when it reached the second half of the runway where sand had been used as the base, its landing gear sunk into the runway and the plane flipped over onto its back. The POWs wanted to cheer!
Charles remained on the detail until August 25, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison suffering from cellulitis - a tissue infection of the skin and tissues below the skin - of the right knee. It was at this time that Charles' name appeared on a list of POWs who were being transported to Japan. The POWs on the list were scheduled to sail on the Noto Maru. Charles apparently was too ill to sail on the ship, so he remained at Bilibid until early October, when his POW detachment was marched to the Port Area of Manila with other POWs.
In early October 1944, 1775 POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. When his POW group arrived at the pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on, the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived at the pier. Another POW detachment, scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, had completely arrived, but their ship was not ready to sail. It was at that time that the Japanese made the decision that they switch POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.
On October 10, the POWs boarded the Arisan Maru and 1775 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the ship which could hold 400 men. They were packed in so tightly that they could not move. Those POWs who had lain down in the wooden bunks along the haul could not sit up because the bunks were so close together. Eight large cans served as the washroom facilities for the POWs.
Later in the day on October 11, 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. The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp so during the night, the POWs were in total darkness. Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died. Being in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes, but the ship was attacked once by American planes while there.
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.
While in the cove, the POWs were allowed on deck at certain times. It was during one of these topside breaks that one POW attempted to escape and was shot. Although the ship did avoid an attack, by American planes on Manila, the Arisan Maru was attacked once by American fighter bombers which were returning from a raid on the airfield on Palawan. After nine days off the island, the ship returned to Manila. When it returned to Manila, on October 20, the port showed signs of having been bombed by American planes.
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 making them targets for American submarines. In addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading the Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese. To protect this secret, they did not tell the submarine crews that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines. The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, 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 theexplosion 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. Four other men were picked up by a Japanese ship and taken to Formosa.
Three of the POWs found a lifeboat that had been
abandoned by the Japanese. It had no oars, so they
could not maneuver it to help others in the
water. The men in the boat heard cries for
help for several hours, after dark, until there was
silence. The next morning, the men in the boat
found two other POWs floating on debris and pulled
them into the boat.
Of the 1803 POWs who boarded the ship in Manila only nine survived the sinking. Three of these POWs were recaptured by the Japanese and taken to Formosa. Only eight of these men survived the war. Of the twelve ships in the convoy, only three reached Japan.
2nd Lt. Charles E. Bennett died on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, in the sinking of the Arisan Maru. Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.