Pvt. Daniel Joseph Boni
Pvt. Daniel J. Boni was born April 13, 1917, to Daniel F. Boni and Phyllis Bronge-Boni and
grew up at 1419 North Broadway Avenue in Melrose Park, Illinois. To his family, he was known as
Danny attended Melrose Park School and Proviso Township High School for
two years but left school to work as a furnace repairman. He enlisted in the Illinois National Guard on
March 21, 1939, at the armory across the street from the high school. One of the other members of the
company was his cousin,
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California,
and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for
overseas duty. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled
to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
morning of December 8, 1941, at 8:30, the planes
of the the Army Air Corps took off and filled the
sky. At noon the planes landed to be
refueled, line up in a straight line, and the
pilots went to lunch in the mess
At 12:45 in the afternoon, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Danny lived through the Japanese
attack on Clark Airfield.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The
soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and
anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place
the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
When the order came for the defenders of Bataan to surrender, Danny and the other members of Sgt. Zenon Bardowski's tank platoon attempted to get their tanks across to Corregidor. When it became evident that they would not be allowed to take the tanks to Corregidor, the tankers abandoned the tanks and went to Corregidor without them.
Danny would continue to fight until Corregidor surrendered on May 6, 1942. One of the greatest regrets Danny and the other members of his tank platoon had was not destroying their tanks. When the final all out attack on Corregidor came, it was led by their tanks which had been captured by the Japanese.
Danny and the other prisoners remained a Corregidor for several days on the beach sitting in the sun without food or water. They were taken down to the shore and boarded onto smaller boats which took them to a larger ship that took them to an area near Manila. A few hundred yards from shore the POWs were made to jump into the water and swim to shore. Once on shore, they were marched ten miles to Bilibid Prison, where he remained for almost a week before being sent to Cabanatuan.
The prisoners were boarded onto a train and rode to the barrio of Cabanatuan and held in a school for two days before they marched ten miles to Cabanatuan. He remained in the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail.
In either late 1942 or early 1943, Danny was sent on a work detail to the Bachrach Garage in Manila, where the POWs repaired mechanical equipment for the Japanese. With him on the detail, were Arthur VanPelt, Roger Heilig, Ralph Ellis and Warren Hildebrandt, who had all had been members of B Company.
In late 1944, when it became apparent to the Japanese that the
invasion of the Philippines was near, most of the POWs on this detail were sent to the Port Area of
Manila. The Japanese were attempting to send the healthy POWs to Japan, and other countries, to work as
slave labor and prevent them from being liberated by advancing American forces.
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 Arisan Maru 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.
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 Manila on October 20, where it joined a twelve ship 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 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, 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., a s 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 or U.S.S. Shark.
At first the POWs cheered wildly until they realized they were facing death. Lt.
Robert S. Overbeck said of the incident
, "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in
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 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.
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
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.
In June 1945, Danny's family received a POW postcard from him which was sent before he left the work detail. In the card, Danny wrote:
"Received the package you sent and was very much surprised for I did not expect it. I did expect to receive some mail but did not. So please write and tell the folks to write. And also send me photos. I am doing fine and hope to hear the same from you. Regards to all."
When his parents received this, they had no idea that Danny had already died on the
Arisan Maru. Later, Danny's 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."
Pvt. Daniel J. Boni lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea. Of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking, and only eight of these men would survive the war. Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Daniel J. Boni's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.