Pvt. Adam T. Boysen
Pvt. Adam T. Boysen was the son of Alfred B. Boysen and Gladdis Thayer-Boysen. He was born in June 1918 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Sometime between 1925 and 1930, Adam's parents divorced, and he and his mother moved to Arcadia, California. It is known that he graduated from Howe Military School in Long Beach, Indiana
Adam was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 28, 1941, in San Francisco and sent to Fort Lewis, Washington where he joined the 194th Tank Battalion. It is not known what duties he performed.
On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, 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.
In September 1941, the battalion, minus B Company, traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California. From there, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, they were ferried to Fort McDowell on Angel Island and given physicals and inoculated. Men who had medical conditions were held back and replaced.
At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers were boarded onto the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge at 3:00 P.M. on Monday, September 8, 1941. The ship sailed at 9:00 P.M. the same day and arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii, at 7:00 A.M. on Saturday, September 13. The soldiers were allowed ashore, but they had to be aboard ship two hours before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
Adam took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. At San Fernando, Adam and the other POWs were put into boxcars that could hold forty men. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From this barrio, Adam walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Information of Adam's life as a POW is limited. It is known that he was also held as a POW at Cabanatuan for most of his time as a POW. It is not known what work details he went out on as a POW. In early October, Adam was selected to be sent to Japan and was taken to Manila.
On October 10, 1944, Adam was boarded onto the Arisan Maru. He was one of 1775 POWs who were packed into the ship's number one hold. Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks. These bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up. Those standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans. Since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans. The floor of the hold was covered with human waste. Anton Cichy said, "For the first few days there were 1800 of us together in one hold. I don't know how big the hold was but we had to take turns to sit down. We were just kind of stuck together." Calvin Graef said about the conditions in the hold , "We were packed in so tight most men couldn't get near the cans. And, of course, it was a physical impossibility for the sick in the back of the hold, the men suffering the tortures of diarrhea and dysentery. We waded in fecal matter. Most of the men went naked. The place was alive with lice, bedbugs and roaches; the filth and stench were beyond description."
On October 11, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa. Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died. The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp, so that during the night, the POWs were in total darkness. This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes on Manila, but the ship was attacked by American planes after they had attacked the airfield on Palawan.
Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice. Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters. Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not cutoff the power. Some of the prisoners were able to wire the ship's blowers into the power lines for the lighting system. This allowed fresh air into the hold. The blowers were disconnected two days later when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
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 some point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.
The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20, where 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 which made the ships targets for submarines. In addition, the U.S. Military, which had broken the Japanese code, did not tell the submarine crews that POWs were on the ship. This was done to protect the secret. The POWs in the hold were so desperate that they prayed that the ship be hit by torpedoes.
Graef described the deaths of the POWs hold. "There were so many (that died) out 1800. The conditions in the hold.....men were just dying in a continuous stream. Men, holding their bellies in interlocked arms, stood up, screamed and died. You were being starved, men wee dying at such a pace we had to pile them up. It was like you were choking to death. Burial consisted of two men throwing another overboard."
At first the POWs cheered wildly until they realized they were facing death. Cichy recalled , "When the torpedo hit everybody in the hold hollered 'Hit her again!' We wanted to get it over with." Lt. Robert S. Overbeck recalled , "When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn't care a bit--they were tired and weak and sick." He also said , "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two." 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. By then the Nips--300 of them on deck--were scurrying about, scared as hell. The boilers exploded. I don't think any of us got hurt in the torpedoing or the explosion. Most of the prisoners were American, with a few British. The Japs took the two lifeboats aboard as all 300 abandoned ship. That was about 5:00 P.M." It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the U.S.S. Snook or U.S.S. Shark.
The guards began to beat the POWs on deck with their guns to chase them back into the holds. Once they had, they put the hatch covers on the hatches, but because they had been ordered to abandon ship, never tied them down. Cichy said, "The Japs closed the hatched and left the ship in lifeboats. They must of 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 the guys down below. One of them escaped by simply walking into the water from a hole in the bulkhead. He was Lt. Robert S. Overback, Baltimore." Cichy added , "The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their own."
POWs in the first hold managed to make their way onto the deck and reattached the rope ladders and dropped them into the holds. 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." 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." The ship slowly sank lower in the water.
The Japanese guards took their rifles and used them as clubs to drive the POWs on deck into the holds. Once in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders into the holds and put the hatch covers over the holds, but they did not tie the hatch covers down since they had been ordered to abandon 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. Overback, Baltimore." Cichy added, "The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their own."
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." Overbeck 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.
His family learned of his death in June 1945. "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."
Since he was lost at sea, T/5 Adam T. Boysen's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.