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,
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 13th. 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 nearly 1800 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.
On October 11th, 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 an attack 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 20th, where it joined a convoy. On October 21st, 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.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 P.M., POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds. The ship was, in the Bashi Channel, off the coast of China. Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard. The men inside holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.
The Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship, and the POWs watched, a torpedo passed in front of the ship. Moments later, the Japanese ran to the stern of the ship 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. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.
The Japanese guards took their guns and began using them as clubs on the POWs who were on deck. To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds. After they were in holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on them.
As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds, but they did not tie down the hatch covers down. Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders. They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.
The POWs were able to get onto the deck of the
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
As the ship got lower in the water, some POWs took to the water. These POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
Three POWs found a abandoned lifeboat, but since
they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it
to help other POWs. According to the
survivors, the Arisan Maru sank sometime
after dark. As the night went on, the
cries for help grew fewer until there was
silence. The next morning, they picked up
two more POWs.
Pvt. Adam T. Boysen 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. Boysen was posthumously promoted to Tec 5.
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.