What is known about Pfc. Hubert O. Brewer is that he was born in February 27, 1921, in Onia,
Stone County, Arkansas. He was the son of Floyd D. Brewer & Gertha E. Lawrence-Brewer and lived in Lamar,
Arkansas, as a child with his three brothers and sister.
Hubert later resided in Ofuskee County, Oklahoma, and worked as a farmhand. He was
drafted into the army on March 17, 1941, and inducted at Oklahoma City. After basic training, at Fort Knox,
Kentucky, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. None of the members
of the battalion had any idea why they were there. On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being
sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the
The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15, 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.
Hubert joined the 192nd Tank Battalion in the autumn of 1941, after those National
Guardsmen 29 years old, or with two children, were released from federal service. He either had his name
drawn from a hat or volunteered to join the battalion. Hubert was assigned to Company C which was originally
an Ohio National Guard Tank Company.
Over different train routes the battalion traveled to Ft. Mason in San Francisco,
California, and were taken by the ferry, the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated by the
battalion's medical detachment. Those men with minor medical conditions were kept on the island and told
they would rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was 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
and, another transport, the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
. Sunday night, November 9th, 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, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in
tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed
and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date
that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark
Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were
assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the
end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from
their weapons. 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.
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. At all times,
two tank crew members remained with each tank. The morning of December 8, the officers of the battalions met
and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. The 192nd letter companies were
ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes
landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north. The
tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were
Japanese. After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks. They were than
sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed. There, they fought a successful battle against
the Japanese at Demoritis to relieve the 26th U.S. Cavalry.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to
Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they
reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge
they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of
river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully
crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from
Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held
the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and
December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the
Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.
At Cebu, seven tanks, from the company, fought a three hour battle with Japanese.
The main Japanese line was south of Santa Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle. The tanks were
hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there. While
the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing. It was only when a
Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were
discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese. They then fell back to
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese
troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II
against enemy tanks.
After this battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the
barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as
it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the
town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese
were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the
river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the
bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese
tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on
the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to
the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while
third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag . 2nd
Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and
was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became
very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.
Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the
Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and
drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and
then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through
buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had
knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which
was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap
frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that
were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions , on January 28, were given the job of
protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along
Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them
from attempting landings.
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle
line on Bataan. The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land reinforcements, they were
landed in the wrong place. The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known as the Battle of the
The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision was made by Brigadier General Clinton
A. Pierce that tanks were needed to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He requested the tanks
from the Provisional Tank Group. On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point
where the Japanese had landed troops. The tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M. He did a quick
reconnaissance of the area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive
tanks into the edge of the Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire. The progress was
slow but steady until a Japanese .37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks
withdrew. It turned out that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at
the time. The decision was made to resume the attack the next morning, so 45th Infantry dug in for the
The next day, the tank platoon did reconnaissance before pulling into the front
line. They repeated the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gun fire. As they moved forward,
members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks. The troops made progress all day long along the left
side of the line. The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they had to avoid so
they would not get hung up on them. The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver.
Coordinating the attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made by to bring in a radio car so
that the tanks and infantry could talk with each other.
On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived. The tanks were
assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order. Each
tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and infantry commanders. This was done so
that the crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could be ordered to
where they were needed. The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for
The attack resumed the next morning the next morning and the Japanese were pushed to
the cliff line where they hid below the edge of the cliff out of view. It was at that time that the tanks
were released to returned to the 192nd.
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers
who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to
replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over
the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding
its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks. The second
method was simple. The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole. The driver spun the
tank on one trackwhich caused the tank to grind its way into the ground. The tankers slept upwind from
their tanks because of the rotting flesh in their tracks.
While the tanks were clearing out the Japanese, the Japanese sent soldiers carrying
cans of gasoline against the tanks. The soldiers would attempt to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into
the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun them
before they reached the tanks, they would shoot them as they stood on the tanks. The tankers did not like
to do this because of what it did to the crews inside the tanks. The bullets hitting the tank often
popped the tank's rivets which hit the crew members and wounded them.
When Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, Hubert became a Prison of War. He
took part in the death march from Bataan at boarded a train at San Fernando. At Capas, the POWs who still
living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors of the cars.
The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished
Filipino Army Training Base that 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.
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 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 camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was
known as "Zero Ward," which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were
counted. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in
each. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier. Records kept by the medical staff, show he was
admitted to the camp hospital on April 5, 1943. Why he was admitted to the hospital and when he was
discharged were not recorded.
Hubert also was sent out to Nichols Field on a work detail on the Las Pinas
Detail. The detail was also known as the Pasay School Detail. He most likely was a replacement
since the original detail left the camp in August 1942. The POWs built runways at the airfield with picks
and shovels. To do this, they literally removed the side of a mountain. The POWs were abused by the
Japanese guards and some killed. The dying were taken to Bilibid Prison so that they would not die while
on the detail.
The POWs on the detail were housed in a school at Pasay School in eighteen
rooms. Thirty POWs were assigned to a room. The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the
Japanese Navy. The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before
the war. The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment.
Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows. The first POWs
arrived at Pasay in August 1942. The work was easy until the extension reached the hills. When the
extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand. The
Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as
land-fill. As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done. This resulted in the
brutality against the POWs to increase.
At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15
in detachments of 100 men. After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice. After
breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched
a mile and half to the airfield. Only 50 POWs were allowed to be sick each day, so the healthier POWs
carried the weaker POWs between them.
After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again. They went to a tool
shed and received their tools; once again they were counted. At the end of the work day, the POWs were
counted again. When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again. Then, they would rush
to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs. They were fed dinner, another
meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M. The detail
ended in July 1944.
In early October 1944, the Japanese - knowing that it was just a matter of time
before the American forces would invade the Philippines - began sending large numbers of POWs to Japan or other
occupied countries. On October 2, 1944, Hubert was taken to Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila.
On October 2, 1944, 1775 POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. When his POW
group arrived at the pier, the ship they were 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
, 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
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. 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."
Later in the day on October 11, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from
Taiwan. 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 on
Manila, but the ship was attacked by American planes returning from a mission against the airfield on
Of this time, Graef said
"As we moved through the tropical waters, the heat down in the steel-encased hell hole was
maddening. We were allowed three ounces of water per man every 24 hours. Quarts were needed under
these conditions, to keep a man from dehydrating.
"While men were dying of thirst, Jap guards--heaping insults on us--would empty
five gallon tins of fresh water into the hold. Men caught the water in pieces of clothing and sucked the
cloth dry. Men licked their wet skins. It was hell all right. Men went mad."
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
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
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.
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."
Cichy said ,
"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 4:00 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.
The waves were high since a storm had just passed. At about 4:50 P.M., about half
the POWs had been fed. As the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo
passed in front of it. 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. 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
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck recalled
"When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn't care a bit--they were tired and weak and
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
The 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 were ordered to abandon ship. Cichy
"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,
Cichy added ,
"The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their
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.
" 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
"But as darkness settled and our hopes for life flickered, we felt
absolutely no resentment for the Allied submarine that had sent the torpedo crashing in. We
knew they could not tell who was aboard the freighter, and as far as the Navy could have known the
ship could have been carrying Jap troops. The men were brave and none complained.
"Some slipped off their life preservers and with a cherry 'so
The ship sunk slowly in 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. Most of the POWs were still on deck even after
it became apparent that the ship was sinking. Some POWs attempted to escape by putting on
lifebelts, clinging to hatch covers, rafts, and other flotsam and jetsam. When they reached
other Japanese ships, the Japanese pushed them away with poles. Glenn Oliver said ,
"They weren't picking up Americans. A lot of the prisoners were swimming for the
destroyer, but the Japanese were pushing them back into the water."
Oliver recalled ,
"I could see people still on the ship when it went down. I could see people against
the skyline, just standing there."
In the water, he watched as the ship went under.
"I kept getting bumped by guys wearing life jackets. Nobody wanted to share my
planks. I didn't ask them."
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. Oliver, who was
not in the boat, stated he heard men using what he called "GI whistles" to contact each
"They were blowing these GI whistles in the night. This weird moaning sound.
I can't describe it."
The next morning there were just waves. Oliver and three other POWs were picked up by
a Japanese destroyer and taken to Formosa. They later were sent by ship to Japan. The men
in the boat picked up two more survivors and later made it to China and freedom. Pfc. Hubert
O. Brewer was not one of them.
His family received this notification from the military in 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."
It is not known if he died in the ship's hold and his body was
thrown into the sea, or if he was died when the ship was sunk by an American submarine.
What is known is that his remains are non-recoverable, so the name Pfc. Hurbert O. Brewer
appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside