BrownCR
 
Pfc. Charles Robert Brown
    Pfc. Charles R. Brown was born on December 16, 1922, in New Martinsville, West Virginia.  By 1930, he was living with his grandparents, Josiah & Maud McVaney in Upshur County, West Virginia. 
    On January 7, 1941, he enlisted into the U.S. Army at Fort Hayes, Ohio.  He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and assigned to A Company, 19th Ordnance Battalion.  A Company of the battalion was designated 17th Ordnance Company, on September 17, and received orders to go overseas the same day.
    The reason for this decision was because of an event earlier in the year.  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 in the water.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy and saw another one 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 returned to 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 of planes 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. 

    On September 1, 1941, the company traveled west by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California.  During the trip, they were informed that they were going to the Philippines.  After arriving at Ft. Mason, they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, and taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  They received physicals and those men with medical conditions were replaced.  They spent two days preparing tanks and other equipment for transport overseas.
    The company boarded S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8, 1941, and sailed at 9:00 P.M.  It arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, at 7:00 A.M. on September 13.  While in port, the soldiers were given shore leave for the day and had to report back before the ship sailed at 5:00  P.M.   The ship took a southern route away from the main shipping lanes and was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria and and unknown destroyer.
    During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon.  Each time the Astoria intercepted the ship, and it turned out to be from a friendly country.  On Tuesday, September 16, the ships crossed the International Dateline and the date changed to Thursday, September 18. 
    On September 26, the ships reached Manila and the Coolidge docked.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M.  The members of the ordnance company remained behind at the port area to unload the tanks and reattach the turrets of the tanks.  To do this, the soldiers worked in shifts and slept on the ship.  They finished the job the next morning.
    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Fred lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  He spent the next four months servicing the tanks of the the tank group.  His company never was front line action, but he did live with the daily bombings and strafings since there was no Air Corps to fight the Japanese.

    On April 9, 1942, Charles became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando.  There, the POWs were boarded onto small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men or eight horses.  One hundred men were packed into each car.  The dead remained standing until the living left the cars.  He then walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Camp which the Japanese pressed into service as a POW Camp.  As many as fifty men died each day.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  On June 1, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men and were marched to Capas, where they were put into steel boxcars.  Each car had two Japanese guards.  During the trip at Calumpit, the train was switched onto a track that took it to Cabanatuan.  When the POWs left the cars, they were herded into a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onions soup.  They were marched to the new camp which was a former Philippine Army Base and had been the home of the 91st Philippine Army Division's home.  He was assigned to Barracks 2, Group 2.
    In the camp the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed. It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  While on these details they 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.  Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.

    While a POW at the camp, he was admitted to the camp hospital January 15, 1943.  It is not known why he was admitted or when he was discharged.  At some point, Charles was sent out on a work detail to Clark Airfield.  Since his name is not on the original roster of POWs sent to the airfield, it is believed he was a replacement for a POW who was too ill to continue working.
    At some point, while at Clark Field, he developed dysentery and was sent to Bilibid Prison outside Manila.  According to records kept by the medical staff, Charles was admitted to the hospital ward on August 17, 1944.  No discharge date is shown, so it is believed he remained at the prison after receiving treatment.
    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.
    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., 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 it 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.

    Pfc. Charles R. Brown died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru Posthumously, Charles  was awarded the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Unit Citation with Oak Leaves, the Victory Medal, the Foreign Service and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Ribbons. 

    Since he died at sea, Pfc. Charles R. Brown's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.  In addition, his family had a headstone placed at Otterbain Cemetery in Glenville, West Virginia, in his memory. 


 




 

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