Sgt. Vincent R. Brown was born in 1917 in Greene County, Ohio. He was the son of Blaine
Brown & Marie Condon-Brown. With his two sisters, he grew up on Route 20 in Mentor Township, Lake County,
Ohio. He was known as "Russell" to his family. When he was inducted into the U. S. Army on
March 1, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio, he was working in a rubber processing factory.
Vincent was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It was at that time that
he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Company. The tank company had originated as an Ohio National Guard
Tank Company from Port Clinton. He was nicknamed, "Brownie" by the other members of the
In August 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the
maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Plk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side of a
hill, at Camp Polk, that the battalion learned it was being sent overseas. Many of the battalion's
members received leaves to say their goodbyes to family and friends. Those too old to go overseas were
allowed to resign from federal service and replaced.
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.
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.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scot
t 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 9, 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
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
paratroopers. At all times, two members of each tank crew remained with the tanks. The morning of
December 8, 1941, the tankers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just ten hours earlier. They
were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes approached the airfield from the north. Vincent
and the other tankers watched and counted them. They believed the planes were American until bombs began
exploding. It was than that they knew the planes were Japanese.
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 27, 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 Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.
The main Japanese line was south of Saint 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 behind.
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
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 night.
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 night.
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
track which caused the tank to grind its way into the ground. The tank crews slept upwind of their tanks so
they would not smell the rotting flesh in the 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 wounding them.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry,
Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this
from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully
withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while
hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being
near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on
Bataan. C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line. They were ordered
to reinforce the eastern portion of the line. Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the
eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino
and American forces.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was
futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one
more day. In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would
be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order
: "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy
within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat
vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as
On April 9, they received word of the surrender the next day. The tankers circled their tanks and
destroyed them by firing armor piecing shells into their engines, opening their gasoline cocks and dropping
grenades into each tank. The next day they became Prisoners of War.
Vincent and his company made its way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
There, they started the death march. Since most of the POWs were already sick with dysentery or malaria, it
was more of a trudge than a march. They received little food and water during the march.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden
boxcars that could hold eight horses or forty men. Each car held
100 POWs. The POWs who died remained standing since there was no room for them to fall down. When the
train reached Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors of the boxcars.
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 camp.
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. When the Japanese gave out red cross packages, the situation improved
for the POWs.
Vincent was selected for what became known Pasay School Detail in August 1942. 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 and the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison. 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
When Vincent's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila on Tuesday, October 10,
1944, they were boarded onto the
. They had been scheduled to be boarded onto the
, but since one of the POW groups had not arrived on time to be boarded, Vincent's group was put on their
ship. With him on the ship were the other members of C Company.
Vincent was one of approximately 1775 POWs who were packed into the ship's number two
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 while laying down. Those standing also 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
In early October 1944, the 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
, 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
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. "
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, on Manila, by American planes, but the ship
was attacked once by American planes which were returning from a bombing mission on the airfield on Palawan.
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
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."
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.
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
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
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. 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,
, "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 helluva 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
"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 long'
The ship slowly sank lower 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."
, "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 other.
"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. Sgt. Vincent R. Brown was not
one of them.
On June 26, 1945, his 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
Sgt. Vincent R. Brown lost his life when the
was torpedoed in the South China Sea. Of the 1775 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the
sinking. Eight of these men would survive the war. Since he was lost at sea, Sgt. Vincent R.
Brown's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of