Pfc. Martin Anthony Cahill
Pfc. Martin A. Cahill was born in February 24, 1918, in San Francisco, California, to William & Lena
Cahill. With his two brothers and two sisters, he grew up in San Francisco. While he was in high
school, his family moved to Santa Cruz County, California, where he graduated Santa Cruz High School in 1936.
After high school, he lived at 715 Madison, in Watsonville, and worked on a farm. He was engaged to Lela
Martin enlisted in the California National Guard on December 6, 1938, and was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 29, 1941. On February 10, his tank company was designated C Company, 194th Tank Battalion. They arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington on February 20th. During his time at Ft. Lewis, Martin trained as a cook.
In September 1941, the 194th was sent overseas to the Philippine Islands because of an event that happened
during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots,
whose plane 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 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 hundred of miles away
that had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles and
returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
On December 1, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field. Their job was to
protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived in
November guarded the southern half. Two crew men remained with the tanks at all times and received their
meals from food trucks.
During January 1942, Martin was hospitalized and wrote to his family:
Feb 10 - 1942
Dearest Mother & Family
It’s been a long time since I wrote you a letter. I sent a letter to you and one to Lela around X-mas. I am feeling fine and getting plenty to eat, sleep. For breakfast we had coffee, sugar, cream, cereal, fried frankfurters and potatoes so you can see we are having good food. I had a tooth pulled also. There isn’t much to write about as you already know what is happening. We have a radio and listen in to A.E.G.I. San Francisco . It sure sounds good to hear good music from home. I hope all are OK at Home. Every day I think of each one of you. I wonder if it is possible for Lela to live with you. I met a kid over here that I knew in Watsonville . I was surprised to see him. I must close now and I hope this letter will get to you. I am going to write one to Lela also. I’ll be seeing all soon.
Love your son
In a second typed letter home, Martin said:
Feb 15 - 1942
Just a few lines to let you know I am OK. I am still in the hospital. They said that I have indolent fever and it comes in waves. My temperature will go up only to 101° for a few days and go down to normal. I have had it now since Christmas but seem to be getting better. Last X-mas I had a good Christmas Dinner. I was in a hospital in Manila and we had Turkey and all the trimmings and had lots of candy and nuts and cigarettes. I have had a tooth pulled out lately. While my fever is down I feel good and have a good time with the boys in the hospital. We got a good Radio Station to listen to out of San Francisco and get a little news from home and also some good music. The weather is a little hot here right now. How is Lela now. I haven’t heard from her since the end of Nov. I had a $10 raise in pay now as my year is past. I wonder if it is possible for Lela to stay with you and you could use the money I have sent home to take care of her and I could pay the balance when I get home. Also write and tell her you received this letter. I wrote one to her and you a while back but I don’t know whether it got there or not. I will close now as I haven’t much more to say, will write again. Love to all.
It was at this time that the tank battalion commanders received this orde
, "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 accomplished."
On April 9, 1942,
at 6:45 in the morning, the tankers received the order "crash," which meant they were to disable their
tanks. Martin decided, with other members of his company, to attempt to reach Corregidor.
Information of Martin'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. The base had been a Filipino Army Base and home of
the 91st Philippine Army Division.
It is not known what work details Martin went out on as a POW during this time. It
appears that he spent most of the time as a POW at Cabanatuan. In early October 1944, Martin was selected
to be sent to Japan and was taken to Manila.
On October 10, 1944, Martin was boarded onto the
Arisan Maru. 1775 POWs were packed into the ship's number one hold which could hold 400 men.
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. Anton Cichy stated
, "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 there."
Calvin Graef said
, "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. During the night, the POWs were in total
darkness. This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes, but the ship was attacked by
American planes which were returning from an attack on the airfield on the island.
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.
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."
, "The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their
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."
Martin Cahill's family received this message on October 25, 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."