Cpl. Hays C. Campbell was born on September 28, 1921, in Leslie County, Kentucky, to Frank
Campbell & Lettie Couch-Campbell. He enlisted in the U. S. Army on October 17, 1939, and did his basic
training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. According to U. S. Army records, he was from Henderson County,
At Fort Knox, Kentucky, Hays was assigned to 19th Ordnance Battalion. The battalion's
job was to repair and supply tanks. During his training, he learned his job by working on the tanks of the
192nd Tank Battalion. At some point, his company was renamed 17th Ordnance Company.
On August 15, 1941, orders were issued for duty
in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was
flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a
buoy in the water. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in
the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away. The
squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time
the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been
picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air
Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up
the American military presence in the Philippines.
In September 1941, the company was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to
the Philippine Islands. Arriving by train, the company was ferried, on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received physicals and
inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment. The tankers boarded the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8th at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine
Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and
were removed from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13th at 7:00 A.M., and
most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping
lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the
U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, and an unknown destroyer that were one of its escorts. During this part
of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the
smoke. Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several
hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field. The
maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion's
tanks and reattach the turrets.
Hays lived through the Japanese attack on Clark
Airfield. He and the other members of 17th Ordnance watched as the Japanese wiped out the Army Air Corps.
On April 9, 1942, Hays became a Prisoner of War. He took part in
the Death March from Mariveles to Capas. At Capas, he and the other prisoners were crammed into small
and transported to San Fernando. From there, they walked the last few miles to Camp
The camp was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base. 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, 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.
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.
Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil,
and sweet potato or corn. Since the POWs were underfed, many became ill and died of malnutrition.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Other POWs
worked in rice paddies. Each morning, as the POWs stood at attention and roll call was taken, the Japanese
guards hit them across their heads. 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 to drive their faces deeper into the mud. 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
The barracks used by the POWs were built to hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put from 60 to
120 POWs in each one. There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on bamboo strips. In addition
no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was provided which resulted in many becoming ill.
The camp hospital was made up of 30 wards. Zero ward had been missed when the wards
were being counted so it was given the name of "Zero Ward." The ward became the place were POWs who were
going to die were sent. The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a fence up around it and would
not go near the building. Most of the POWs who died there died because their bodies were too malnourished to
fight the diseases they had.
On July 1, 1942, Hays and other POWs were transferred from Cabanatuan to
Davao. The POWs were boarded onto the
Interisland Steamer and taken to the Island of Mindanao.
James was part of a work detail of POWs building runways at a Japanese airfield near
On October 26, 1942, the Japanese selected James and other POWs for a
work detail to the Island of Mindanao. He and the other POWs were loaded onto the
Erie Maru and taken to Davao, Mindanao arriving there on October 28th. When the camp was closed, one
group of POWs remained at Davao at the penal colony and worked on a farm, while the rest of the POWs were sent to
Lasang, on November 7th, and spent the next twenty months building runways. Some of the POWs were sent
to Manila on June 6, 1944, Hays was one of these POWs
. It is believed he was returned to Cabanatuan.
When it became apparent to the Japanese that it
was just a matter of time before American forces would be invading the Philippine Islands, the Japanese began
transferring the POWs to other parts of the Japanese Empire.
In early October 1944, almost 1800 other 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 11th the POWs boarded the
Arisan Maru and 1800 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the
Arisan Maru 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 1,800 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."
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 on Manila,
but the ship was attacked once by American planes returning from a mission against the island's airfield.
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.
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.
, "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
It was about 5:00 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.
It was 5:50 P.M. when the Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo
pass in front of the ship. They next ran to the stern of the ship and watched a second torpedo pass behind the
ship. The ship shook and came to a stop. It had been hit by two torpedoes, amidships, killing some of the
POWs. Those still alive began cheering wildly, but it stopped when they realized they were facing death.
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said of the incident
, "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two."
A little while later the cheering stopped when the POWs realized they were facing death. 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."
It is believed the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the U.S.S. Snook or the U.S.S. Shark.
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, Baltimore."
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 day
The ship slowly
wer 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. Of the nearly 1800 POWs who boarded the
Arisan Maru, only nine survived its sinking and only eight of those men survived the war. Pvt. Hays
Campbell was not one of them.
Hays Campbell's 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 perished."
Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Hays Campbell's
name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.