Pfc. Ancel Edgar Crick


    Pfc. Ancel E. Crick was born on July 23, 1917, to Sam Crick and Zetta Mae Smith-Crick in Whitley County, Kentucky.  It is known he had four sisters and one brother.  He joined the Kentucky National Guard and was called to federal service on November 25, 1940.  During his training at Fort Knox, he was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created in early 1941.

    In the late summer of 1941, Ancel took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after the maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, that he and the rest of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.
     After the maneuvers, the battalion members were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as was expected.  At the fort, they learned that their battalion was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  The soldiers received furloughs home to say their goodbyes before they returned to Camp Polk.
    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's new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto flat cars, on different trains.  The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust.  Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe , to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to 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.   They 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 U.S.S. Louisville and, the transport, 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 15th, 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 20th, 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 that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure they had what they needed and that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.   
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance while they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion. 
    On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.    

    The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ancel and the other members of the battalion learned of the Japanese attack.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, they lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.

    For the next four months, Ancel worked to supply the tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion with gasoline and ammunition in the fight against the Japanese.  The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called , "Their last supper."

        On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.

   HQ Company then boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

    As they sat there watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up to the soldiers in a car.  He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  While he was driving away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns. 

      Later in the day, the men were moved to a schoolyard in Mariveles.  In the schoolyard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and the guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide.  Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells.

    The POWs were ordered to move and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march they received no water and little food.  At San Fernando, he was put into a wooden boxcar known as a "Forty or Eight," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed 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 Japanese lieutenant.
    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.  The POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening.  Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them.  Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
    The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting.  The result was many became ill.
   Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call.  While they stood at attention, it wasn't uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads.  In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. 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.  The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die.  Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each.  Each man had a two foot wide by six foot long area to lie in.  The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.
    Ancel remained in the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail to Nichols Field.  It is not known if he was sent there in the original POW draft, or if he was sent there as a replacement for a POW who had died or been sent to Bilibid.  This detail was also known as the Pasay School Detail.  The POWs were housed in eighteen rooms inside the school building.  30 POWs slept in each room, but no beds were provided.  Meals consisted of the scraps from the Japanese mess hall kitchen.
    To reach Nichols Airfield, the POWs marched about a mile.  As they marched in their tattered clothes and without shoes, the Filipino civilians expressed their sympathy to them which angered the Japanese guards.

    The POWs on the this detail built runways with picks and shovels literally leveling hills by hand.  The rubble from the hill was put into mining cars and pushed by two POWs who dumped the cars in a swamp to create landfill for the runway.    

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp , a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said , "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him. The guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
    While he was on the detail, Ancel on a couple of occasions was sent to the hospital ward at Bilibid.  Medical records kept at the prison show he had been admitted on January 12, 1943, with pellagra.  It appears that while he was there, an appendectomy was performed before he discharged, on April 2, 1943, to Cabanatuan.  At some point he returned to Las Pinas, but was again admitted to the hospital on September 22, 1943, suffering from beriberi.  At this time, no date of discharge is known.
    October 2, 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 ship 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.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks, but the bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up when he used one.  Those standing had no room to lie down.  The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans, which the POWs could not use since they were packed in the hold so tightly.  This resulted in the floor of the hold being covered with human waste.  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 , "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."
    The ship sailed the next day, but took a southerly route away from Taiwan and dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island.  During the first 48 hours off Palawan, five POWs died.  The POWs realized that the Japanese had removed the light bulbs from the lighting system, but that they had not turned off the power.  They figured out a way to hook the ventilation system into the lights and had fresh air for two days.  When the Japanese discovered what had been done, they turned off the power.
    The POWs began developing heat blisters, and the Japanese conceded that more POWs would die unless they did something.  The Japanese transferred POWs from the first hold to its second hold.  This hold was partially filled with coal.  During the transfer, one POW attempted to escape and was shot.
    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."

    On October 20, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila, where, it joined a twelve ship convoy bound for Taiwan.  The convoy sailed on October 21 after all the ships had been loaded.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  This made the ships targets for submarines.  In addition, U.S. Military Intelligence, was reading the Japanese code as fast as the Japanese.  To protect this secret, they did not tell the submarine crews which ships were carrying POWs.
    Graef described conditions in the hold.  "There were so many (that died ) out of 1800.  The condition in that 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 were 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.
    It was 4:50 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, in an empty hold.  The POWs began cheering wildly, but it stopped when 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 with."   Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said , "When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn't care a bit--they were tired and weak and sick."   He also said of the incident , "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two.  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 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."   Cichy also stated , "The Japs had already evacuated ship.  They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their own."
    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 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 before. 
    "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' disappeared."
  The ship slowly 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.  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.  Of this 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 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 men were picked up by a Japanese destroyer and taken to Formosa and finally sent to Japan.  The next day the three men in the boat picked up two more survivors and later made it to China and freedom.

    Pfc. Ancel Crick lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea.  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 perished."
    Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Ancel E. Crick's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 


 

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