Pfc. Homer R. Dutt was born in Marion, Ohio, on July 20, 1915, to Henry F. Dutt and
Idella Fisher-Dutt and was the couple's only child. With his parents, he lived at 366 Hane Avenue in Marion
and attended Vernon School and Marion Central Junior High School. Before he entered the service, he worked at a
Chevrolet dealership and operated his own gas station. He was next employed at Marion Steam Shovel Company from
March 1939 until he entered the army.
Homer was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 22, 1941, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio,
and joined the 192nd Tank Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was assigned to Headquarters Company and attended
tank mechanics school from which he graduated with high honors and qualified as a tank mechanic. It is known that
he had a weekend furlough from June 20 to June 22, 1941. He also had a seven day furlough from July 19 through
In the late summer of 1941, Homer 's battalion was sent to Louisiana to
take part in maneuvers. It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected. On the side of a hill, that the battalion was being sent
overseas. It was at this time that he received a furlough home to say his goodbyes from October 7 to October 15
before returning to Camp Polk on October 16.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 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
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco,
California, and ferried, by the
U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. On the island, they
received physicals and were inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment, and men determined to have minor
medical condition were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. 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 2nd and had a
two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, 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, another transport, the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke
the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. 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 16th, 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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure
that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that
they had to love in tents, but the fact was he learned of their arrival just days before they arrived. He
stayed with the battalion until they had received their Thanksgiving Dinner. Afterwards, he went for his own
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from
their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the trip to the Philippines. They also
spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to
take part in maneuvers.
The battalion was put on full alert the morning of Monday, December 1, and the tanks and
half-tracks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. At all times, two tank
and half-track crew members remained with their vehicles.
The morning of December 8, the officers of the battalion were told of the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor. Most of the battalion members were ordered to the airfield, but HQ Company remained in the
battalion's bivouac. All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes
landed to be refueled and were parked in a straight line. The pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, planes were
scene approaching the airfield from the north. When bombs began falling on the runways, the Americans knew the
planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers
watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could
carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the
building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their
tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more
attacks on December 10 and 13.
After the attack, the battalion remained at Clark Field for about two weeks before being ordered
to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing. Being a member of HQ Company, Homer did not take part in
fighting the Japanese, but he worked to keep the tanks supplied and running. Since there was no air cover, he
did live with the constant bombing and strafing by Japanese planes.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they
were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river and
ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang
Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River
with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
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. It was at
this time he sent a telegram to his parents telling them he was fine. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in
the morning on December 27 and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near
Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28 and 29.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga
River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31 at the Calumpit Bridge.
On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders
who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw
toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending
the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing.
Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank
Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to
Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was
an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the
192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover
the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
The night of January 7, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops
around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan
on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th
Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese
artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines,
B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks
attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were
under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the
area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not
take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East
Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work
done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per
tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had
worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen.
"Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will
jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy,
then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal
weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the
Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought
its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were
loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy
losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the
night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.
When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use
had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and
tanks were still straggling in at noon.
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, while the battalion's
half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches
prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was
held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and
attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese
reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the
planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the plane, but
twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree
tops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban,
Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were
well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese
forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The battalion 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. Doing this was
so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
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 exploded.
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.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the
tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half
again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to
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
It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile. Approximately
25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had
over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 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
During the Battle of Bataan, Lester drove supplies to the various companies of the
192nd. When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, Lester became a Prisoner Of War. Lester with Harry
Norowul was selected to remain on Bataan to drive cars and trucks for the Japanese. After five days, the
Japanese ended the detail.
Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender
the night of April 8. 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. Somehow Bruni came
up with enough bread and pineapple juice to hold what he called, "Their last supper."
The evening of April 8th, Capt. Fred Bruni - the commanding officer of HQ Company - came to
his men and informed them that they would be surrendered the next morning at 7:00 A.M. He told them to destroy
anything that the Japanese may be able to use. He somehow came up with enough bread and pineapple juice to have
what he called.
"Their last supper."
On April 9, 1942, Homer became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered
to the Japanese. That morning, the company received word of Bataan's surrendered to the Japanese. The
soldiers found a mule which they slaughtered and cooked for its meat. As they were eating, a Japanese officer
and soldiers showed up and took charge of the area. When the Japanese order the Prisoners of War to move,
Homer's company members made their way to the road that ran past their bivouac. Once on the road, the
prisoners were made to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they
knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them went through the POWs possessions and took what they wanted from
After they had been searched, the company boarded their trucks and drove to
Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once there, they were herded onto an airfield and left in the
sun. As they sat in the sun without water,
the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming in front of them. The POWs realized that the Japanese
were forming a firing squad, and that they were the intended victims. Just when it looked like the Japanese
were ready to take action, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out. He spoke to the Japanese sergeant, in
charge of the detail, and got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese soldiers received orders from the
sergeant to lower their guns.
Not too long after this happened, Homer and the other POWs were marched to a school yard and
ordered to sit once again in the sun. They remained there most of the day until they were ordered to move.
The POWs marched until they were ordered to take a break. Behind them in the field, were
four Japanese artillery pieces firing at Corregidor and Ft. Drum. Corregidor and Ft. Drum, which had not
surrendered, were also firing on the Japanese. Shells from the American guns began landing among the
POWs. The prisoners sought shelter, but since there was none, some of the POWs were killed. During this
incident, the American artillery managed to knock out three of the four Japanese guns.
Once again, the POWs received orders to move. It was upon receiving this order that Homer
started what became known as the "
For Homer, and the other Prisoners of War, the two hardest things about the march were the hunger cramps and the
senseless killing of men who could not keep up with the column. Those who could no longer walk were left behind
and in most cases killed. He witnessed many men flattened into the ground by Japanese tanks as they headed south
On the march, Homer made his way to San Fernando. There, he and the
other Prisoners of War were first put into a bull pen and remained there most of the day. The Japanese ordered
the POWs to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station. There, they were packed into small
boxcars used for hauling sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight
horses. The Japanese put 100 men in each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing since
there was no place for them to fall. The POWs rode a train to Capas and disembarked. From there, the
POWs 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 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
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. It is known that on Tuesday, March 2, 1943, he was
admitted to Ward 9 of the camp hospital. No reason for admittance or date of discharge were given.
It was also while he was a POW at Cabanatuan that his parents were notified he was a POW on
April 14, 1943. It said:
"Your son Pfc. Homer R. Dutt, has been reported a prisoner of war of the Japanese government in the
Philippine Islands. Letter follows. Ulio, Adjutant General."
The week of August 9, 1943, his parents received a POW post card from him. He had
checked off the he was in good healt, undergoing treatment, and improving. He also wrote
, "Hope you are all well. Best regards to everyone."
His parents also received an undated POW card from him in August 4,
As American forces got closer to the Philippines, the Japanese began sending large numbers
of POWs to other parts of their empire. In early October 1944, 1775 POWs were marched to the Port Area of
Manila. When his POW group arrived at the pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on, the
Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived at the pier.
Another POW detachment, scheduled to sail on the
Arisan Maru, had completely arrived, but their ship was not ready to sail. It was at that time that the
Japanese made the decision that they switch POW detachments so the
Hokusen Maru could sail.
On October 10, the POWs boarded the
Arisan Maru and 1775 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the
Arisan Maru 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 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. Most of the men went naked. The place was alive with lice,
bedbugs and roaches; the filth and stench were beyond description."
Later in the day on October 11, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from
Formosa. The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. The Japanese
covered the hatch with a tarp so during the night, the POWs were in total darkness. Within the first 48 hours,
five POWs had died. Being in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes, but the ship
was attacked once by American planes while there.
Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice.
Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights. Some
of the prisoners were able to hot-wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines. This allowed fresh
air into the hold, until the power was disconnected, two days later, when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
After this was done, the POWs began to develop heat blisters. The Japanese realized
that if they did not do something many of the POWs would die. To prevent this, they opened the ship's
number two hold and transferred 600 POWs into it. At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to
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."
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 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."
, "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 ten 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
"When the torpedo hit everybody in the hold hollered 'Hit her again!' We wanted to get it over
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said
, "When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn't care a bit--they were tired and weak and
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
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
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."
," 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'
The ship slowly sunk 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."
, "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
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. Homer R. Dutt was not one of them.
The week of January 15, 1945, his parents received a POW post card which was dated May 6,
1944. In it he told them he had received the Christmas box they sent to him August 15, 1943. and that he was in
good health. The last card they received from him was dated July 22, 1944. It indicated he was in good
health and was the last of seven post cards they had received from him.
On June 22, 1945, his name appeared on a list of POWs died on the
Arisan Maru. His family received this message on July 3, 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."
Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Homer R. Dutt's name appears on the Tablets of the
Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.