GiachinoM

 


Pvt. Martin Giachino


    Pvt. Martin Giachino was born in 1914 in Crook County, Wyoming, to Antonio Giachino and Domenica Minka-Giachino.  He had three sisters and one brother.  The family moved to Missouri and resided in Bevier and later resided in Alladin, Wyoming.

     It is not known when Martin joined the U. S. Army, but he was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 194th Tank Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington.  He trained there for approximately six months before being sent to San Francisco, California, for overseas duty.

    On August 15, 1941, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in 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 at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and a second in the distance.  The squadron followed the buoys and found that they lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, hundreds of miles away, which had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron resumed its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed, it was too late in the evening 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 battalion, minus B Company, traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California. From there, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, they were ferried to  Fort McDowell on Angel Island and given physicals and inoculated.  Men who had medical conditions were held back and replaced.
    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 5:00 P.M.
    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 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.

    On Tuesday, September 16, 1941, the ships crossed the International Date Line and it became Thursday, September 18.  The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M. 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 trucks, jeeps, and tanks, and reattach the turrets.
    On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.

    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack of Pearl Harbor, Martin witnessed the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  The tankers had been ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.

     Martin was not involved in front line action, but he did live with the constant strafing by Japanese planes.  Being in HQ Company, Martin's job was to keep the tanks supplied with ammunition and gasoline.

    When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, Martin became a Prisoner of War. 
The POWs were ordered to the bivouac of the Provisional Tank Group.  It was from there that they were marched to join the main column of POWs on the march out of Bataan.
    On April 10, the Japanese arrived and ordered the HQ personnel onto the road.  They quickly stripped the POWs of their watches,pens, and sun-glasses.  They were taken to a trail and found that walking on the gravel trail was difficult.  They immediately witnessed "Japanese Discipline" toward their own troops.  The Japanese apparently were marching for hours, and if a man fell, he was kicked in his stomach and hit in the head with a rifle butt.  If he still did not get up, the Japanese determined that the man was exhausted and left him alone.

    The trial the POWs were on ended when they reached the main road.  The first thing the Japanese did was to separate the officers from the enlisted men and counted them.  The Prisoners of War were then left in the sun for the rest of the day wondering what was going to happen.  That night they were ordered north which was difficult, on the rocky road, in the dark since they could not see where they were walking.  Whenever they slipped, they knew they had stepped on the remains of a dead soldier.

    The POWs made their way north against the flow of Japanese horse artillery and trucks that was moving south.  At times, they would slip on something wet and slippery which were the remains of a man killed by Japanese artillery the day before.  When dawn came, the walking became easier but as the sun rose it became hotter and they POWs began to feel the effects of thirst.   It was then that the POWs saw a group of Filipinos being marched by the Japanese.  They realized that they had been hungry, but the Filipinos had been starving.
    When the men crossed the Lamao River, they smelled the sweet smell of death. The Japanese had heavily bombed the area causing many casualties and many of the dead lay partially in the river.  The air corps POWs in front of them ran to the river and drank.  Many would later die from dysentery at Camp O'Donnell. 
    At Limay on April 11, the officers with the tank of lieutenant colonl or above, were put into a school yard.  The officers were told that they would be driven the rest of the march. 
    At 4:00 AM, the officers were put into trucks for an unknown destination.  They were taken to Balanga, disembarked, and ordered to put their field bags in front of them for inspection.  During the inspection, one officer was found to have an automatic gun in his bag.  As punishment the POWs were not fed.  They set in a paddy all day and were ordered to move near sunset as punishment for the gun being in the bag.  They reached Orani on April 12th at three in the morning.
    At Orani, the officers were put into a bull pen where they were ordered to lay down.  In the morning, the POWs realized that they had been lying in the human waste of POWs who had already used the bullpen.  At noon, they received their first food.  It was a meal of rice and salt.  Later in the day, other enlisted POWs arrived in Orani.  One group was the enlisted members of the tank group.  They had walked the entire way to the barrio.
    At 6:30 or 7:00 that evening, they resumed the march and were marched at a faster pace.  The guards also seemed to be nervous about something.  This time they made the POWs make their way to Hormosa.  There, the road went from gravel to concrete and the change of surface made the march easier.  When the POWs were allowed to sit down, those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets. 
    The POWs continued the march and for the first time in months it began to rain which felt great and many men attempted to get drinks.  At 4:30 PM on April 13th, they arrived at San Fernando.  The POWs put into a pen and remained there the rest of the day.
    At 4:00 in the morning, the Japanese woke the POWs and marched them to the train station.  They were packed into small wooden boxcars known as, "forty or eights."  They were called this since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and shut the doors.  The heat in the cars was unbearable and many POWs died.  They could not fall to the floors since there was no room for them to fall.  The POWs rode the train to Capas arriving there at 9:00 AM.  There, the living disembarked from the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell.
    The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell. 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 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.  The worst of these details was the burial detail.  Two POWs carried the dead man to the camp cemetery in a sling where the man was placed in a grave.  Since the water table was high, the body was pushed down with a pole in the grave while it was covered with dirt.  The next day when the POWs returned to the cemtery the dead were sitting up in their graves  or had been dug up by wild dogs. 
    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.
    In the camp the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  The POWs set up patrols to stop escapes.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed.  It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  While on these details they 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.  Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.  Once the POWs received one of the few Red Cross packages they were allowed to receive, the death rate dropped dramatically.

    It is known that Martin was sent to Nichols Airfield as part of a work detail in early 1944.  The POWs built a runway and revetments with picks and shovels.  The runway they were expected to build was suppose to be 500 yards wide, and they literally removed a mountain, by hand, to build the runway.  The POWs removed the debris with wheelbarrows, but when they became inefficient, mining cars and rail were brought to the site.   Working in teams of four, the POWs had to fill mining cars with rubble and two men pushed each cart to a swamp and dumped the car.  While they were doing this, the other two men were preparing the next load. 
    The Japanese were brutal in their treatment of the POWs.  The POWs lived in
Pasay School about a mile from airfield and marched to and from the airfield.  Meals consisted of leftover fish guts from the Japanese kitchen.

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Capt. Kenji Iwataka, 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 to them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second ranking Japanese on the detail was known as "the Wolf," because the POWs thought he resembled a 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 welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese.  They only concern they had was getting the runway built.  If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury.  Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.

    In particular, "the Wolf" was was hardest to convince that a man was sick.  If a man's arm or leg was bandaged, he would kick the man's leg, in the spot it was bandaged, and see how the man reacted.  If the man showed a great deal of pain, he was not required to work.  In one case, a man whose broken wrist was in a splint, was twisted by the Wolf while the man trembled in pain.          
    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.      
   

       Martin's health deteriorated to the point that the Japanese sent him to Bilibid Prison, on August 21, 1944,  where he was admitted to the hospital ward.  This was done so that the Japanese could manipulate the records on how many POWs died on the detail.  He was admitted for being malnourished.  How long he remained in the hospital ward is not known.
    As American forces approached the Philippines, the Japanese began to transfer large number of POWs to other parts of their empire. 
When Martin's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila, on October 10, 1944, they were scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru.  The ship was ready to sail, but the entire detachment had not arrived at the pier.   The Japanese flipped his group with another group of POWs so that the ship could sail.     

    Nearly 1775 POWs were put on the Arisan Maru and packed into the ship's number two hold.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks which were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while lying down.  Those standing also had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans.  Since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans.  The floor of the hold was covered with human waste.

    On October 11th, 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.  Being in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes on Manila. At some point, the ship was attacked by American planes returning from a bombing mission on Palawan.

    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 wire the ship's blowers into the lighting system which brought fresh air into the hold.  The power was turned off two days later when the Japanese discovered what had been done.

    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 one hold and transferred 600 POWs into it.  At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.

    The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th, where it joined a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21st, 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.  The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.
    It needs to be mentioned that the American military was reading the Japanese code almost as fast as the Japanese.  To protect this secret, the crews of the submarines sent out to sink Japanese ships were not told. 

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 P.M., some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds.  The ship was off the coast of China in the Bashai Channel.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard, and the men inside the holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted.  They began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.

    The Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo passed in front of the bow of the ship.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.  There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships in its third hold where there were no POWs, but it did kill some of those in the holds.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    The Japanese guards on deck took their rifles and and began to hit the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie them down.

    As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds, but since they had not tied down the hatch covers, some of the POWs from the first hold climbed out and reattached the ladders and dropped them to the men in the holds. 
    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."  The ship 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.  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.  

    A group of 30 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they pushed them away with poles and hit them with clubs.  The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

   As the ship got lower in the water, some of the POWs took to the water.  These POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking.  At some point, the ship split in two.  The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.

     Three of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru sank sometime after dark.  As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer until there was silence.

     Pvt. Martin Giachino lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea.  Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking.  Eight of these men would survive the war.  Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Martin Giachino's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

 

 

 

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