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,
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
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 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 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
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
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.
shown to the
commander of the
camp, a Capt. Kenji Iwataka,
was called the
because he wore
a spotless naval
He was commander
of the camp for
One day a POW
working on the
Moto was told
about the man
and came out and
ordered him to
When he couldn't
made to carry
the man back to
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.
"the Wolf" was
was hardest to
convince that a
sick. If a
man's arm or leg
was bandaged, he
would kick the
man's leg, in
the spot it was
see how the man
If the man
showed a great
deal of pain, he
was not required
In one case, a
man whose broken
wrist was in a
twisted by the
Wolf while the
man trembled in
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.
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.
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.
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
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.