Sgt. Hugh P. Kissinger was the son of Marion
Kissinger & Anna Daughterty-Kissinger. He
was born on April 20, 1914, and with his five
brothers and sister, he grew up at 2410 Freeman
Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas. He worked as
a waiter in a tavern.
On April 18, 1941, Hugh was inducted into the U.
S. Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He
was sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where he
joined the 194th Tank Battalion.
In September 1941, the 194th received orders for
duty in the Philippine Islands.
reason for this move was an event that took
place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of
American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf
when one of the pilots noticed something
odd. He took his plane down and identified
a buoy in the water. He came upon more
buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30
miles to the northwest, in the direction of an
Japanese occupied island, with a large radio
transmitter, hundred of miles away. The
squadron continued its flight plane and flew
south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark
Field. By the time the planes landed, it
was too late to do anything that day.
By the time another squadron
was sent to the area the next day, the buoys had
been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen
making its way toward shore. Since,
communication between the Air Corps and Navy
were poor, the boat was not intercepted.
It was at that time the decision was made to
build up the American military presence in the
The soldiers road a train to Ft. Mason in San
Francisco and arrived at 7:30 A.M. on September
4th. From there, they were boarded onto
the U.S.A.T Frank M. Coxe and
ferried to Ft. Mac Dowell on Angel Island where
the battalion's medical detachment gave them
physicals. Those who had medical
conditions were 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. The enlisted men were also
quartered in the hold. 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 a heavy cruiser, the U.S.S.
Astoria, 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.
The ships crossed the
International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16,
and the date changed to Thursday, September
18. They 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 tanks and reattach the turrets.
On December 1st, 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.
The tankers lived in tents at the
fort until their barracks were finished on
November 15th. The first week of December, 1941,
the tank battalions were ordered to the
perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against
enemy paratroopers. Two tank crew members
remained with the tank at all times and received
their meals from food tucks.
The morning of December 8,
1941, the tankers heard the news of Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.
As they sat their tanks, the sky was filled with
American planes. At noon, the planes
landed, to be refueled, and were lined up in a
straight line outside the mess hall. The
pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were having lunch, which meant a
tank crew member went to the food truck and got
food for the other members of the crew. As
they sat in their tanks, they watched two
formations, of 27 planes each, approaching the
airfield from the north. At first they
believed the planes were American, it was only
when bombs began exploding on the runways that
they knew the planes were Japanese.
During the attack the members
of HQ Company took cover in ditches since they
had few weapons that could be used against
planes. The attack lasted for about 45
minutes. 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.
The battalion was sent to the
barrio of San Jaoaquin on the Malolus Road and
moved to an area just south of San Joaquin near
the Calumpit Bridge on December 12th. It
would receive 15 Bren Gun carriers that were
used to test the ground to see if it could
support the weight of a tank. The
battalion moved again to west and north of
Rosario and was operating in north of the Agno
River the night of December 22/23.
The tank battalions formed
the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas defensive
line the night of December 26/27. They
were holding a new line at the Bamban River the
night of December 29/30 and were at the Calumpit
Bridge the next night.
On January 5th, they were at Lyac Junction and
dropped back to Remedios were a new defensive
line was formed.
The night of January 6/7, the
194th withdrew over a bridge on the Culis Creek
covered by the 192nd Tank Battalion, and entered
Bataan. The 192nd crossed the bridge
before it was destroyed and entered Bataan.
The tank battalions were
covering the East Coast Road on January
8th. It was at this time that the tank
platoons were reduced to three tanks each and HQ
Company with the 17th Ordnance Company were able
to do long overdue maintenance on the tanks.
The tanks continued to cover
withdraws for the rest of January and
February. In March, HQ Company was
recovering two tanks that had been bogged
down in the mud when the Japanese entered
the area. Lt. Col. Miller ordered
the tanks to fire at point blank range and ran
from tank to tank directing the fire.
On April 4th, the Japanese
lunched an all out offensive at 3:00 P.M., and
the tanks were sent to various sectors in an
attempt to stop the advance. The tank
battalion commanders received this order on
April 8th, "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
When it became apparent to
Gen. Edward King that the situation was hopeless
and he wanted to prevent a massacre since he
only 25% of his troops were healthy enough to
fight, while approximately 6,000 troops were
hospitalized from wounds or disease. In
addition, there were approximately 40,000
civilians. The night of April 8th, he sent
his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms
with the Japanese.
Sometime between 6:30 A.M.
and 6:45 A.M., the tankers received the order "crash" and
disabled their tanks so that they could not be
used by the Japanese. The company received
orders from the Japanese and remained in its
bivouac until April 10th when the Japanese
arrived and ordered HQ Company to move to the
headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group,
which was at kilometer marker 168.2. They
remained there until 7:00 P.M. on the 10th, the
POWs were ordered to march. They made
their way from the former command post, and at
first found the walk difficult. When they
reached the main road, walking became
easier. At 3:00 A.M., they were given an
hour break before being ordered to move again at
4:00 A.M. The column reached Lamao at 8:00
A.M., where the POWs were allowed to forage for
food before marching again at 9:00.
When the POWs reached Limay,
officers with ranks of major or higher, were
separated from the enlisted men and the lower
ranking officers. The higher ranking
officers were put on trucks and driven to
Balanga from where they march north to
Orani. The lower ranking officers and
enlisted men reached the barrio later in the day
having march through Abucay and Samal.
At 6:30 in the evening, the
POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100
men. Once this was done, they resumed the
trip north, but this time they were marched at a
faster pace and were given few breaks.
When they did receive a break, they had to sit
in the road until they were ordered to move.
When they were north of
Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made
the march easier. At 2:00 A.M., they
received an hour break, but any POW who
attempted to lay down was jabbed with a
bayonet. After the break, they were
marched through Layac and Lurao. It was at
this time that a heavy shower took place and
many of the men opened their mouths in an
attempt to get water.
The men were marched until
4:00 P.M., when they reached San Fernando.
Once there, they were herded into a bull pen,
surrounded by barbwire, and put into groups of
200 men. One POW from each group went to
the cooking area which was next to the latrine,
and received a box of rice that was divided
among the men. Water was given out
in a similar manner with each group receiving a
pottery jar of water to share.
At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese
woke the men up and organized them into
detachments of 100 men. From the compound,
they were marched to the train station, where
they were packed into small wooden boxcars known
as "forty or eights." Each boxcar could
hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese
packed 100 men into each car and closed the
doors. The POWs were packed in so tightly
that the dead could not fall to the floor.
At Capas, as the living left the cars and those
who had died - during the trip - fell to the
floors of the cars. As they left the cars,
the Filipino civilians threw sugarcane and gave
the POWs water.
Camp O'Donnell was an
unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese
put into use as a POW camp on April 1,
1942. They believed the camp could hold
15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When the POWs
arrived at the camp, they were searched and
anyone found with Japanese money were separated
from the other POWs and sent to the
guardhouse. These POWs were accused of
looting the bodies of dead Japanese
soldiers. Over several days, gunshots were
heard coming from southeast of the camp as they
The Japanese also took away
any extra clothing that the POWs carried with
them and refused to return it. Since there
was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs
threw away soiled clothing and stripped the dead
of their clothing. Few of the POWs in the
camp hospital had clothing.
There was only one water
faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line
from 2½ to 8 hours waiting for a drink.
The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would
turn it off, for no reason, and the next man in
line would have to wait up to four hours for it
to be turned on again. Water for cooking food
had to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess
kits could not be cleaned.
Since most of the POWs had
dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which
resulted in flies being everywhere in the camp
including the camp kitchen and in the
food. The camp hospital had no water,
soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases
to spread. When the ranking American
doctor presented a letter with the medicines and
medical supplies they needed to treat the sick,
the camp commander, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi,
told him never to write another letter. He
also said that the only thing he wanted to know
about the POWs were their names and serial
numbers after they died.
The Archbishop of
Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to
the camp, but the Japanese refused to let it
into the camp. When a representative of
the Philippine Red Cross told a Japanese
lieutenant that they could set up an 150 bed
hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the
face by the lieutenant. Medicines sent to
the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by
the Japanese for their own use.
The POWs called the hospital
"Zero Ward" because most of the men who entered
it never came out alive. The Japanese were
so afarid of contracting an illness that they
put a barbed wire fence up around it. The
POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the
floor and operations were performed with knives
from mess kits. Only one medic, out of
every six assigned to treat the sick, was
healthy enough to perform his duties.
Each morning, the POWs walked
around the camp and collected the bodies of the
dead and placed them under the hospital
building. To clean the ground, the POWs
moved the bodies, scrapped the ground, put
down lime to sterilize the ground, moved the
bodies back, and repeated the process where the
bodies had been. It took two to three days
to bury a man after he died.
Any POW, if he could walk,
went out on a work detail for the day such as
the one collected wood for the POW
kitchen. Some POWs went out on work
details which lasted for months to get out of
the camp. The worse detail a man could be
put on was the burial detail. On this
detail, two POWs carried a dead man to the camp
cemetery. Once there, they put the body in
a grave and held the body down with a pole,
since the water table was high, and covered it
with dirt. The next morning, when the
burials resumed, the dead were often sitting up
or had been dug up by wild dogs. The
Japanese finally acknowledged that they had to
do something to lower the death rate, so they
opened a new POW camp.
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.
The camp was actually three
camps. Camp 1 was where the men who
captured on Bataan and taken part in the death
march where held. Camp 2 did not have an
adequate water supply and was closed. It
later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp
3 was where those men captured when Corregidor
surrender were taken. In addition, men
from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the
surrender came were sent to the camp.
Camps 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
Once in the camp, the POWs
were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese
only entered if they had an issue they wanted to
deal with. 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.
In the camp, the Japanese
instituted the "Blood Brother" rule. If
one man escaped the other nine men in his group
would be executed. 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 barracks in the camp were
built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60
to 120 POWs in them. The POWs slept on
bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or
mosquito netting. Many quickly became
ill. Tom was assigned to Barracks 7, Group
II,which meant that the members of his group
lived together, went out on work details
together, and would be executed together since
they were Blood Brothers.
The POWs were sent out on
work details to cut wood for the POW
kitchens. The two major details were the
farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted
for years. A typical day on any detail
lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M.
Rice was the main food given
to the POWs fed to them as "lugaii" which meant
"wet rice." During their time in the camp,
they received few vegetables and almost no
fruit. Once in awhile, they received
The farm detail was under a
Japanese guard known as "Big Speedo" because he
was taller than most of the Japanese. He
knew very little English and used the word "Speedo" when he
wanted the POWs to work faster. Overall,
the POWs felt he treated them fairly and did not
abuse them. There was also a smaller
Japanese guard known as "Little Speedo," who was
fair to the POWs. Smiley was another guard
who the POWs quickly learned not to trust.
He always had a smile on his face, but he was
mean and beat the POWs for no apparent reason.
The POWs cleared the area and
planted comotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and
various greens. The Japanese used most of
the food for themselves. When the POWs
arrived at the farm, they would enter a
shed. As they came out, it was common for
them to be hit over the heads by the guards.
The Japanese wanted an
airfield for their fighters, so the POWs were
given the job of constructing it. The POWs
leveled the land and moved dirt. At first,
they used wheelbarrows to move the soil, but
when this became inefficient, mining cars and
track were brought in, and the POWs loaded the
cars and pushed them to where the dirt was being
The POWs also worked planting
rice. While doing this, one the favorite
punishments was for a guard to push a man's face
into the mud. Once his head was in the mud, the
guard would step on his head to drive it
deeper. Other details did go out, but
usually lasted a few days. Major details,
of hundreds of men, left the camp and worked on
projects that lasted years. When, due to
illness or death, details became depleted, more
POWs left the camp for details as replacements.
The camp hospital was known
as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the
Japanese when they counted barracks. The
sickest POWs were sent there to die. The
Japanese put a fence up around the building to
protect themselves, and they would not go into
the building. There were two rolls of
wooden platforms around the perimeter of the
building. The sickest POWs were put on the
lower platform which had holes cut into it so
the they could relieve themselves. Most of
those who entered the ward died.
The POWs had the job of
burying the dead. To do this, they worked
in teams of four men. Each team carried a
litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery
where they were buried in graves containing 15
to 20 bodies. The death rate in the camp
was nine men a day into November 1942, but
dropped once Red Cross packages were issued at
At some point, Hugh was sent out on a work
detail to Manila that repaired trucks and other
equipment for the Japanese. The detail was
known as the Bachrach Garage Detail.
This was the name of a cab company in
Manila. Hugh would remain on this detail
In early October the detail was ended. On
October 11, 1944 the POWs were marched to Pier
7. Once there, they were boarded onto the
Arisan Maru. They were put on
this ship because the ship they were scheduled
to sail on had sailed earlier with other POWs on
it. This was because not all the POWs in
Hugh's detachment had arrived at the pier.
Along the sides of the hold were shelves that
served as bunks. These bunks were so close
together that a man could not lift himself up
while laying 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.
The ship set sail but took a southerly route
away from Formosa. It arrived at a cove
off Palawan Island where it dropped
anchor. This resulted in the ship missing
an air attack by American planes.
While in the cove, the POWs discovered that the
Japanese had removed the light bulbs from the
hold's lighting system, but that they had not
turned off the power to the system. The
POWs managed to hot wire the hold's ventilation
system into the lights. For two days, the
POWs had fresh air. When the Japanese
discovered what the POWs had done, they turned
off the power.
The POWs began
developing heat blisters, so the Japanese
decided to move some of them to another
hold. While transferring the POWs one man
was shot when he tried to escape. It was
also at this time the ship was attacked by
American planes that had just conducted a raid
The Arisan Maru returned to
the Manila nine days later., where it became
part of a twelve ship convoy bound for
Formosa. 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. This made the ships targets for
submarines. In addition, to protect the
fact that American Military Intelligence had
cracked the Japanese code, the submarine crews
were not informed that POWs were being
transported on the ships.
The evening of October 24th
at about 5:00 P.M., the convoy was in the Bashi
Channel, of the South China Sea, off the coast
of China, when it came under attack by American
submarines. The waves were high since a storm
had just passed. At about 5:50 P.M., a
number of POWs were on deck preparing
dinner. About half the POWs on the ship
had been fed. When the guards ran to the
bow of the ship and watched a torpedo as it
barely missed the ship. The guards next
ran to the stern of the ship, and a second
torpedo passed behind the ship.
Suddenly the Arisan Maru
shook, it had been hit by two torpedoes from the
U.S.S. Shark, amidship, killing POWs while those
still alive began cheering wildly. A
little while later the cheering ended and the
men realized they were facing death.
The guards went after the
POWs who cooking dinner and began beating them
with their guns and forcing them into the second
hold. Once they were in the hold the
Japanese cut the rope ladders and slammed down
the hatch cover before abandoning the ship.
POWs in the first hold
managed to make their way onto the deck and
reattached the rope ladders and dropped them
into the holds. The surviving POWs made
their way onto the deck. 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."
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. These men wanted to die
with full stomachs. Other POWs took to the
water with anything that would
Three men managed to get into
a lifeboat that had been abandoned by the
Japanese. But since the sea was rough and
they had no paddles, they could not maneuver the
boat. According to the men as the night
went on, the cries for help became fewer until
there was silence. The next morning, they
rescued two more POWs.
Sgt Hugh P. Kissinger 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
the men survived the war. Since he was
lost at sea, Sgt Hugh P. Kissinger's name is
inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military
Cemetery outside of Manila.