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, and
was sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where he joined the 194th Tank Battalion. The specific training he
received is not known.
In September 1941, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippine Islands.
The 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 Philippines.
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. General Frank M. Coxe
and ferried to Ft. MacDowell on Angel Island where the battalion's medical detachment gave them
physicals. Those men who had medical conditions were replaced.
The tankers boarded the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
on September 8 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
13 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
, 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 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.
The tankers lived in tents at the fort until their barracks were finished on November 15. 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
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 12. 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
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 5, they were at Lyac Junction and dropped back to Remedios were a new defensive line was
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
The tank battalions were covering the East Coast Road on January 8. 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 4, 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. 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 8, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender
terms with the Japanese.
The tank battalion commanders received this order on April 8
, "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
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 10 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
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
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 were executed.
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
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
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 bread.
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
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 dumped.
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 Christmas.
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 until 1944.
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
. 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
On October 1
0, almost 1775 POWs were packed into the ship's number one hold. 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. Anton Cichy said
, "For the first few days, there were 1800 of us together in one hold. I don't know how big the hold
was but we had to take turns to sit down. We were just kind of stuck together."
Calvin Graef said 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."
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 on Manila, but the ship was attacked once by American planes which were returning from an air
raid on the airfield on Palawan.
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.
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 escape.
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."
The 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 the deaths of the POWs hold.
"There were so many (that died) out 1800. The conditions in the 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 wee 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 each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and
two half mess kits of raw rice. Ten POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's
holds. 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.
At about 4:50 P.M., about half the POWs had been fed. As the POWs, on deck,
watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo passed in front of it. 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.
At first the POWs cheered wildly until 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 with."
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck recalled
, "When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn't care a bit--they were tired and weak and
He also said
, "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two."
Overbeck also commented on the reaction of the POWs in the holds.
"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 that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the
U.S.S. Snook or
The guards began to beat the POWs on deck with their guns to chase them back into the
holds. Once they had, they put the hatch covers on the hatches, but because they had been ordered to
abandon ship, never tied them down. Cichy said
, "The Japs closed the hatched and left the ship in lifeboats. They must of 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 the 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,
, "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."
Overbeck also stated
, "We broke into the ship's stores to get food, cigarettes, and water -- mainly water, we were so
thirsty. All of us figured we were going to die anyway. The Japs ships, except for the destroyers,
had disappeared. All we had were life belts which the Japanese had fortunately thrown down the hold the
"But as darkness settled and our hopes for life flickered, we felt absolutely no resentment for the Allied
submarine that had sent the torpedo crashing in. We knew they could not tell who was aboard the freighter,
and as far as the Navy could have known the ship could have been carrying Jap troops. The men were brave
and none complained.
"Some slipped off their life preservers and with a cherry 'so long'
disappeared." The ship slowly sank lower in 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. 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 describe
The next morning there were just waves. Olvier and three other POWs were picked up by a Japanese
destroyer and taken to Formosa. They later were sent by ship to Japan. The men in the boat picked
up two more survivors and later made it to China and freedom.
Sgt. Hugh P. Kissinger was not one of them.
In 1945, his family received this message:
"The information available to the war department is that the vessel sailed from Manila on October 11, 1944,
with 1775 prisoners of war aboard. On October 24 the vessel was sunk by submarine action in the south China
Sea over 200 miles from the Chinese coast which was the nearest land. Five of the prisoners escaped in a
small boat and reached the coast. Four others have been reported as picked up by the Japanese by whom all
others aboard are reported lost. Absence of detailed information as to what happened to the other
individual prisoners and known circumstances of the incident lead to a conclusion that all other prisoners
listed by the Japanese as aboard the vessel perished."
Since he was lost at sea, Sgt Hugh P. Kissinger's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the
Missing at the
American Military Cemetery
outside of Manila.