T/4 Steve Lemke was born in 1912
and was the son of Adolph & Mary Lemke. His
parents were immigrants from Poland. He was
raised in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota, and worked on the
family's farm. On April 14, 1941, he was
inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Lewis,
Washington. There, he was assigned to the 194th
On August 15, 1941, the 194th
received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in
the Philippines because of an event that happened
during the summer. 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
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
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 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. 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 the 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 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
The morning of December 8, 1941,
at 8:30, the planes of the the Army Air Corps took
off and filled the sky. At noon the planes
landed to be refueled, line up in a straight line,
and the pilots went to lunch in the mess hall.
At 12:45 in the afternoon, just ten hours after the
attack on Pearl Harbor, Danny lived through the
Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.
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
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. The
night of the 12/13, the battalion was ordered to
bivouac south of San Fernando near the Calumpit
Bridge. Attempting to move the battalion at
night was a nightmare, and they finally arrived at
their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13.
The battalion received 15 Bren
Gun carriers on the 15th, and gave some to the 26th
Cavalry, Philippine Scouts. They used the
carriers to test the ground to see if it was solid
enough to support tanks. They next were
ordered to support the 71st Division in the area of
Rosario on the 22, but the division's commanding
officer ordered them out of the area, since he
believed they would interfere with operations.
The night of the 22nd/23rd, the
battalions were operating north of the Agno River
when it they found that the bridge they were suppose
to use had been bombed. 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
Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive
line along the southern bank of the Agno River with
the tanks of the 192nd holding the Agno River from
Carmen to Tayung, and the 194th holding the line on
the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks
held the position until 5:30 in the morning on
December 27 when they withdrew, following the
Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and
was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28 and
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
On January 1, 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 staff.
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 2 to 4,
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 bridge.
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. Weaver, "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 possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover
the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with
the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25. 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,
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.
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.
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 Corregidor.
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 counter-attack.
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 accomplished."
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 tankers received the order "crash" sometime
between 6:30 and 6:45, in the morning, on April 9,
and destroyed anything that had military value for
the Japanese. To destroy their tanks, they
circled them, fired an armor piercing shell into the
engine of each tank, opened the gasoline cocks in
the crew compartments, and dropped hand grenades
into them. Once this was done, they were
ordered to Provisional Tank Group Headquarters and
ordered to remain there.
It is believed that it was at this
time that Steve and the other other members of his
tank crew, Pvt. Rudolph Oliver, Pvt Arthur Gattie,
all joined the guerrillas. It is not known
when or how, but at some point Steve became a
Prisoner of War. Most likely he surrendered
when Gen. Johnathan Wainwright ordered all
resistance to end with the surrender of
Corrigedor. After being held at Bilibid, he
would have been sent to Cabanatuan #3.
Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the
91st Philippine Army Division and was previously
known as Camp Panagaian. 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. About eight months later, Camp 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. The
POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the
members of their group lived together, went out on
work details together, and would be executed
together since they were Blood Brothers. Steve
was assigned to Barracks 5, Group II.
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 "lugow" 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 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.
While at Cabanatuan, Steve was
admitted into the camp hospital. He was
reported as a patient on June 27, 1942. The
report does not give the illness or a date of
discharge from the hospital. It is not known
if he went out on a work detail, but the exact
detail is not known.
In late 1944, when
it became apparent to the Japanese that the invasion
of the Philippines was near, most of the POWs were
sent to the Port Area of Manila. The Japanese
were attempting to send the healthy POWs to Japan,
and other countries, to work as slave labor and
prevent them from being liberated by advancing
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 the 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 on Palawan.
The Arisan Maru returned
to the Manila nine days later., where it became part
of a twelve ship convoy bound for Formosa. 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. 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 24 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. Four other POWs were pulled from
the sea by a Japanese ship and taken to Formosa.
T/4 Steve Lemke lost his life when the Arisan
Maru was torpedoed in the South China
the nearly 1775 POWs on the ship, only nine survived
the sinking. Eight of these men would
survive the war. Since he was lost at sea, T/4
Steve Lemke's name is inscribed on the Tablets of
the Missing at the American Military Cemetery
outside of Manila.
The picture at the top of the page shows Steve Lemke
with his sister and niece.