S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther was one of the twin sons of Walter P. Luther & Sibylla Bennagalee-Luther born in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in September 18, 1918, but lived in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where he graduated from St. John
the Baptist Catholic School. In 1934, the family moved to Janesville where his four sisters, his brother, and
he grew up at 341 North High Street in Janesville. He graduated from Janesville High School and worked in a
hotel's laundry room after graduation.
In 1939, Henry and his brother,
, joined the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard. In the fall of 1940 on November 28th,
the tank company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of federal service. The company was renamed
A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
During this time, Henry rose in rank quickly and also became a tank commander. It
seemed as if he was promoted to a rank, his brother was promoted soon after he was. While he was training
at Ft. Knox, his mother died on July 21, 1941, and his brother and him were given leaves home to attend her
In the September, 1941, the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers. According to
members of the battalion, they were members of the Red Army which fought the Blue Army under the command of
General George S. Patton. One day the battalion broke through the Blue Army's defenses and were on
their way to capturing Gen. Patton's headquarters when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled.
It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas
as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines,
Luzon, Manila. Those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign to from federal service and were
replaced by men of the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion also received the tanks of the 753rd.
By train, the company traveled to San Francisco, California., where it was taken by ferry,
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they received inoculations and physicals, and those men
with treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island. They were scheduled to rejoin the
battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott
and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many of the tankers suffered from
seasickness. Once they recovered, they spent their time breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and
doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two day layover, so the
soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the
main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the
and, another transport, the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International
During this part of the voyage on Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was
seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off
in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly
When the ships arrived at Guam, on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas,
coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island
at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent
into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at
Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to
unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to
live in tents along the main road between the Ft. Stotsenburg and Clark Field. He made sure that they had
what they needed and that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be
released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark
Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were
assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the
end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons,
which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did
tank maintenance as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1, the tank battalions were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard
against Japanese paratroopers. The 194th was given the northern part of the airfield to defend and the
192nd had the southern half to protect. At all times, each tank or half-track had to be manned by two
members of its crew. Those on duty were fed by food trucks.
Ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Henry lived through the attack on
Clark Field. The morning of December 8, December 7 in the United States, the 192nd was brought up to full
strength at the perimeter of Clark Field. At 8:00 A. M., the American planes took off and filled the
sky. They landed at noon, to be refueled, and were lined up in a straight line near the mess hall. While
the planes were being refueled the pilots went to lunch. Many of the tankers still believed that this was just
the start of the maneuvers.
The tankers were eating lunch, at about 12:45, when a formation of 54 planes was spotted
approaching the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American and had enough time
to count them. As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes. When bombs exploded on the runways,
they knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The tankers
watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything else 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.
That night the they lived slept in or under their tanks for protection. O December
12, after the initial attack, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and
railroad and protect them from saboteurs. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of
the 192nd just south of the Agno River.
On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the
company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of
Agno River. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully
crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from
Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The
tanks had been ordered to hold the position for six hours, but they held the position until 5:30 in the morning
on December 27.
While attached to the 194th Tank Battalion, on December 30, the company lost 2nd Lt.
William Read. That night, on a road east of Zaragoza, the company was bivouacked and had posted
sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and
manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their
bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped
firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their
tanks over the bodies.
From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the
southern forces could escape. It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half. It
was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.
January that the food rations were cut in half. Not long after this, malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever
soon spread among the soldiers.
A Company, on January 5, was near the Gumain River attached to the 194th Tank
Battalion. It was evening and they believed they were in a relatively safe place. Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield
told his men to get some sleep. Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gun shot. The tankers
had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had lunched a major offensive. There was a
great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 3:00 A.M., when the Japanese broke off the attack.
The night of January 7, A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan
over the Culis Creek. The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding
officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in
sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw
across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
During the engagement there was a great deal of confusion which the Japanese took advantage
of during the fight. One Japanese soldier managed to plant a thermite bomb on a tank's bow gun port,
and the crew was wounded when it went off. To prevent the loss of the tank, Henry climbed into it and drove
it to a safe location. For his actions, he received the Silver Star. At three in the morning, the
Japanese broke off the engagement.
On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches. The
192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese
later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February 17 -
to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was
stopped and pushed pack to the original line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to
replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way
down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline,
against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the
back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they
got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do
this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would
pop and wound the men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank
Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a
time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the
pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to
eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began
to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U.S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were
cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.
The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been
hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
During the Battle of the Points, on March 2 and 3, the tanks were sent in to wipe out
Japanese troops that had been landed behind the main defensive line and than trapped. The Filipino and
American troops pushed the Japanese back toward the sea and wiped them out.
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking
out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many had
listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines, he said
, "There are times when men must die."
The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft.
A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.
This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the
On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on
Bataan. It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile,
since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more
day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be
massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order
, "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
all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to
rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
On April 9, 1942, Henry became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American frces on
Bataan were surrendered. He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnoll.
The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base which 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. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies
to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical
supplies to 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
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. 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 and was 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. 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.
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
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. In November, the death rate among POWs was still nine men a day. It was only
after Red Cross Packages were given out at Christmas that the death rate dropped. Sometime after this, he
was sent to Bilibid Prison. It is known he was there in January 1943.
From Bilibid, he went out on a work detail to POW Camp #8. The POWs on this detail
were held at the
Bachrach Garage on an island off Manila and repaired mechanical equipment for the Japanese. With Henry
on this detail was his brother, Maurice Lustig, and John Burke of A Company.
When it became apparent to the Japanese that the American invasion of the Philippines was
not far off, Henry and the other POWs were next sent to Bilibid Prison outside Manila in early October
1944. After receiving a rudimentary physical, he was sent to the Port Area of Manila as part of a POW
October 2, 1944, 1775 POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. When his POW
group arrived at the pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on, the
Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived at the pier.
Another POW detachment, scheduled to sail on the
Arisan Maru, had completely arrived, but their ship was not ready to sail. It was at that time that
the Japanese made the decision that they switch POW detachments so the
Hokusen Maru could sail.
On October 10, the POWs boarded the
Arisan Maru and 1775 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the ship which could hold 400
men. They were packed in so tightly that they could not move. Along the sides of the hold were
shelves that served as bunks, but the bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up when he
used one. Those standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five
gallon cans, which the POWs could not use since they were packed in the hold so tightly. This resulted in
the floor of the hold being covered with human waste. Anton Cichy said
, "For the first few days there were 1,800 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
, "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."
The ship sailed the next day, but took a southerly route away from Taiwan and dropped
anchor in a cove off Palawan Island. During the first 48 hours off Palawan, five POWs died. The POWs
realized that the Japanese had removed the light bulbs from the lighting system, but that they had not turned off
the power. They figured out a way to hook the ventilation system into the lights and had fresh air for two
days. When the Japanese discovered what had been done, they turned off the power.
The POWs began developing heat blisters, and the Japanese conceded that more POWs would
die unless they did something. The Japanese transferred POWs from the first hold to its second hold.
This hold was partially filled with coal. During the transfer, one POW attempted to escape and was shot.
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."
On October 20, the
Arisan Maru returned to Manila, where, it joined a twelve ship convoy bound for Taiwan. The convoy
sailed on October 21 after all the ships had been loaded. 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,
U.S. Military Intelligence, was reading the Japanese code as fast as the Japanese. To protect this secret,
they did not tell the submarine crews which ships were carrying POWs.
Graef described conditions in the hold.
"There were so many (that died ) out of 1800. The condition in that 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 were 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 ten of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the
POWs in the ship's holds and had fed about half the POWs. 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.
It was 4:50 P.M. when the Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship and watched a
torpedo pass in front of the ship. They next ran to the stern of the ship and watched a second torpedo pass
behind the ship. The ship shook and came to a stop. It had been hit by two torpedoes, amidships, in
an empty hold. The POWs began cheering wildly, but it stopped when they realized they were facing
death. Cichy recalled
, "When the torpedo hit everybody in the hold hollered 'Hit her again!' We wanted to get it
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said
"When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn't care a bit--they were tired and weak and
sick." He also said of the incident
, "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in
two. 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 the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the
U.S.S. Snook or the
The guards took their rifles and used them as clubs to drive the POWs on deck into the
holds. Once in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders into the holds and put the hatch covers over
the holds, but they did not tie the hatch covers down. Cichy recalled
, "The Japs closed the hatches and left the ship in lifeboats. They must have 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 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,
Cichy also stated
, "The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving
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
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 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 day before.
"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 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. 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.
Of this 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,
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
" The next morning there were just waves. Oliver and three other men were picked
up by a Japanese destroyer and taken to Formosa and finally sent to Japan. The next day the three men in
the boat picked up two more survivors and later made it to China and freedom.
In the end, only nine men out of the nearly 1775 men who boarded the Arisan Maru in
Manila survived the sinking. Only eight of the POWs would survive the war.
S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther was not one of them.
In 1945, his family received this message for his brother and him:
"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."
S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther died on October 24, 1944, in the South China Sea. Since he
died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.
After the war, Henry's father accepted his Silver Star and educational equipment was donated in his name
and his brother's name to St. Patrick's Catholic School in Janesville.