S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther
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, John, 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 funeral.
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.
By train, the company traveled to
San Francisco, California., where it
was taken by ferry 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.
Ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor. Henry lived through the attack on Clark
Field. The morning of
December 8th, December 7th 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
That night the they lived slept in or
under their tanks for protection.
O December 12th, 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
From January 2nd to 4th, 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
The night of January 7th, 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
On January 28th, 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. They also
took part in the Battle of the Pockets
and the Battle of the Points.
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.
From Bilibid, he went out on a work detail to
POW Camp #8. The POWs on this detail were
held at the
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 detachment.
The ship sailed the same day, but instead of
heading for Formosa, it went to a cove off
Palawan Island to avoid American planes. Within
the first 48 hours, five men had died.
It was discovered that the Japanese had
removed the light bulbs, in the hold, but
had not turned off the system's power.
Some of the POWs managed to wire the hold's
ventilation system into the lighting
system. This provided fresh air to the
POWs for two days. When the Japanese
discovered what had been done, they turned
off the power.
While the Arisan Maru was anchored off Palawan
it was attacked once by American planes. The
ship returned to the
Manila on October 20th, where, it joined a
convoy. On October 21st, after
loading bananas and other foods, the
convoy left Manila and entered the South
China Sea. The Japanese also issued
life jackets to the POWs which could float
for about two hours. According to
survivors, all this did was reinforce,
in the Americans, the fear of being
killed by their own countrymen.
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
it had been hit by two
torpedoes from the U.S.S.
killing POWs while those still
alive began cheering
wildly. A little while
later the cheering ended and
the men realized they were
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
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
Of the approximately 1800 men who had boarded the Arisan Maru in Manila, only nine survived the sinking, and only eight of these men survived to see the end of the war. S/Sgt. Henry M. Luther was not one of them.
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.
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