T/5 Paul E. Moser III was born in 1919 in Jeffersonville Township, Clark
, and was the son of Anna & Paul E. Moser Jr. With his older sister,
Augusta, he grew up at 310 Harrison Avenue in Clarksville, Indiana. After high school, he worked as an
accountant at a cresol plant.
Paul was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 29, 1941, and sent to
Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. He was assigned to the medical detachment of the 192nd Tank
A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most
of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00
A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30. Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within
the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of
personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was
from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on
January 13, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a
day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at
5:30. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in
until 10:00 when Taps was played.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.
During the maneuvers the medical detachment took care of injuries and snake bites the members of the battalion
suffered while taking part in the maneuvers. It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was informed
they were being sent overseas.
The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15, 1941 - was the
result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over
Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed
something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the
distance. 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 which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio
transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next
day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp
on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and
Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American
military presence in the Philippines.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San
Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations. The members
of the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies. Men with
minor medical conditions were held on the island and 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
tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in 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
U.S.S. Louisville 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 Date Line. 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 country.
When they 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 20th, 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 they had to
live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what
they needed and received 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
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 spent much of their time removing cosmoline
from their weapons which had the grease put on them to prevent them from rusting at sea. They also spent
a large amount of time loading ammunition belts as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark
Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank
crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor, the tankers learned about the attack. That morning, they were ordered to the perimeter of Clark
Airfield to guard against paratroopers. The medics remained behind in the bivouac.
At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after
the attack on Pearl Harbor, the soldiers lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. That morning,
they had been awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. The
tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the
planes were American, until they saw what looked like rain drops falling from the planes. It was only
when bombs began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
During the attack Paul and the other soldiers took cover in a dried up latrine near
their bivouac. After the attack, they saw the carnage done by the planes. 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.
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 and 13.
For the next four months, Paul provided first aid to the members of
the 192nd. Wherever the tanks went the medical detachment was near. Gen. Edward King facing the
reality that only about 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight and most likely last one more day.
He decided to send his staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender since he wanted to avoid the slaughter of
6000 wounded and sick troops and 40000 civilians. At 10:30, these orders were given
, "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
On April 9, 1942, Al became a Prisoner Of War when the defenders of Bataan were
surrendered to the Japanese. From Mariveles, the POWs made their way north against the flow of Japanese
horse artillery and trucks which were moving south. At times, they would slip on something wet and
slippery which were the remains of a man killed by Japanese artillery the day before. When dawn came, the
walking became easier but as the sun rose it became hotter and the POWs began to feel the effects of
thirst. It was at this time that the POWs saw a group of Filipinos being marched by the
Japanese. Looking at them, they realized that they had been hungry, but the Filipinos had been starving.
When the men crossed the Lamao River, they smelled the sweet smell of death. The
Japanese had heavily bombed the area causing many casualties and many of the dead lay partially in the
river. The air corps POWs in front of them ran to the river and drank. Many would later die from
dysentery at Camp O'Donnell.
They marched through Limay and they began to witness the abuse of POWs as they walked
through Balanga to Orani. At Orani, the men were put into a bull pen where they were ordered to lay
down. In the morning, the POWs realized that they had been lying in the human waste of POWs who had
already used the bullpen. At noon, they received their first food.
When they resumed the march they were marched at a faster pace. The guards also
seemed to be nervous about something. The POWs made their way to just north of Hormosa. where the road
went from gravel to concrete, and the change of surface made the march easier. When the POWs were allowed
to sit down, those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets.
The POWs continued the march and for the first time in months it began to rain which
felt great and many men attempted to get drinks. When they arrived at San Fernando, the POWs were put
into another bullpen and remained until they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men.
At some point marched the POWs were marched to the train station, where they were
packed into small wooden boxcars known as "forty or eights." They were called this since each car could
hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and shut the doors. The
heat in the cars was unbearable and many POWs died but could not fall to the floors since there was no room for
them to fall. The POWs rode the train to Capas were they disembarked the cars. As they left the
cars, the dead fell to the floors. The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed
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.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the
Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical
supplies 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 formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
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. The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily
basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. The
POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Most of the
food they grew went to the Japanese not them.Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120
men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. The result was
many became ill.
Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it
wasn't uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads. In addition, one guard frequently kicked
them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get
their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. While working in the
fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the
mud and stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food,
and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was
known as "Zero Ward," which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. The name
soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and
could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two foot wide by six foot long
area to lie in. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the
sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.
From medical records kept at the camp, it is known that Paul was hospitalized on
April 4, 1943. Why he was hospitalized and when he was discharged are not known. It appears that he
remained in the camp until 1944.
One day the POWs at Cabanatuan witnessed a dogfight above
them. For the first time, they saw that two of the planes involved had stars on their wings. When
one of the Japanese planes crashed near the camp, the POWs cheered. They soon heard the sound of
shelling. This was a sign that American troops had returned to the Philippines.
Knowing that it was just a matter of time before the POWs would be
liberated, the Japanese attempted to send the healthy POWs to Japan and other countries to work as slave
labor. It was not too long after this that Paul's name appeared on a list of POWs to be sent to Japan.
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
, "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 over
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 inciden
t, "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. 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.
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 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."
, "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."
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
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
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. 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. T/5 Paul E. Moser III 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 T/5 Paul E. Moser III was lost at sea, his name is inscribed on the Tablets of
the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.