| T/4 Andrew J. Napier was born on
January 23, 1915, in Breathitt County, Kentucky. He
was the son of Zachariah T. Napier & Lou Ellen
Mays-Napier. He had three sisters and two
brothers. In 1940, he was married, to Stella, the
father of two daughters, working as a coal miner, and
living in Knox County, Kentucky,
Andrew enlisted into the U. S, Army,
while living in Clark County, on January 14, 1941 at Fort
Knox, Kentucky. He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
with 19th Ordnance Battalion. While he was at Ft.
Knox, 17th Ordnance was formed, on August 17, 1941, from A
Company of 19th Ordnance. It is not known if he was
a member of the company, or if he was assigned to the new
The company also received orders on August 17, for
overseas duty. 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
On September 1, 1941, the company rode
a train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, on
September 5, and were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General
Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. It was there the soldiers received physicals
and inoculations and those men found with medical
conditions were replaced.
The soldiers spent three days preparing
their equipment and the equipment of the 194th Tank
Battalion for shipment to the Philippine Islands.
The turrets of the tanks were removed and the tank's
serial number was sprayed on each one so that it could be
reattached to the right tank.
The men 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 U.S.S.
Astoria, a heavy cruiser, 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 September 16 and the date changed to September
18. They entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on
September 26, 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 194th Tank Battalion and members of 17th
Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion's
tanks and reattach the turrets. The soldiers did
this in shifts and took turns sleeping on the ship.
The job wasn't finished until the 9:00 the next morning.
The soldiers rode buses to Fort
Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and
Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the
barracks for them had not been completed. The first
night in the tents it rained and their tents
flooded. On November 15, they moved into their
On December 8, 1941, Napier lived the bombing of Clark
Field. He and his company spent the next for months
servicing tanks during the withdrawal into the Bataan
Peninsula. It was headquartered in an abandoned
ordnance depot building. On April 9, 1942, his
company received the news of the surrender.
made their way south to Mariveles. From there,
they started what became known as the death march.
Napier and the other Prisoners of War made their way to
San Fernando. Once there, they were boarded into
wooden boxcars. The cars could hold forty
men or eight horses, the Japanese packed 100 men into
each car. At Capas, the dead fell out of the cars
when the disembarked.
The POWs marched eight kilometers to
Camp O'Donnell. The camp was an unfinished
Filipino Army Training Base. 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.
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
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.
It is not known if Napier was sent
out on any of the work details that left the camp
daily. The POWs were sent out on work detail 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. Other
POWs worked in rice paddies. Each morning, 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.
On March 15, 1943, he was admitted to the camp
hospital. The records kept at the time do not
indicate why he was admitted or when he was
discharged. It is known that he was still there in
early October 1944.
The camp hospital consisted of 30 wards
which held 40 men, but they frequently had 100 men in
each. Each ward hard two tiers of bunks giving the
sick an space of 2 feet by 6 feet to lay in. The
sicker POWs were put in the lower tier. One ward got
the name "Zero Ward" because it had been missed when the
wards were first counted. It soon became known as
the place those who were going to die were sent. It
was fenced off from the other wards and the Japanese
guards would not go near it.
On October 10,
1944, Napier was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.
With him on the ship were other members of 17th
Ordnance. He and 1802 other POWs were packed into
the ship's number two 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 if lying 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.
On October 11th,
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. This
resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American
planes, but the ship was attacked by American
During their time
in the cove, the POWs discovered that although the
Japanese had removed the lights from the hold the
Japanese did not turnoff the power. With a little
work, the POWs manage to wire the ventilation system
into the lighting system. For two days, they had
fresh air until the Japanese discovered what they had
done. They then turned off the power. The
heat in the hold got so bad that the POWs began
developing heat blisters.
finally acknowledged that they had to do something to
improve the situation and transferred POWs to the ship's
first hold. This hold was partially filled with
coal. During this transfer, one POW was shot and
killed while attempting to escape. The ship also
was attacked by American planes which were returning
from a air raid on the airfield on Palawan.
Maru returned to Manila on October 20th.
There, it joined a convoy. On October 21st, 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.
According to the
survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24,
1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck
preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two
holds. The ship was, off the coast of China, in
the Bashi Channel. Suddenly, sirens and other
alarms were heard. The men inside the holds knew
this meant that American submarines had been spotted
and began to chant for the submarines to sink the
The waves were high since a
storm had just passed. At about 5:50 P.M., as
the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the
ship and a torpedo passed in front of the ship.
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, but it still killed some POWs. It
is believed that the submarine that fired the
torpedoes was the U.S.S. Snook.
The Japanese guards took their
guns and used them as clubs on the POWs who were on
deck. To escape, the POWs dove back into the
holds. After they were in the holds, the
Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers
on the holds, but they did not tie them down.
They then abandoned the ship.
Some of the POWs from the
first hold climbed out and reattached the ladders and
dropped them to the men in the holds. 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."
The ship 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. 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, because they wanted to die with full
stomachs. Other POWs took to the water with
anything that would float.
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. The men in
the boat heard cries for help, which became fewer and
fewer, until there was silence. The next day
they picked up two more survivors. Four other
men were picked up by a Japanese ship.
T/4 Andrew J.
Napier lost his life when the Arisan Maru was
torpedoed in the South China Sea. He was 29 years
old. Of the 1803 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 Andrew J. Napier's name is inscribed on the Tablets
of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery
outside of Manila.