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, and 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 company.
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 Philippines.
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 barracks.
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.
17th Ordnance 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
. 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 Japanese lieutenant.
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
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.
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 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 one was 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. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed each morning
to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them over their heads.
The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little English. When he
wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs
Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was "Little
Speedo" who was smaller and also used
when he wanted the POWs to work faster. The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of
them. "Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted. He was the
meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason. He liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner
who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he believed was not
working hard enough got knocked over with it. 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.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. 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 to drive
their faces deeper into the mud. 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.
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
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. The death rate continued to be 9 POWs a day until Red Cross Packages were handled out
at Christmas, and other changes were made to prevent the spread of disease.
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.
As American forces advanced in the Philippines, the Japanese began transferring POWs to other
parts of the Japanese Empire. Paul was selected to be sent to Japan. His detachment arrived at Pier 7
in Manila and was scheduled to sail on the
Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail but couldn't since all POWs hadn't arrived. Another POW detachment had
completely arrived, but their ship, the
Arisan Maru, was not ready to sail, so the
Hokusen Maru could sail, the Japanese swapped POW detachments.
On October 10, 1944, Napier was boarded onto the
Arisan Maru. With him on the ship were other members of 17th Ordnance. He was one of almost 1775 POWs
were packed into the ship's number two hold
. 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 about the
conditions in the hold
, "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."
The ship sailed, 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.
Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20. There, it joined a convoy.
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
, "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
It was about 5:00 P.M. on October 24, and some 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 5:50 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, killing some of the
POWs. Those still alive began cheering wildly, but it stopped when they realized they were facing death.
, "When the torpedo hit everybody in the hold hollered 'Hit her again!' We wanted to get it over with."
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said of the incident
, "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two."
A little while later the cheering stopped when the POWs realized they were facing death. Overbeck
also commented on the reaction of the POWs in the holds.
"For about five second there was panic among us, but there were five or six chaplains who prayed fervently and
quieted the men."
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, Baltimore."
Cichy also stated
, "The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their
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."
, "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
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. 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 1775 POWs on the ship,
only nine survived the sinking. Eight of these men would survive the war. In 1945, his family received
"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 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.