Cpl. Glenn Stuart Oliver was born on April 28, 1919, in Minnesota.
He was the son of Stuart & Erma Stewart-Oliver. With his two sisters, he grew up in Aitkin Township,
Aitkin County, Minnesota. He graduated from Aitkin High School in 1937 and worked as a bookkeeper in the
Forestry Office of Civilian Conservation Corps. He joined the Minnesota National Guard on October 18,
Glenn married his high school sweetheart, Ester Marie Brown on February 7, 1941, just three
days before he reported to active duty. After his one year of military service, his wife and he planned on
moving to Tacoma, Washington.
On February 10, 1941, Glenn's tank company of the Minnesota National Guard was called to
federal service as A Company, 194th Tank Battalion. They were sent to Fort Lewis, Washington, for training
leaving on Thursday, February 20th at 12:19 A.M. and arriving at the base at noon on Sunday, February 23rd.
Since Glenn was a radio operator, he was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for radio school on March 18th. He
remained there for several months before returning to Ft. Lewis after qualifying as a radioman from the Radio
Electronics Repair School. In June, he returned turn Ft. Lewis and reported for duty on June 30th.
On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the
Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying
over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots - who was flying lower than the other planes - 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 hindred of miles away that had a large radio transmitter. The
squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before retuning to Clark Field. By the time
the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had
been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between
and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to
build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
In September 1941, the battalion was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to
the Philippine Islands. Arriving by train at Ft. Masin in San Francisco, the company was ferried, on
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical
detachment. Those men who failed the physical were replaced.
On September 8, 1941, the battalion was boarded onto the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
. The ship sailed the same day. The battalion arrived at Hawaii on September 13th, remained in port most
of the day, and sailed later in the day, but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes, where it
was joined by the heavy cruiser, the
, and an unknown destroyer.
During the voyage, on several occasions, smoke from unknown ships were seen on the
horizon. The cruiser revved up its engines and intercepted the ships. On each occasion, it turned out
that the ship belonged a friendly country.
The ships crossed the International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16, and the date changed
to Thursday, September 18. On September 26th, they arrived at Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., but did not reach
Manila until later in the morning. The soldiers did not disembark until 3:00 P.M. The maintenance
section of the battalion helped 17th Ordnance unload the tanks and reattach the turrets which took until the next
The battalion 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. They were
met by Gen. Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they needed. On
November 15, they moved into their barracks.
About a week before the Japanese attack, the tanks were ordered to their positions
around Clark Airfield. It is known that Pfc. Joseph Lamkin was a member of his tank crew. Two crew
members remained with the tanks at all times, both day and night. Glenn's tank's position was in some tall
Cogan Grass and bushes directly across from the control tower and maintenance buildings. They had orders
not to fire unless paratroopers were being used.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glenn
lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. He stated he was standing in front of his tank when two
formations of 27 planes each came toward the airfield from the north. The tankers thought they were
American planes until they heard the sound of the bombs falling from the planes and exploding on the
runways. During the attack, he was hit in the head by shrapnel and was hospitalized. He was awarded
the Purple Heart.
For the next four months, Glenn's battalion fought to slow the Japanese advance. On
December 26, 1941, his tank platoon, under the command of Lt. Harold Costigan, was in the area of Carmen at the
Agno River. As the Japanese advanced, Costigan realized that unless he got his platoon out of the area
that they would be trapped. He ordered his tanks through Carmen.
As the tanks advanced through the barrio, they were fired on by Japanese
guns. The tanks were firing their guns as they went through the barrio. The tanks made a sharp
right turn and received fire from Japanese guns. They continued out of the barrio as the Japanese fired
mortars at them.
While attempting to get through Carmen, a Japanese soldier managed to attach a thermite mine on
Glenn's tank in an flat outside area above one of the interior ammunition trays. The mine burnt its way
through the armor and fell into the ammunition tray. Glenn and the other members of his tank crew abandoned
the tank. Within minutes, the ammunition exploded followed by the aviation fuel that the tanks used.
The tank was completely in flames a few minutes later. Glenn and the other men were picked up by a crew of
At a road block, Glenn and Lamkin volunteered to remain behind at the roadblock under
the command of Lt. Colonel Miller. The roadblock consisted of two or three tanks, a half-track and
four SPMs with a .75 caliber gun. A Filipino came down the road and warned the Americans that a Japanese
force was approaching. When the Japanese came into view, the tankers caught them in a cross fire. The
men at the roadblock knocked out several tanks and killed about half the Japanese force before the Japanese
withdrew. Holding the roadblock stopped the Japanese from overrunning the new defensive line that was being
put in place.
On January 1, 1942, Oliver was promoted to the rank of corporal by Capt. Root.
Root assumed command of Company A, after Capt. Burke was captured. At 2:00 or 3:00 A.M., the Oliver was
part of a tank crew of 2nd Lt. Archibald Rue, Pvt. James Bogart, and Pfc. Joe Lamkin. Suddenly, they were
fired on by a Japanese machine gun. The men quickly entered their tank and Oliver fired on the machine
gun. The exchanges continued until Oliver heard the sound of a mortar round. He ducked but was
wounded. The small piece of shrapnel was later removed below his eye.
Also on January 1, conflicting orders, about who was in command of the area, were
received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and, at the same time,
allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders,
since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces
defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders
withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied
attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road
open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which
was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula
with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge,
and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
The night of January 7, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops
around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter
Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and
members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After
daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald
Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese
tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks
were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the
area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did
not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the
East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance
work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three
tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the
tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen.
Weaver: "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further
delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of
the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged
and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the
greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the
Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts,
fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks
which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and
inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until
the night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac
Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were
suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around
the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches, while
the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks
guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen.
"Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay
will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the
enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged
and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing
the greatest possible delay."
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at
Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and
half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used
against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles
except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations
were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of
tanks be sent to Corregidor.
On April 3, the Japanese lunched an all out offensive at 3:00 P.M., and the tanks were
sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance. 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 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving
sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
The tank battalion commanders received this order on April 8
, "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
When it became apparent to Gen. Edward King that the situation was hopeless and he
wanted to prevent a massacre since he only 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight, while approximately
6,000 troops were hospitalized from wounds or disease. In addition, there were approximately 40,000
civilians. The night of April 8th, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms with the
Between 6:30 and 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the word
that all Filipino and American troops would surrender the next day. Glenn recalled his tank crew drained
the recoil oil from the 37 mm canon, plugged the rags and a cleaning rod, and set the tank on fire. They
used a long lanyard to fire the cannon to destroy it. Once this was done, they were ordered to
Provisional Tank Group Headquarters and ordered to remain there.
The Japanese arrived the morning of April 10th and ordered the Prisoners of War to the
trail that ran near the headquarters. The trial the POWs were on ended when they reached the main
road. The first thing the Japanese did was to separate the officers from the enlisted men.
The Prisoners of War were then left in the sun for the rest of the day. That night they were ordered
north. The members of the 194th did receive orders to march until around 7:00 P.M. and were marched until
3:00 in the morning. At that time, the marchers were given an one hour break. At 4:00 A.M., they
began to march again. They reached the barrio of Lamao at around 8:00 A.M. the morning of April 11th.
There the POWs were allowed to try to find food, but little was found.
On the march, Glenn, Sgt. Ralph Hollingsworth, and other members of A Company.
In a blanket, they carried Pvt. Lyle Gravitt. They were given a rest when a Japanese guard ordered them
to move. On the ground, in the blanket, they left Gravitt. It was at a reunion 40 years later,
that Glenn learned Lyle Gravitt had not been killed.
The POWs again were ordered to move at 9:00 A.M. and reached Limay at
noon. It was at this time the Japanese put officers, with the rank of major and higher, in trucks and
drove them to to Balanga. These officers were than marched to Orani. For the lower ranking
officers and enlisted men, Limay was where they really started the death march. Up to this time, the
guards, regular combat soldiers, had shown a great deal of respect for them. As they got further north,
and the guards were changed, the treatment got worse.
They marched north through Orani and arrived there on the 12th. There, at 6:30
P.M., the higher ranking officers rejoined the march. The men noticed they were being marched at a faster
pace and that the guards seemed nervous.
The POWs made their way north to Hermosa, where the road went from gravel to
pavement. The change in surface made the march easier on the men. When they were allowed to sit,
those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets.
They resumed the march and at some point it began to rain. Many of the POWs
attempted to get drinks from the rain. About 4:00 P.M., the POWs reached San Fernando and were herded
into a bullpen. The ground was covered in human waste from previous POWs. They next made their way
to the train station. At 4:00 in the morning, the Japanese woke the POWs and marched them to the train
station and packed into boxcars that could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs
into each car and closed the doors. The POWs rode the train to Capas arriving there at 9:00 A.M.
They disembarked from the cars and walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put into use as
a POW camp on April 1, 1942. They believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When the POWs
arrived at the camp, they were searched and anyone found with Japanese money were separated from the other POWs
and sent to the guardhouse. These POWs were accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese
soldiers. Over several days, gunshots were heard coming from southeast of the camp as they were executed.
The Japanese also took away any extra clothing that the POWs carried with them and
refused to return it. Since there was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs threw away soiled
clothing and stripped the dead of their clothing. Few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing.
There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line from 2½ to
8 hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would turn it off, for no reason,
and the next man in line would have to wait up to four hours for it to be turned on again. Water for cooking
food had to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess kits could not be cleaned.
Since most of the POWs had dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which resulted in
flies being everywhere in the camp including the camp kitchen and in the food. The camp hospital had no
water, soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases to spread. When the ranking American doctor
presented a letter with the medicines and medical supplies they needed to treat the sick, the camp commander,
Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, told him never to write another letter. He also said that the only thing he
wanted to know about the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to the camp, but
the Japanese refused to let it into the camp. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a
Japanese lieutenant that they could set up an 150 bed hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the face by the
lieutenant. Medicines sent to the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese for their own
The sick POWs were put into the camp hospital and most of the men who entered it never
came out alive. The Japanese were so afraid of contracting an illness that they put a barbed wire fence
up around it. The POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the floor and operations were performed with
knives from mess kits. Only one medic, out of every six assigned to treat the sick, was healthy enough to
perform his duties.
Each morning, the POWs walked around the camp and collected the bodies of the dead and
placed them under the hospital building. To clean the ground, the POWs moved the bodies, scrapped the
ground, put down lime to sterilize the ground, moved the bodies back, and repeated the process where the
bodies had been. It took two to three days to bury a man after he died.
Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail for the day such as the one
collected wood for the POW kitchen. Some POWs went out on work details which lasted for months to get out
of the camp. The worse detail a man could be put on was the burial detail. On this detail, two POWs
carried a dead man to the camp cemetery. Once there, they put the body in a grave and held the body down
with a pole, since the water table was high, and covered it with dirt. The next morning, when the burials
resumed, the dead were often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs.
After arriving, Glenn quickly developed wet beriberi. This vitamin
deficiency prevented him from urinating and caused his body to fill with fluid. He was sent to Bataan to
do construction work. The detail was composed of 75 Prisoners of War whose job it was to rebuild bridges
that had been destroyed during the American retreat.
When the bridge building detail ended, Glenn was sent to Cabanatuan #1
arriving there on September 26. The camp had been home to the 91st Philippine Army Division and was
originally known as Camp Panagaian. At the camp, the prisoners were fed 16 ounces of cooked rice at each
meal, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and a sweet potato or corn.
The camp was actually three separate camps. Camp #1 was were those men who had
been POWs at Camp O'Donnell were sent. Camp #2 was four miles away from Camp 1, and because of its
water problem closed quickly. It was later reopened and house Naval POWs. Camp #3 was six miles
from Camp 2 and later housed the POW from Corregidor, from the hospitals on Bataan, and those who had been at
Camp 2. These POWs were generally in better shape then the men who had taken part in the march.
Frank was assigned to Barracks 10 at Camp 1.
Details at Camp 1 went out daily to cut wood for the camp kitchens, plant rice, and
farm. Each morning, when the POWs lined up for roll call, it was common practice, of the Japanese
guards, to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots. They also, for no apparent reason,
frequently hit the POWs, as they stood at attention, with a pick handle as they counted off.
The POWs who went out on the rice planting detail had to get their tools from a tool
shed. As they left the shed, it was the common practice of the guards, to hit the POWs, on the top of
their heads. If a guard on the detail decided that a POWs was not working hard enough, he was
beaten. They also would push the man's face into the mud and stepped on his head to force it down
deeper. The POWs returning from the details often were able to smuggle food, medicine, and tobacco into
The POWs were underfed and typical meal was 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of
vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. This resulted in many becoming ill since they could not fight
off illnesses. The camp hospital consisted of 30 wards which each holding 40 men. It was more
common for them to have 100 men in them. A ward had two tiers of bunks with the sickest POWs lying on
the lower bunk. Each man had approximately an area of 2 feet by 6 feet to lie in. A hole was cut
into the platforms so that those suffering from dysentery could relieve themselves without leaving the tier.
The barracks used by the POWs were built to hold 50 POWs, but the
Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each one. There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on
bamboo strips. In addition no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was provided which resulted in many
Zero Ward, which is where those who had little or no hope of recovering, were
sent. It got its name because it was missed when the wards were being counted. The wa
rd held those POWs who had little to no chance
of leaving the
. Most of those who died, died because their bodies were too weak to fight the di
ause of malnutrition. The Japanese were
so afraid of becoming ill from being near the building that they put up a fence around it and would not go
During roll call, it was common for the Japanese to hit the POWs over their heads because
they did not like the way the line looked.
If a prisoner was late for roll call or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole
placed behind the knees to cut circulation. The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over.
The POWs were sent out on daily 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
"speedo" 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 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 died.
At this time the death rate in the camp was 50 POWs a
During Glenn's time in the camp, Glenn worked on the burial detail and in the camp farm. On the burial
detail, the POWs worked in teams of four men. They would carry a litter to where the dead were lying and
put as many as six bodies in it before carrying it to the camp cemetery where they would be placed in a grave
which usually contained 15 to 20 other bodies. The POWs grew vegetables but were not allowed to eat any of
them. He and the other prisoners would steal what they could and eat it.
The death rate at the camp was still 9 POWs a day into November 1942, which dropped in December when
the Japanese issued Red Cross Packages for Christmas. In addition, other changes were made that
lowered the number of deaths.
Glenn was selected for another work detail and sent to the Pasay
School and built runways Nichols Field. He recalled he was drafted for the detail and left the camp on
December 6, 1942, and remained on this detail for 21 months.
They literally remove a mountain by hand to build the runway. The POWs had to
fill mining cars with rubble and two men pushed the cart to another area to be dumped. The Japanese were
brutal in their treatment of the POWs and Glenn witnessed the murder of two POWs and many beatings. Two
of the beatings he received. Meals for the POWs were leftovers from the Japanese kitchen and were often
fish guts. When the detail ended, he was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing for shipment to
The POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison on September 1, 1944. During this time he
was reunited with Lt. Harold Costigan. Costigan was nearly blind and unable to read. so Glenn read to
him. He remained at Bilibid for five weeks.
On October 10, 1944, Glenn's name appeared on a list of POWs who were
being sent to Japan. The next day, he and the other selected POWs were marched to the Port Area of
Manila. When they arrived there, it was determined by the Japanese that another group of POWs, which was
scheduled to leave was ready to leave. The ship Glenn's detachment of POWs was suppose to sail on, the
Hokusen Maru, was also ready to leave. Since his detachment had not
completely arrived, the Japanese switched ships. Glenn's group of POWs was boarded onto the
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 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. 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.
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
Graef described conditions in the hold.
"There were son many (that died ) out of 1800. The condition in that hold.....men were just dying in
a continuous stream. Me, 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, killing some of the POWs. Those still alive 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
He also said of the incident
, "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two. 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. "
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.
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.
Glenn recalled that he was on the port side and walked back to see the damage caused
by the torpedo. The deck was peeled back and he could see water inside the hold washing back and
forth. When a wave went under the ship the stern would wobble up and down and he heard the steel
tearing. Shortly after this, the stern tore off. After this, the rest of the ship began to take on
water quickly. When the water was about five or six feet from the deck, Glenn decided it was time to go
over the side and swan several hundred feet away.
As the ship went down, there was an eruption of water, air, and debris. As he watched,
he saw men still sitting on the ship's deck, standing on the deck, and holding onto the ship's railings.
Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was
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 he said
, "They weren't picking up
lot of the prisoners were swimming for the dest
royer, but the Japanese were pushing them back into the water."
Witnessing the POWs who had swam to the Japanese destroyers being pushed away, he remained
on the ship's deck. It was when the ship was six feet above water that he went over the side while many
were still on deck, he recalled
I could see people s
till on the ship when it went down
. I could see p
eople against the skyline, just standing there."
In the water he watched as the ship went under. What saved his life was that he found
wooden planks and held onto them.
"I kept getting bumped by guys wearing life jackets. Nobody wanted to share my planks. I didn't
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.
A Japanese destroyer approached him and a sailor who had been eating an orange threw it
into the water near him. Other sailors on deck simply stared at him with their hands resting on their
"I figured it I made the wrong move they'd start target practice."
The destroyer pulled away and steamed out of
sight. It was then that he heard a voice
"Can I come over?"
than that he met Philip Brodsk
y from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The two men worked to i
mprove their raft and made a pact that they wouldn't
try to kill and eat each other.
They were together four days in the
ea before they were picked up by a
different Japanese destroyer
that took them to Takao, Formosa. O
, they were questioned and assigned to another hell
Five of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to
help other POWs. Glenn heard someone shout if he could come over and join him. Glenn and another
POW, Philip Brodsky, shared a raft they made from the boards. They survived on their makeshift raft
until they saw a string of life rafts. The men swam over and attempted to stack the rafts on each other to
get out of the water. They remained in the rafts for four days until another Japanese convoy picked them
up. On the ship, there were two other survivors of the
Arisan Maru The ship took them to Formosa. One of the other
survivors died there.
During his time on Formosa, Glenn was held at Toroku Camp.
On January 14, 1945, Glenn was boarded onto the
. The ship sailed for Japan arriving at Moji on January 23rd. From there, Glenn was sent
. The POWs in the camp built canals for drainage. When he went back to work, Glenn worked as
Glenn weighed 85 pounds when he was liberated in September 1945. He returned to the
United States on the
U.S.S. Tryon being carried aboard on a stretcher. The ship sailed and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii,
on October 17th. It sailed again on October 19th arriving at San Francisco on October 24, 1945.
He was carried off the ship and recuperated at Letterman General Hospital before he was taken by ambulance to Ft.
Lewis. There, he was taken to Madigan Veterans Hospital.
Glenn was discharged from the army on November 11, 1946. He went to work for
ASARCO working with soldiers. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and trained troops for
the Korean War. After he was discharged, he and Ester moved to Tacoma, Washington, and became the parents
of two daughters.
Glenn worked as a television and radio repairman until he retired in 1982.
Glenn S. Oliver passed away in Tacoma, Washington, on November 25, 2012
was buried at Mountain View Memorial Park in Lakewood, Washington.