Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson
| Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson was born
in 1921 and was the son of Clarence A. Peterson
and Orpha Flora-Peterson. With his three
brothers and sister, he grew up in Dodgeville,
Wisconsin. It is known that in 1930, he was
living with his grandparents on his mother's
side of the family. It appears his parents
divorced and his mother would later marry J. W.
Brackin. He moved to Janesville in 1938, and
in 1939, Marvel was living at 319 North Jackson
Street. Sometime after arriving in
Janesville he made an important decision and
joined the Wisconsin National Guard.
On November 25, 1940, his National Guard company
was designated A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion,
and on November 28th rode a train to Fort Knox,
Kentucky, for one year of federal duty. It
was there that the tankers attended various
schools for specific training. It is not
known what training Marvel received.
After nearly a year of training, Marvel took
part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September
1st through 30th. It was after these
maneuvers that he and the other members of his
tank battalion were ordered to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It
was on the side of a hill, that the tankers
learned they were going overseas as part of
Operation PLUM. Within hours, the tankers
had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines,
The company traveled by train to San
Francisco, California, and was taken
by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. On the island, they
received inoculations and
physicals. Those members of
the battalion who were found to have
treatable medical conditions
remained behind on the island and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at
a later date. Other men were
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter
Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had
been bombed by the Japanese. The tanks
were brought up to full strength at the
airfield. Many of the men believed this
was the start of the maneuvers. At 8:30
A.M., American took off to intercept any
Japanese planes. Sometime
before noon, the planes landed to be refueled
and lined up near the mess hall, and the pilots
went to lunch.
were eating lunch when planes were seen
approaching the airfield from the north at
about 12:45. Many of the tankers had
enough time to count 54 planes. As the
planes approached the airfield, the tankers
watched what was described as "raindrops"
falling from the planes. When bombs
began exploding on the runways, the tankers
knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were
finished, there was not much
left of the airfield.
The tankers watched as the
dead, dying, and wounded
were hauled to the hospital
on bomb racks, trucks, and
anything else that could
carry the wounded was in
use. When the hospital
filled, they watched the
medics placed the wounded
under the building.
Many of these men had their
arms and legs missing.
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to
an area east of Pampanga. It was there
that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt.
William Read. The company returned to the
command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve
kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on
the China Sea. By this point, the tankers
knew that there was no help on the way.
Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L.
Stimson on short wave. When asked about
the Philippines, he said,
"There are times when men must die."
The soldiers cursed in response because they
knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Marvel volunteered to go out on a work detail to Pampanga Province. This was a scrap metal detail and the POWs' job was to drive disabled vehicles. The vehicles were tied together by rope and tied to an operating vehicle. A POW sat in each vehicle driving it as they were pulled to San Fernando. From San Fernando, the vehicles were taken to Manila and sent to Japan as scrap metal.
At some point, Marvel may have broken a rule, since he was sent to the Provincial Hospital at Pampanga with bruises which were the result of a beating. On August 24th, Marvel was taken by the Japanese from the hospital but it is not known if he returned to the detail or taken to Cabanatuan. It is known he was held at Cabanatuan which had been opened while he was on the work detail.
1943, Marvel went out on the Las Pinas Work
which was also known as the Pasay School
Detail, since the POWs were housed at
the Pasay School in eighteen
classrooms. 30 POWs were assigned
to sleep in each room. The POWs
were used to extend and widen runways
for the Japanese Navy at Nielsen Field.
The plans for this expansion came
from the American Army which had drawn
them up before the war, but the Japanese
wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a
mile long going through hills and a
The brutality shown to the POWs
the camp, a
was called the
the camp for
The Japanese realizing that the Americans would
be invading the Philippines ended the detail,
and Marvel was sent to Bilibid Prison, where he
remained until October 1944. In
October 1944, Marvel was marched to the Port
Area of Manila to be sent to Japan.
When they arrived, the ship they were
scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru,
was ready to sail, but the entire POW
detachment had not arrived at the
pier. There was another detachment of
POWs which had completely arrived but was
waiting because their ship, the Arisan
Maru was not ready to sail.
After this was done, the POWs began to develop heat blisters. The Japanese soon realized that if they did not do something, the ship would be a death ship. To relieve the situation in the hold, they transferred 600 of the POWs to the ship's second hold which was partially filled with coal. During the move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape. During this time, the POWs, each day, were allowed three ounces of water and every 24 hours, the POWs received two half a mess kits of rice.
On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila,
joined twelve other ships bound for the Island
of Formosa. The convoy left Manila on
October 21st, and by Tuesday, October 24, 1944,
the convoy, including the Arisan Maru
was in the Bashi Channel of the South China
Suddenly the Arisan
it had been hit by two
torpedoes from the U.S.S.
killing POWs while those still
alive began cheering
wildly. A little while
later the cheering ended and
the men realized they were
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
Five POWs found an abandoned life boat and were
able climb into it, but found that there were no
oars. With the rough seas, they could not
maneuver the boat to help other POWs.
Other POWs attempted to use anything that would
float. The exact time of the ship's
sinking is not known since it sunk sometime
Although most of the prisoners survived the submarine attack, they died when the Japanese refused rescue them. According to U. S. Army records, Cpl. Marvel V. Peterson died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on October 24, 1944. Since he was lost at sea, his name appears of The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila. Unfortunately, he is inaccurately listed as a member of the 194th Tank Battalion on the tablets.