|Cpl. Bruno J. Pierotti
At this time, little is known about Cpl. Bruno J.
Pierotti. It is known that he was the son of
Colombo and Odetta Pierotti and was born on October
10, 1914. With his brother and two sisters, he
was raised at 233 East Second Street in Pomeroy, Ohio,
and attended Pomeroy High
School and Miami University of Ohio, where he played
basketball. Before he was inducted into the
army, he worked in the the at the American Rolling
Mill Company in Middletown, Ohio. His father
died in 1934.
It is not known when Bruno became a member of the 192nd, but it may have been in early 1941 when Headquarters Company was formed. The company was filled with men from the home states that the letter companies had been National Guard Companies.
After taking part in maneuvers from September 1st through 30th, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, the battalion members learned they were being sent overseas. Men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 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.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. 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 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, 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 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, 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 16th, 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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents, but the fact was he learned of their arrival just days before they arrived. He stayed with the battalion until they had received their Thanksgiving Dinner. Afterwards, he went for his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the trip to the Philippines. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance. The battalion expected to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
The week of December 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard the airfield against paratroopers. The 194th was assigned the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion. At all times two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times.
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and ordered to their companies. HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps. John, and the other members of HQ, took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes. After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
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 10th and 13th.
The 192nd remained at Clark Field for two weeks until it was ordered to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing. For the next four months John worked to supply the letter companies with the supplies they needed to fight the Japanese.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and 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 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, 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 7th, 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 bridge.
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 Abucay-Hacienda Road.
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 25th, 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 26th/27th, 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 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, 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.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
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.
The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
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.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd. On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile. Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 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."
Bruno with his company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
Later in the day, Bruno's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles and left sitting in the sun for hours without food or water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs, who could do little to protect themselves since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed from incoming American shells. One group of POWs tried to hide in a small brick building but died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march they received no water and little food. At San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen and left sitting there for most of the day. They were ordered to form detachments of 100 men, and when this was done, they marched to the train deport in the barrio. There, the POWs were packed into small wooden
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner Of War camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp. To get a drink, men stood in line for days. Many died while waiting for a drink.
Seeing that they had to do something to lower the mortality rate among the POWs, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. The healthy POWs were sent to the camp, while those too ill to be moved remained at Camp O'Donnell. Camp hospital medical records, from Cabanatuan, show that Bruno was admitted on April 15, 1943. No illness or date of discharge was recorded in the report.
Bruno was selected for a work detail to repair trucks and other equipment for the Japanese. The POWs worked at the Bachrach Garage which was on an island off Manila. He was spent over a year on this detail. He most likely became ill and returned to Cabantuan.
At some point, Bruno was sent on a work detail to Nichols Field. The POWs were housed in the Pasay School over a mile from the airfield. Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows. The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942. The work was easy until the extension reached the hills. When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand. The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill. As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
At six in the morning., the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men. After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice. After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again. They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted. At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again, and when they arrived back at the school, they were counted one more time.
Afterwards, they would rush to the showers, since there were only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs. After this, they were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and after dinner counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
The brutality shown to the POWs was severe. The first Japanese commander of the camp
At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible. The other Americans were ordered back to the school. As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school. The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots. The American officer told the men that the POW had said,
The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf." He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform. Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up. The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups. If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him. He was dead by evening.
The Japanese, knowing the it was just a matter of time before the POWs would be liberated, began to ship large numbers of the POWs to Japan or another occupied country. On October 11, 1944, Bruno, with other POWs, was marched to the Port Area of Manila. They were scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru but the entire POW detachment had not arrived at the pier. Since another POWs had completely arrived and their ship was not ready to sail, Bruno's group was swapped with the other POW detachment so that the Hokusen Maru could sail. Bruno's POW detachment was later boarded onto the Arisan Maru in their place.
On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa and dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. Within the first 48 hours in the ship's hold, five POWs died. The POWs managed to wire the ventilation system into the lighting system which brought fresh air into the hold. The Japanese had removed the lights from the system, but had not turned off the power. When the Japanese discovered what had been done turned off the power.
Most of the POWs developed heat blisters, so the Japanese conceded that unless they did something about the situation in the hold, more POWs would die. The Japanese moved 800 POWs to the ship's first hold which was partially filled with coal. During the movement of the POWs, one prisoner was killed attempting to escape.
The stay in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes on ships in Manila Bay. It is known that the ship was attacked once by American planes while in the cove. The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th, where it joined a convoy with eleven other ships.
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. The U.S. Military also was reading the Japanese military code and knew their were POWs on a ship in the convoy. To preserve the secret that they could read the code, they did not inform the submarines of this.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, at 5:00 pm, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea, and some POWs were on deck preparing dinner for those POWs in the ship's two holds. Suddenly, sirens and alarms went off warning American submarines were in the area. The POWs in the holds starting chanting for the ships to sink the ship. The Japanese guards ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship. The Japanese next ran to the ship's stern and watched another torpedo pass behind the ship. There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water. Two torpedoes had hit the ship in its third hold where there were no POWs. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U. S. S Snook.
The Japanese guards used their rifles as clubs and beat the POWs on deck so they would go into the holds.2 After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie down the covers. The Japanese abandoned ship leaving the POWs to die.
Some of the POWs in the first hold were able to climb out, reattach the rope ladders into the holds, and dropped them down to the other POWs. The POWs climbed out of the holds and no longer were chanting. 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."
At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship as it got lower in the water. The aft began to take on water and go under. This caused the ship to split into two halves but stayed afloat. This was when most of the POWs took to the water. Those POWs too weak to swim raided the ship's food lockers, because they wanted to die with full stomachs. Many POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam, and jetsam. Three POWs found an abandoned lifeboat which had no oars. Since the seas were rough, with waves as high as fifteen feet, they could not maneuver the boat to rescue other POWs. These men stated that most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking.
The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark. According to the survivors, as the night got later the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence. The next morning, two more POWs were pulled into the lifeboat.
Only nine POWs survived the sinking of the Arisan Maru, and only eight lived to see the end of the war. Cpl. Peter J. Pierotti was not one of them. Since he was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila. He was one of three men from Pomeroy, Ohio, who died in the sinking.