| Pvt. Howard E.
Rickman was from Washington County, Oklahoma, and
was born in October 1, 1917, in Pineville, Missouri,
and was the son of Emmet & Ida Maude
Rickman. It is known that he had seven
brothers and two sisters, and at some point, his
family moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Howard was inducted into the U. S. Army on March
19, 1941, in Oklahoma City. He did his basic
training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, but it is not
known what specific training he received. In
the late summer of 1941, he was sent to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank
Battalion which had been sent to the base from Ft.
Benning, Georgia. Maneuvers were going on in
Louisiana, but the 753rd did not take part in
In October, Howard either volunteered, or had his
name picked, to join the 192nd Tank Battalion to
replace a National Guardsman who had been released
from federal service, because the man was
considered "too old" for overseas duty.
After Howard joined the battalion, he was assigned
to Headquarters Company.
The decision to send the
192nd overseas - 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
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.
The 192nd was sent west over four different train
routes to San Francisco. California, and ferried,
on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe,
to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where the men
received physicals and inoculations from the
battalion's medical detachment. Men with
minor medical conditions were held back and
rescheduled to rejoin 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 27. 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
On Wednesday, November 5,
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 9, the soldiers went to bed
and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11. During the night,
while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Dateline. On Saturday,
November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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 live in tents, but the fact was he had not
learned of their arrival until days before they
arrived. He remained with the battalion
until they had settled in and had their
Thanksgiving Dinner. Afterwards, he went to
have his own dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in
an open field halfway between the Clark Field
Administration Building and Fort
Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two
rows and five men were assigned to each
tent. There were two supply tents and meals
were provided by food trucks stationed at the end
of the rows of
For the next seventeen
days the tankers spent much of their time removing
cosmoline from their weapons which had been
greased to prevent them from rusting during the
trip to the Philippines. They also spent a
large amount of time loading ammunition belts, as
they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the
194th Tank Battalion.
Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the
perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion
guarded 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. Meals
were served to the tankers from food trucks.
At six in the morning on
December 8, the officers of the battalion were
called to the radio room at the fort. They
were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to
full strength around Clark Airfield. The
tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks
when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes
approaching the airfield from the north. At
first they thought they were American planes and
had enough time to count 54 planes. As they
watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the
planes. When bombs began exploding, the
soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
As a member of HQ
Company, Howard remained in the bivouac of the
battalion and most likely took cover in a dried up
latrine near the tents. After the attack,
the tankers saw the carnage done during the
attack. The Japanese had effectively
destroyed the Army Air Corps. The tankers
would spend the next four months attempting to
slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
HQ, B, and C Companies received orders on December
21 to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.
Because of logistics problems, the B and C
Companies soon ran low on gas. When they
reached Rosario, there was only enough for one
tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to
support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24,
the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.
The bridge they were going to use to cross the
Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an
end run to get south of river. As they did
this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in
the evening, but they successfully crossed the
On December 25, 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
27, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas
near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of
Cabanatuan, on December 28 and 29. While
there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was
destroyed, but once again, they were able find a
crossing over the river.
The 192nd took part in
the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942,
until February 13, 1942. The Japanese had
been landed on two points and been cut off.
The tankers were sent in to wipe out these
positions. According to Capt. Alvin
Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a
great deal of damage.
At the same time, there
was another battle taking place known as the
Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23
until February 17, 1942. Japanese troops had
been cut off behind the battle line. Tanks
from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out
the Japanese in the Big Pocket. According to
members of the battalion, two methods were used to
wipe out the Japanese.
The first method was to
have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank
with bags of hand grenades. As the tank
passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a
hand grenade into the foxhole. The reason
this was done was the grenades were from World War
I, and one out of three exploded.
The second method was to
have the tank park with one track over the
foxhole. The tank would spin on one track
and grind its way into the ground killing the
Japanese in the foxhole. The tankers slept
upwind of the tanks because of the smell of
rotting flesh in the tracks.
The Japanese lunched an
all out attack on April 3 against the defenders
and broke through the main line of defense on
April 7. The tanks were a favorite target of
the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while
hidden in the jungle where they 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 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
The night of April 8,
1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer,
gave his men the news of the surrender.
While informing the members of the company of the
surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and
told the men that they would no longer need
them. As he spoke, his voice choked.
He turned away from the men for a moment, and when
he turned back he continued. He next told
the sergeants what they should do to disable the
tanks. During the announcement, Bruni
emphasized that they all were to surrender
together. He told the soldiers to destroy
their weapons and any supplies that could be used
by the Japanese. The only thing they were
told not to destroy were the company's
trucks. The men waited in their bivouac
until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had
found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he
called , "Their
The soldiers found a mule which they slaughtered
and cooked for its meat. As they began to
eat, a Japanese officer and soldiers showed up and
took charge of the area. When the
Japanese order the Prisoners of War to move,
Howard and his company made their way to the road
that ran past their bivouac. Once on the
road, the prisoners were made to kneel along the
sides of the road with their possessions in front
of them. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers
passing them went through the POWs possessions and
took what they wanted. The POWs remained along the
sides of the road for hours.
After they had been searched, Howard's
company drove to Mariveles at the southern tip of
Bataan. Once there, they were herded onto an
airfield and left in the sun. As they
sat in the sun, without water, the
POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming
in front of them. The POWs realized that the
Japanese were forming a firing squad, and that
they were the intended victims. Just
when it looked like the Japanese were ready to
take action, a car pulled up in front of the line
and a Japanese Naval Officer got out. He
spoke to the Japanese sergeant in charge of the
detail and then got back in the car and drove
off. The Japanese soldiers were ordered by
the sergeant to lower their
Not too long after this incident, Howard and the
other POWs were marched to a school yard and
ordered to sit. Once again, they sat in the sun
without food or water. Behind them in the
field, were four Japanese artillery pieces firing
at Corregidor. Corregidor, which had not
surrendered, was also firing on the
Japanese. Shells from the American fortress
began landing among the POWs. The prisoners
sought shelter, but since there was none some of
the POWs were killed. During this incident,
the American artillery managed to knock out three
of the four Japanese guns.
Once again, the POWs received orders to
move. It was upon receiving this order that
Howard started what became known as the " death march."
The two hardest things about the march were
the hunger cramps and the senseless killings of
POWs who could not keep up with the column.
Those who could no longer walk were left
behind. The members of his company witnessed
many men flattened into the ground by Japanese
trucks and tanks as the equipment headed south
The POWs made their way to San Fernando where they
were put in a bullpen and remained there most of
the day. The Japanese ordered them to form
100 men detachments, and when this was done they
were marched to the train station. There, he
and the other Prisoners of War were packed into
small wooden boxcars
used for hauling sugarcane which were known as
"Forty or Eights," since each car could hold forty
men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100
POWs into each car and closed the doors. The
POWs were packed in so tightly, that those who
died remained standing until the living left the
cars. At Capas, the living climbed out of
the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp
The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base
that was pressed 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
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. When the Archbishop of
Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the
camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into
the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent
medical supplies to 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
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 and was known as Camp Panagaian.
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 camp.
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
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 "speedo."
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
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.
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
In early 1943, Howard was sent to the Bachrach
Garage in Manila. There, he and the other
prisoners repaired cars and trucks for the
Japanese. He remained on this detail for 20
months when the detail was ended.
October 2, 1944,
1775 POWs were marched to the Port Area of
Manila. When his POW group arrived at the
pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on,
the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but
some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived
at the pier. Another POW detachment,
scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, had
completely arrived, but their ship was not ready
to sail. It was at that time that the
Japanese made the decision that they switch POW
detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.
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 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, "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
Of this time,
Graef said, "As
we moved through the tropical waters, the heat
down in the steel-encased hell hole was
maddening. We were allowed three ounces
of water per man every 24 hours. Quarts
were needed under these conditions, to keep a
man from dehydrating.
"While men were dying of thirst, Jap
guards--heaping insults on us--would empty
five gallon tins of fresh water into the
hold. Men caught the water in pieces of
clothing and sucked the cloth dry. Men
licked their wet skins. It was hell all
right. Men went mad."
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
conditions in the hold. "There were so many (that
died ) out of 1800. The condition in
that hold.....men were just dying in a
continuous stream. Men, 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, in an empty hold. The POWs 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 with."
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said, "When the torpedoing
happened, most of the Americans didn't care a
bit--they were tired and weak and sick."
He also said of the incident, "The third torpedo struck
squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but
it didn't break in two. For about five
second there was panic among us, but there
were five or six chaplains who prayed
fervently and quieted the men. 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. The Japs took the two
lifeboats aboard as all 300 abandoned
ship. Most of the prisoners were
American, with a few British. That was
about 5:00 P.M." It
is believed the submarine that fired the torpedoes
was either the U.S.S. Snook
or the U.S.S. Shark.
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 own."
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
stated, "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.
darkness settled and our hopes for life
flickered, we felt absolutely no resentment
for the Allied submarine that had sent the
torpedo crashing in. We knew they could
not tell who was aboard the freighter, and as
far as the Navy could have known the ship
could have been carrying Jap troops. The
men were brave and none complained.
off their life preservers and with a cherry
'so long' disappeared."
The ship slowly sank lower into the water.
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. Most of the POWs were still
on deck even after it became apparent that the
ship was sinking. 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 Glenn Oliver said, "They weren't picking up
Americans. A lot of the prisoners were
swimming for the destroyer, but the Japanese
were pushing them back into the water."
"I could see people still
on the ship when it went down. I could
see people against the skyline, just standing
there." In the
water he watched as the ship went under.
"I kept getting
bumped by guys wearing life jackets.
Nobody wanted to share my planks. I
didn't ask them."
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. Oliver - who was
not in the boat - stated 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 it."
The next morning there were just
waves. Oliver and three other men were
picked up by a Japanese destroyer and taken to
Formosa and finally sent to Japan. The next
day the three men in the boat picked up two more
survivors and later made it to China and freedom.
In the end, only
nine men out of the nearly 1775 men who boarded
the Arisan Maru in Manila survived the
sinking. Only eight of the POWs would
survive the war. Pvt. Howard E. Rickman was
not one of them.
1945, his family received this message:
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 died at
sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the
Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside