RootA

 

Capt. Arthur J. Root


 

    Capt Arthur J Root was born to Oscar Root & Margaret Sharpe-Root on August 24, 1917, in Brainerd, Minnesota.  He attended local schools and graduated from Washington High School in Brainerd in 1936.  On May 24, 1939, he married Harriet Alice Eide.  The couple resided with his parents at 220 Southwest 5th Street.  He worked as a salesman in a retail store.  

    On June 10, 1936, he had joined the Minnesota National Guard in Brainerd.  His company was federalized in November 1940, and he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on February 10, 1941, as the company was leaving for Fort Lewis, Washington.  The tank company was now A Company, 194th Tank Battalion.  At Ft. Lewis he trained with his tank company, as a tank platoon commander, for a little over six months.
    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 noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  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, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next morning, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, 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.

    The battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason, in San Francisco, and were ferried on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island, Arthur and the other members of the battalion received physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands.  Those determined to be too old for overseas duty were reassigned.  Replacements joined the battalion at this point.

    On September 8, 1941, the battalion sailed for the Philippine Islands at 9:00 P.M. on the S.S. President Calvin Cooledge and at 7:00 AM on Sunday, September 13th, arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii.  The tankers were allowed ashore but had to report back in the afternoon.  The ship sailed again at 5:00 PM. and took a southerly route away from the major shipping lanes and was joined by the heavy cruiser the U.S.S. Astoria.  During this part of the trip, the cruiser took off, several times, to intercept ships when smoke was spotted on the horizon.  Each time it turned out the ship was from a friendly country.

    The 194th arrived in the Philippines on September 26th.  After entering Manila Bay, the ranking officers met with a boarding party and decided the 194th and 17th Ordnance would be taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg, about 60 miles north of Manila.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload tanks.  Since the commanding officer of the instillation, General Edward King had not received  advanced warning of the arrival of the units, the tankers found themselves living in tents along the main road between Ft. Stotsenburg and Clark Airfield.  At some point, he became the commanding officer of A Company.

    For over two months, the battalion trained at Ft. Stotsenburg awaiting for additional training to take place with the arrival of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The M-3 tanks that they now had were totally new to the tankers, so training in them would be beneficial.  The training they would receive was not what they expected.  It is known that the 194th were allowed to simulate deployment against an invasion force in early November 1941. 

    Arthur and the other tankers engaged the Japanese in battle after battle.  Often, the tanks were the last unit to disengage from the enemy.  Meals for the crews consisted of two meals a day.  The longer they held out, their food rations were cut further.  It is known that on December 24, 1941, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and that he was promoted to Captain on February 11, 1942.  At some point he wrote home and said:


    "This is one of the warmest winters I have ever spent.  Everything seems strange but don't worry any.  We got plenty to eat and are well

     satisfied with everything.  Send me all the news from home."

    Arthur was able to send a telegram home on April 4, 1942.  In it he said,  "Everything OK, I am well, eating well.  Love, Arthur."  When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, he became a Prisoner of War.  The POWs were ordered to the bivouac of the Provisional Tank Group.  It was from there that they were marched to join the main column of POWs on the march out of Bataan.
    On April 10th, the Japanese arrived and ordered the HQ personnel onto the road.  They quickly stripped the POWs of their watches, pens, and sun-glasses.  They were taken to a trail and found that walking on the gravel trail was difficult.  They immediately witnessed "Japanese Discipline" toward their own troops.  The Japanese apparently were marching for hours, and if a man fell, he was kicked in his stomach and hit in the head with a rifle butt.  If he still did not get up, the Japanese determined that the man was exhausted and left him alone.
    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 and counted them.  The POWs were left in the sun for the rest of the day wondering what was going to happen.  That night they were ordered north which was difficult, on the rocky road, in the dark since they could not see where they were walking.  Whenever they slipped, they knew they had stepped on the remains of a dead soldier.
    The POWs made their way north against the flow of Japanese horse artillery and trucks that was moving south.  At times, they would slip on something wet and slippery which were the remains of a man killed by Japanese artillery the day before.  When dawn came, the walking became easier but as the sun rose it became hotter and they POWs began to feel the effects of thirst.   It was then that the POWs saw a group of Filipinos being marched by the Japanese.  They realized that they had been hungry, but the Filipinos had been starving.
    When the men crossed the Lamao River, they smelled the sweet smell of death. The Japanese had heavily bombed the area causing many casualties and many of the dead lay partially in the river.  The air corps POWs in front of them ran to the river and drank.  Many would later die from dysentery at Camp O'Donnell.
    At Limay on April 11th, the officers with the tank of major or above, were put into a school yard.  The officers were told that they would be driven the rest of the march.  At 4:00 AM, the officers were put into trucks for an unknown destination.  They were taken to Balanga, disembarked, and ordered to put their field bags in front of them for inspection.  During the inspection, one officer was found to have an automatic gun in his bag.  As punishment the POWs were not fed.  They set in a paddy all day and were ordered to move near sunset as punishment for the gun being in the bag.  They reached Orani on April 12th at three in the morning.
    At Orani, the officers were put into a bull pen where they were ordered to lay down.  In the morning, the POWs realized that they had been lying in the human waste of POWs who had already used the bullpen.  At noon, they received their first food.  It was a meal of rice and salt.  Later in the day, other enlisted POWs arrived in Orani.  One group was the enlisted members of the tank group who had walked the entire way to the barrio.
    At 6:30 or 7:00 that evening, they resumed the march and were marched at a faster pace.  The guards also seemed to be nervous about something.  The POWs made their way to just north of Hormosa. where the road went from gravel to concrete, and the change of surface made the march easier.  When the POWs were allowed to sit down, those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets.
    The POWs continued the march and for the first time in months it began to rain which felt great and many men attempted to get drinks.  At 4:30 PM on April 13th, they arrived at San Fernando.  The POWs put into a pen and remained there the rest of the day.
    At 4:00 in the morning, the Japanese woke the POWs and marched them to the train station.  They were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "forty or eights."  They were called this since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and shut the doors.  The heat in the cars was unbearable and many POWs died.  They could not fall to the floors since there was no room for them to fall.  The POWs rode the train to Capas arriving there at 9:00 AM.  There, the living disembarked from the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell.

    The camp was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base.  The Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.  When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them.  They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse.  Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp.  These POWs had been executed for looting.
    There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink.  The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again.  This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
    There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled.  In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed.  The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery.  The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
    The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant.  When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
    The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp.  When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
    The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them.  When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
    Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it.  The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria.  To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it.  The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
    Work details were sent out on a daily basis.  Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work.  If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work.  The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.

    To get out of the camp, Arthur was sent out on a work a large work detail that left the camp.  Another officer on the etail was Capt. Clinton Quinlen also of the 194th Tank Battalion.  The POWs on the detail were under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd Tank Battalion. 

   After the work detail ended, Arthur was sent to Cabanatuan.  It was in the camp that his wife was notified that he was a POW on May 27, 1943.  It is known that on Monday, August 23, 1943, Arthur was admitted into the camp hospital.  The report kept by the hospital staff did not indicate why he was admitted or when he was discharged.  On October 14, 1944, a list was posted in the camp with the names of the POWs who were being transferred to Bilibid Prison outside Manila.  Arthur's name was on it.
    Arthur was at Bilibid when on December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out.  The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection.  They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued.  The POWs were told they would receive a meal to eat and one to take with them.  The Japanese stated that the POWs would leave by 7:00 A.M., so the lights were left on all night.  At 4:00 A.M., the POWs were awakened.
    By 8:00 A.M., the POWs were lined up and roll call was taken of the men selected to be transported to Japan.  The POWs were allowed to roam the prison until they were told to "fall-in."  The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila.  During the march down Dewey Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
    At the port area, the POWs saw that the American planes were doing a job on Japanese transports.  There were at least 40 wrecked ships in the bay.  When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked.  One was a run-down ship, the other two were large and in good shape.  The POWs soon discovered that one of the two larger ships was theirs.

     The POWs were allowed to sit.  Many fell asleep and slept to around 3:45.  About 5:00 P.M., the POWs were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru for transport to Korea.  It is not known in which hold Frank was put in.  The sides of the holds had two tiers of bunks that went around the diameter.  It is known that 700 POWs were put in aft hold, 600 POWs were put in forward hold, and 300 POWs were put in the amidships hold.  The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from it. 

     The ship left Manila on December 14th, at about 3:30 AM, as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa.  By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water.
    The POWs received their first meal at about 3:30 that afternoon.  Meals of the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, and water.  Three fourths of a cup of water was shared by twenty POWs.  The prisoners had just eaten when they the sound of guns.  At first, they thought that the sound was just the gun crews drilling since they did not hear planes.  It was only when the first bomb hit that they knew it was not drill.  The waves caused by the bombs exploding rocked the ship. 

    The POWs heard the change in the planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy.  Explosions were taking place all around the POWs.  Bullets from the planes ricocheted in to the hold causing many casualties.  In all, the POWs would have to sweat out five air raids.  The one result of the raid was no evening meal.  
    At four-thirty in the afternoon, the ship experienced its worse attack.  The ship was hit at least three times, by bombs, on on its bridge and stern.  Most of the POWs wounded were hit by bullets ricocheting off the interior haul or by shrapnel from the explosions.  Most of the bullets hit the metal plates at an angle that prevented them from piercing it.  Bombs that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water over it.  Somewhere on the ship a fire started but was put out after several hours.

     After the first air raid, the ship was left alone by "playing possum" in the water.  The fighters went after the other ships in the convoy.  The moaning and muttering of men who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night.  That night 25 POWs died in the hold.  The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning.  It was a suitable landing place.

    Some time after midnight, the POWs heard noise on deck as women and children were unloaded.  During the night, the medics in the ship's holds were ordered out on deck to treat the Japanese wounded.  One of the medics recalled the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
    The ship steamed in closer to the beach and its anchor was dropped.  The POWs were told that at 7:00 A.M. on December 15th, they would be disembarked from the ship.  The POWs sat in the hold hours after daybreak when the sound of planes was heard.  When the attack on the ship resumed it came in waves. 
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions.  The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset.  Overall, six bombs hit the ship.  One hit the stern of the ship killing many.  Bullets from the planes ricocheted into the hold killing POWs.  The POWs lived through three more attacks on the ship.  The POWs noted that the attack was heavier then the day before.  

    At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the POWs, "All  go home; Speedo!"  He also shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated.  The pilots had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. 
    In the hold the POWs crowded together.  Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling.  About a half hour after the initial attack, the ship's stern really started to burn.  After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started.  A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them.  They know not what to do."
    The POWs made their way to the deck and went over the side.  To prevent any POWs from escaping, the Japanese fired on them with machine-guns.  It is not known exactly when Capt. Arthur J. Root died.  He may have died in one of the ship's holds, or he may have died after reaching shore. 
Since Capt. Arthur J. Root's remains were not recovered.  His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.  His family would officially receive word of his death on July 24, 1945.

    It should be mentioned that one of the effects of Arthur's death was that his mother suffered so badly from grief at the loss of her only child.  She ended up in a sanatorium.





 


 

 



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