Pfc. Wilbur F. Russell Jr.


    Pfc. Wilbur F. Russell, Jr. was born on February 27, 1918, to Wilbur F. Russell Sr. & Charlotte Pannier-Russell in Youngstown, Ohio.  He was known as "Bill" or "Red."  With his sister, Marjorie, he grew up at 916 E. Pasadena Avenue and later lived at 250 Falls Avenue. 
    As a child he attended Taft Elementary School and Bennett Elementary School.  He then attended South High School and graduated in January 1938.  During Bill's time in high school, he participated in orchestra, in which he played the cornet and trumpet, at school programs and worked for different music teachers in bands.  He had his owb orchestra which was known as the "Red Russell Orchestra."  After high school, he worked as a crane operator at Youngstown Sheet & Tube.
    Bill was inducted into the U. S. Army on March 23, 1941 in Cleveland and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  It was there he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion to fill-out the company. 
    A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
    At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.  During his time at Ft. Knox, he qualified as a tank driver.  At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30.  HQ Company supplied the tanks and half-tracks with supplies and fuel.  They also did maintenance work on the vehicles but did not actively take part in the maneuvers. 
    After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas.  Men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service and were replaced.  Bill and most of the remaining soldiers were given leaves home to say their goodbyes.
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf 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 that a large radio transmitter.  The island was hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks with came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion traveled over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island.   At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations.  Men found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while 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 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He stayed with them until they received their Thanksgiving Dinner, which was a stew thrown into their mess kits.  Then, he went and had his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers. 
    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times. On December 8, 1941, Bill lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  That morning the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
    All morning, as they stood guard, they watched as American planes filled the sky.  Around 12:15 in the afternoon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  B-17's loaded with bombs to attack Formosa were left sitting on the runway.  Around 12:45, the tankers saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first, they thought the planes were American.  It was only when they saw what looked like confetti and heard bombs exploding did they know the planes were Japanese.  This attack wiped out the Army-Air Corps.
    Bill spent the next four months fighting the Japanese as the Filipino and American forces withdrew into the Bataan Peninsula.  During this time, it is known that he served as a driver for the officers of the 192nd and the Provisional Tank Group.  Major John Morley spoke of Bill driving him in his jeep. 
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was 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.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    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.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.    
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.          
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.      
    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge. 
    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.  Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag.  2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind. 
    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions, on January 28, 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.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. 
    In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line on Bataan on a small peninsula.  The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land reinforcements, they were landed in the wrong place.  The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known as the Battle of the Points.
    The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision was made by Brigadier General Clinton A. Pierce that tanks were needed to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts.  He requested the tanks from the Provisional Tank Group.
    On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point where the Japanese had landed troops.  The tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M.  He did a quick reconnaissance of the area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of the Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire.  The progress was slow but steady until a Japanese .37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks withdrew.  It turned out that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at the time.  The decision was made to resume the attack the next morning, so 45th Infantry dug in for the night.
    The next day, the tank platoon did reconnaissance before pulling into the front line.  They repeated the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gun fire.  As they moved forward, members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks.  The troops made progress all day long along the left side of the line.  The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they had to avoid so they would not get hung up on them.  The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver.  Coordinating the attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made by to bring in a radio car so that the tanks and infantry could talk with each other.
    On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived.  The tanks were assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order.  Each tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and infantry commanders.  This was done so that the crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could be ordered to where they were needed.  The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night.
    The attack resumed the next morning the next morning and the Japanese were pushed to the cliff line where they hid below the edge of the cliff out of view.  It was at that time that the tanks were released to returned to the 192nd.
    C Company 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.
    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.
    The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets.  But before this was done, one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter, was disabled and the tank just sat there.  When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there.  During the night, its crew was buried alive, inside the tank, by the Japanese who threw dirt into its vents.  When the Japanese had been wiped out, the tank was turned upside down to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew.  The tank was put back into use.  During this time, the tankers had few if any breaks from the fighting.
    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, which he declined.
    On April 3, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces  

    On April 8, he was driving Morley and Gen. We aver who were attempting to determine what was going on after the Japanese had lunched their major offensive.  Bill pulled over at one point, built a fire, and made the two officers and himself cups of soup.
    The evening of April 8, 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."           

    On April 9, 1942, Bill became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan surrendered to the Japanese.  Bill and the other tankers stripped their uniforms of anything that identified them as tankers.  They had heard that the Japanese were looking for them for what they had done at the pockets.
    Bill with his fellow POWs made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  There, they started what became know as the death march.  Because of their poor diets, most of the POWs were already sick.  After they started the march, they went days without food and water.  This resulted with the deaths of hundreds of POWs.  When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were herded into a bull-pin.  They spent the night sleeping in the human waste of the previous POWs who had been held there before them.
    The next morning, Bill and the others were packed into small wooden boxcars for the trip to San Fernando.  The cars could hold four horses or forty men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  The temperature in the cars was over 100 degrees.  Men suffocated from lack of air.  Those who died during the trip remained standing.  At Capas, the POWs left the cars.  As they did, the bodies of the dead fell to the ground.  Bill walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell which 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 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.  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 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.  The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
    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 Brothers.  What is known is that he was assigned to Barracks #8 in the camp.  With him in the barracks was Pfc. John Robinette and Pvt. Joseph Pevey of C Company.
    In early 1943, Bill was sent on the Bachrach Garage Detail in Manila.  The POWs on this detail repaired trucks and other equipment for the Japanese.  According to some on this detail, when the Japanese sent a tank to be repaired, the tank did not remain operational for long.
    According to Bill's family, after the war another liberated POW told them that it was during this detail that he became an aide to a Japanese doctor.  At various times, the Japanese attempted to transfer Bill to Bilibid Prison so that he could be sent to Japan, but the doctor intervened on his behalf preventing his transfer.  Ironically, the doctor's kindness would lead to Bill's death.
    On October 11, almost 1775 POWs were packed into the ship's number one hold.  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 1800 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, 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.

    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 carrying POWs.

     Graef described the deaths of the POWs hold. "There were so many (that died) out 1800.  The conditions in the 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 wee 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."
 
    Cichy said , "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 some 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 about 4:50 P.M. and, at first, the POWs cheered wildly until 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 recalled , "When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn't care a bit--they were tired and weak and sick."  He also said , "The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn't break in two."  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.  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.  The Japs took the two lifeboats aboard as all 300 abandoned ship.  That was about 5:00 P.M."  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the U.S.S. Snook or 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 men."   Overbeck also 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. 

    "But as 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.
    "Some slipped off their life preservers and with a cherry 'so long' disappeared."  
The ship sank lower into the water.

    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.  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."
    Oliver recalled , "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."
    Three POWs 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.  Pfc. Wilbur Russell was not one of them.
   
In 1945, his family received this message : "The information 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."
    It is not known if he died in the hold of the Arisan Maru, or if he died when the ship was sunk by an American submarine , but since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Wilbur F. Russell's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.   
    After the war, Wilbur's family also had a memorial dedicated in his memory at the Boardman Zion Cemetery in Boardman, Ohio.


 


 

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