Pfc. Kenneth E. Schoeberle


    Pfc. Kenneth E. Schoeberle was the youngest of the three children of Edward Schoeberle & Agnes Higgins-Schoeberle and was born February 18, 1916.  He grew up, with his brother and sister, on the family's farm and later at 1305 West Eastern Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin.  Ken attended local schools and was a 1934 graduate of Janesville High School.  After high school he worked in a tobacco warehouse and joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville. 
    On November 25, 1940, the tank company was activated as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  After packing equipment for a number of days, the battalion left for Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28, where it trained for ten months.
    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.   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 tank battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion expected to hear the news that they were being released from federal service.  Instead, they learned that their time in the regular army had been extended from one to six years.  Those men 29 years old or older were released from duty, and those remaining men were given passes home.  Kenneth returned home and said goodbye to his family and friends.          
    Returning to Camp Polk, Louisiana, the members of the battalion loaded their equipment onto flat cars as they prepared for their trip west to California.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were taken by ferry, the U. S.A.T General Frank N. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they were given physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippines.  Those men found to have minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the company at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was 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.   They 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 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, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.    
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
    On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two members of each tank crew had to remain with the tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.  The tanks were put on alert around the airfield.  At 8:30 A.M., American planes took off to intercept any Japanese planes.  Sometime before noon, the planes landed to be refueled and were lined up in a straight line near the pilots' mess hall.  The pilots went to lunch.
    The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45, and the tankers counted 54 planes.  The planes approached the airfield and the tanks crews watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When the raindrops began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The members of A Company lived through the bombing of Clark Field.  During the attack, they could do little since their guns were not made to use against planes.  For some reason, not known to the tankers, the Japanese did not attack the tanks.  Those that did dropped their bombs between the tanks.
    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, the tankers lived through several more air raids, so those men not assigned to tanks or half-tracks slept in a dried up latrine, near their bivouac, to protect themselves from planes. None of the men had any idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.
    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would be close to a highway and railroad to protect them against saboteurs.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.
    On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.


    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Two members of each tank crew had to remain with the tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.  The tanks were put on alert around the airfield.  At 8:30 A.M., American planes took off to intercept any Japanese planes.  Sometime before noon, the planes landed to be refueled and were lined up in a straight line near the pilots' mess hall.  The pilots went to lunch.

    The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45, and the tankers counted 54 planes.  The planes approached the airfield and the tanks crews watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When the raindrops began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.

    The members of A Company lived through the bombing of Clark Field.  During the attack, they could do little since their guns were not made to use against planes.  For some reason, not known to the tankers, the Japanese did not attack the tanks.  Those that did dropped their bombs between the tanks.
    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, the tankers lived through several more air raids, so those men not assigned to tanks or half-tracks slept in a dried up latrine, near their bivouac, to protect themselves from planes. None of the men had any idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.
    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would be close to a highway and railroad to protect them against saboteurs.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River. 
    On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed 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.

    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
    On January 28, the tank battalions 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.
    The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February 17 - to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed pack to the original line of defense.  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 each tank company was rotated 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.
    While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks.  These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire.  If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank.  The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank.  When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank.  It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
    Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time.  A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter.  This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
    What made this job so hard was that the Japanese dug "spider holes" among the roots the trees.  Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the Japanese.   
    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.  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.
    At the same time, the tanks were also used to clear out the Japanese in what was called "The Battle of the Points."  The Japanese had attempted to land troops behind the main defensive line and ended up with troops trapped on two different points on the peninsula.
    The Japanese Marines were driven to the cliffs and hid in the caves below the cliff lines.  They used the caves for protection and would climb down the cliffs to enter them or leave them.  The tankers fired into the caves repeatedly until the Japanese were dead or came out of the caves.

    The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat.  The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten.  They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.  
    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
    The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea.  By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.  Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave.  When asked about the Philippines, he said , "There are times when men must die."   The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.

    On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. 
    The Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan on April 7. The tanks were pulled out of their position along the west side of the line and 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.
   
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 accomplished."      
    Ken became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.  He took part in the death march and was first held as a prisoner at Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino training base 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.
    About ten days after arriving in the camp, Ken went out on a bridge building detail.  With him on the detail were Col. Ted Wickord, 192nd Tank Battalion Commander, Capt. Donald Hanes, Lewis Wallisch, Forrest Teal, Dale Lawton, Bob Stewart, James Schultz and John Woods.  The group was taken back to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. 
Once out of the camp, the POWs were broken into four detachments of 250 men each. 

    Not too long after they arrived there, Ken's group was sent to Calauan to rebuild bridges.  There, they were joined by Joel McCrea and William Nolan of A Company.  There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.

    The Japanese commander of the detail treated the POWs well.  He allowed a Filipino doctor to treat the men.  He also allowed the Filipinos to bring food to the prisoners.  The POWs were allowed to roam the barrio, but they could not leave the perimeter of it.

    Life for the POWs got worse when they were taken to Batangas.  The food fed to them was worse.  It consisted mostly of rice with some greens and salt.   Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed.  Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.

    From Batangas, the work detail moved to Candaleria.  There, the older Japanese guards were replaced with younger guards.  These guards were less tolerant and took pleasure in punishing the POWs.  Once again, the people of the town did whatever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs to attend the meal.

    When the detail ended, Ken was sent to Cabanatuan which 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, but 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.
    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 they returned.
    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 20 bodies.
    While Ken was a prisoner at Cabanatuan, he became ill enough to be placed into the camp hospital.  The term "hospital" was a generous use of the word, since there was no medicine to treat the sick.  After some time, Ken's health improved.

    In October 1942, Ken and other prisoners were loaded onto a ship and sent to Davao, Mindanao.  They were taken to a camp about 36 miles from Davao City.  There, the POWs were unloaded and used as labor.  Some of the POWs were used as labor at construction sites while others farmed in the camp farm.  Many of the POWs were ill and needed vitamins.  The fruit that was being grown on the farm could have helped the prisoners, but it was allowed to rot on the ground by the Japanese instead of being given to the prisoners.  Even the Japanese guards were not allowed to eat it.

    At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide.  A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks.  In each barracks, were eighteen bays.  Twelve POWs shared a bay.  216 POWs lived in each barracks.  Four cages were later put in each bay.  Each cage held two POWs.

    The camp discipline was poor, and the American commanding officer changed frequently.   The junior officers refused to take orders from the senior officers.  Soon, the enlisted men spoke anyway they wanted to, to the officers.  The situation improved because the majority of the POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive.

    At first, the work details were not guarded.  The POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.  The sick POWs made baskets.  In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied.  Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment.  They were beaten for not meeting quotas, for misunderstandings between the POWs and guards, and because translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

    Ken spent almost two years at Davao.  During that time, American forces were making their way toward the Philippines.  Bombings of Japanese installations became a daily occurrence.  It was at this time that the Japanese decided to move the 750 POWs at Davao back to Manila.
    On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindano, by truck.  Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed.  The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano. for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17.  The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse, until they were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship which arrived at Manila on June 25.

    From there, the POWs were taken to Cabanatuan.  When the Japanese began to transfer large numbers of POWs to Japan because the American forces were landing in the Philippines, Kenneth was among the POWs transferred to Bilibid Prison.  The POWs were examined to determine which prisoners were too ill to be sent to Japan.  A draft of POWs was made and Ken's name was  on the list of those being sent to another part of the Japanese Empire.

    When Ken's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila on October 2, 1944, they had been scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail, but the entire POW detachment had not arrived at the pier.  Another ship, the Arisan Maru, was not ready to sail, but its entire POW detachment had arrived.  So the Hokusen Maru could sail, the Japanese decided to switch POW detachments.

    Ken and almost 1775 other POWs were packed into the ship's number one hold on October 10.   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 sai d , "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 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."   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 5:00 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 5:50 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, killing some of the POWs.  Those still alive 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.  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 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 surviving POWs made their way onto the deck.  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 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."  The ship slowly 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. Kenneth E. Schoeberle 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."

    Since Pfc. Kenneth E. Schoeberle was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

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