Pvt. Armand P. Smith was born on May 15, 1919, in Santa Clara County,
California. He was the son of John W. Smith and Renalda Vazquez-Smith, and the brother of
Earl G. Smith also a member of the battalion. In addition to Earl, he had
another brother, a sister, and a half-brother. He was known as "Arnold" to his family and
Arnold joined the California National Guard and was inducted into federal service on
February 10, 1941. With his tank company, he traveled to Fort Lewis, Washington. There, his tank
company was designated C Company, 194th Tank Battalion. In the late summer of 1941, the battalion received
orders to go overseas.
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.
In September 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California,
for transport to the Philippine Islands. The tankers were taken by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, and
ferried on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they received physicals and
inoculations by the battalion's medical detachment. The tankers boarded the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8 at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine
Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on
them and were removed from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00
A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the
ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping
lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the
U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was its escort. During this part of the trip, on several
occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time
it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26, and reached Manila
several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field.
The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the
battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The
soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything
that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the
wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their
tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more
attacks on December 10. The night of the 12th/13th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San
Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge. Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they
finally arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13.
After the 194th was sent to Calumpit Bridge area. On December 12, the tankers
found themselves attempting to make their way through an unknown area. One platoon of tanks took a wrong
turn and ended up heading toward Bataan. They finally made their way south through Manila and joined up
with the Southern Luzon Forces.
It was at this time that C Company was ordered to support forces in southern
Luzon. The company proceeded through Manila. Since they had no air cover, most of their movements
were at night. As they moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares being shot into the air. They
arrived at the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time their attempting to catch 5th columnists.
They remained in the area until December 24, when they moved over the Taal Road to San
Tomas and bivouacked near San Paolo and assisted in operations in the Pagbilao-Lucban Area supporting the
Philippine Army. One of the most dangerous things the tanks did was cross bridges with a ten ton weight
limit. Each tank weight 14 tons, so they crossed the bridges one tank at a time. On the 30th, the
company supported the withdrawal of the Philippine Army south of San Fernando on Route 3. They rejoined the
battalion on December 31.
The tanks withdrew through San Fernando at 2:00 A.M. on January 2, and fell back to the
Lyac Junction. The two tank battalions were holding a line between Culis and Hermosa. The tanks withdrew
from the line the night of the 6th/7th. While doing this, the maintenance section of the battalions
repaired abandoned trucks to use to haul food and the gasoline caches they found and bring it into Bataan.
That night, the 194th crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek, covered by the 192nd, and entered
The company, with A Co., 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from the Guagua-Perac Line to
Remedio where they established a new defensive line on January 5. That afternoon, C Company, supported by
four self-propelled mounts stopped a Japanese advance which kept the road open for withdrawing forces.
The next night, the tanks were holding the line when the Japanese attempted to
infiltrate under a bright moon. The tanks opened fire resulting in the Japanese losing half of their
troops. In an attempt to cover their advance, the Japanese used smoke which blew back on them. The
battle lasted until the Japanese broke off the attack at 3:00 in the morning. After this, there was a two
day lull in the fighting.
A Composite tank company was formed from the tank battalions and given the job of
protecting the East road north to Hermosa. This was a dangerous job since the tanks were in range of
Japanese artillery. The other tanks were ordered to a bivouac south of the Abubucay-Hacienda Line.
The tanks formed a new bivouac just south of the Pilar-Bagao Road and had a few days
rest. While they rested, 17th Ordnance and the maintenance sections of the battalion did long overdue
work on the tanks. Also around this time, the tank companies were reduced to ten tanks so that tanks
could be given to D Company, 192nd, which had lost its tanks after a bridge had been destroyed before they had
C Company and D Company, 192nd., were sent to the Cadre Road on the 12th but
returned on the 13th because ordnance had planted landmines which made reaching the road impossible. C
Company was sent to Bagac, on the 16th, to reopen the West Highway Road that had been cut by the Japanese, so
troops trapped behind the road block could escape. A platoon of tanks at the Moron Highway and Trail 162
knocked out an anti-tank gun, and with the help of infantry, cleared the roadblock.
It was also sometime around this time that these orders were issued
: "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at
visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be
fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside
and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and
expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
Both tank battalions held a line along the Balanga-Cardre Road-Banobano Road, so that
other units could withdraw which was completed by midnight. They held the line until the night of the
26th/27th when they withdrew and formed a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Road.
At about 9:45 A.M., a Filipino civilian came down the road and warned the tankers that
a Japanese force was on its way. The tanks, with four SPMs opened up on the Japanese when they
appeared. The fighting lasted 45 minutes when the Japanese withdrew having suffered 50 percent
casualties. This action prevented the Japanese from overrunning the new defensive line which was still
The tank battalions were given beach duty so that the Japanese could not land troops
behind the main line of defense. The half-tracks of the battalions patrolled the roads. At 2;50
A.M., a Japanese motorized unit was head coming down the road with its lead vehicle having dimmed
headlights. The 194th had a roadblock in place with guns aimed at various angles. When they opened
up, they caused heavy damage to the Japanese column.
It was also at this time that the tank battalions, without orders, took on the job of
protecting three airfields. The airfields had been built so a rebuilt Air Corps would have places to
land. About the same time, the fighting on Bataan came to a standstill since the Japanese troops were
exhausted and suffering from the same tropical illnesses as the defenders. To end the stalemate, the
Japanese brought in fresh troops from Singapore.
The Japanese lunched an all out offensive on April 3 breaking through the line of
defense held by II Corps. The 194th moved its companies to support the defenders along the line from the
East Coast Road and to the west. The tanks repeatedly were sent to areas where the Japanese had broken
through which was difficult to do since the roads were clogged with retreating vehicles.
It was at this time that the 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
Gen. Edward P. King announced at 10:30 that night that further resistance would result
in the massacre of 6,000 sick and wounded and 40,000 civilians. He also estimated that less than 25% of
his troops were healthy enough to continue to fight and would hold out for one more day. He ordered his
staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender.
Between 6:30 and 6:45 A.M. on April 9, 1942, the order "CRASH" was
issued. The tankers destroyed their tanks and waited for orders from the Japanese. The members of
the 194th were ordered the next day, to move to the headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group, which was at
kilometer marker 168.2.
At 7:00 P.M. on the 10th, the POWs were ordered to march and made their way from the
former command post. At first found the walk difficult, until they reached the main road where the
walking became easier. At 3:00 A.M., they were given an hour break before being ordered to move again at
4:00 A.M. The column reached Lamao at 8:00 A.M., where the POWs were allowed to forage for food before
marching again at 9:00.
During this part of the march to reach the main road out of Bataan, the POWs noted
that they were treated well by the Japanese who were combat hardened troops. Their guards were
surprised that they had surrendered and treated them fairly well. It was at Limay that the treatment they
received would change.
When the POWs reached Limay, officers with ranks of major or higher, were separated
from the enlisted men and the lower ranking officers. The higher ranking officers were put on trucks and
driven to Balanga from where they march north to Orani. The lower ranking officers and enlisted men
reached the barrio later in the day having march through Abucay and Samal.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. Once this was done, they
resumed the trip north, but this time they were marched at a faster pace and were given few breaks. When
they did receive a break, they had to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.
When they were north of Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march
easier. The POWs received an hour break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a
bayonet. After the break, they were marched through Layac and Lurao. It was at this time that a
heavy shower took place and many of the men opened their mouths in an attempt to get water.
The men were marched until they reached San Fernando. Once there, they were
herded into a bull pen, surrounded by barbwire, and put into groups of 200 men. One POW from each group
went to the cooking area which was next to the latrine, and received a box of rice that was divided among
the men. Water was given out in a similar manner with each group receiving a pottery jar of water
At some point, the Japanese woke the men up and organized them into detachments of 100
men. From the compound, they were marched to the train station, where they were packed into small wooden
boxcars known as " forty or eights. " Each boxcar could hold forty men or eight horses, but the
Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. The POWs were packed in so tightly that the
dead could not fall to the floor. At Capas, as the living left the cars and those who had died - during
the trip - fell to the floors of the cars. As they left the cars, the Filipino civilians threw sugarcane
and gave the POWs water.
The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell. The camp was an unfinished
Filipino Army Training Base which 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
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 acknowledged that something
had to be done to lower the death rate, so they opened a new 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
final POWs were transferred to the camp on June 4.
The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured on
Bataan and taken part in the death march where held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was
closed. It later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those men captured when
Corregidor surrender were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the
surrender came were sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese only
entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with. To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that
patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught,
were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW
successfully escaped from the camp.
In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule. If one
man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed. POWs caught trying to escape were
beaten. Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed. It is not known
if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120
POWs in them. The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting.
Many quickly became ill. The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group
lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood
The POWs were sent out on work details one was to cut wood for the POW kitchens.
The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years. A typical day
on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to
a shed each morning to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to
hit them over their heads.
The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little
English. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs
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
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.
Within a month, on Tuesday, June 22, 1942, he was sent to the camp hospital suffering from
malaria. He was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, August 29.
It is not known if he went out on a work detail while he was at
Cabanatuan and that he returned to Cabanatuan on Thursday, February 11, 1943, and was readmitted into the
camp hospital. No reason for why he was admitted was given or date of discharge date was given.
He readmitted to the hospital on Tuesday, April 13, 1943. Again, no reason or date of discharge was
given. On April 17, 1943, his family learned he
was a POW.
Why he was
in the camp, he was allowed to send home a form POW
which his fa
mily received in December 1943. On the card he selecte
d he was
" and sent
love to all."
In August 1
d's parents received a POW post
card from him. I
n it, he said
"Received three letters
from you and Babe. Hope everyone is well. Say hello to all my friends. Will be home
someday. Keep up your chin and don't worry. Hope Bill and Dave are well. God bless
you. Love to all.
What is known is that as American forces approached the Philippines, the Japanese
began sending large numbers of POWs to Japan or another part of the empire. It was at this time that
Armand was selected for transported to Japan.
October 2, 1944, 1775 POWs were marched to the Port Area of
Manila. When his POW group arrived at the pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on, the
Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived at the
pier. Another POW detachment, scheduled to sail on the
Arisan Maru, had completely arrived, but their ship was not ready to sail. It was at that time
that the Japanese made the decision that they switch POW detachments so the
Hokusen Maru could sail.
On October 10, the POWs boarded the Arisan Maru and 1775 prisoners were crammed into
the first hold of the ship which could hold 400 men. They were packed in so tightly that they could not
move. Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks, but the bunks were so close together
that a man could not lift himself up when he used one. Those standing had no room to lie down. The
latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans. 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
, "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, ten POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's holds and had fed about half
the POWs. Each day, each POW received twohalf mess kits of rice and three ounces of water. 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
At about 4:50 P.M., about half the POWs had been fed. As the POWs, on deck,
watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo passed in front of it. Moments
later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship.
There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water. It had been hit by two torpedoes,
amidships, in its third hold where there were no POWs.
At first the POWs cheered wildly until they realized they were facing death.
, "When the torpedo hit everybody in the hold hollered 'Hit her again!' We wanted to get it
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck recalle
, "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
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
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.
Cichy also stated
, "The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving
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."
, "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'
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. Glenn Oliver said
, "They weren't picking up Americans. A lot of the prisoners were swimming for the
destroyer, but the Japanese were pushing them back into the water."
, "I could see people still on the ship when it went down. I could see people against the
skyline, just standing there."
In the water, he watched as the ship went under.
"I kept getting bumped by guys wearing life jackets. Nobody wanted to share my planks. I
didn't ask them."
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.
Olvier and three other POWs were picked up by a Japanese destroyer and taken to Formosa. They later were
sent by ship to Japan. The men in the boat picked up two more survivors and later made it to China and
freedom. Pvt. Armand Smith 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. Armand P. Smith's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery
outside of Manila.