StickelH

 

Cpl. Howard Frank Stickel


    Cpl. Howard F. Stickel was born in October 2, 1917, in Ohio, and was one of four sons born to William A. Stickel and Elenore Zwilling-Stickel.  With his three brothers, he was raised at 556 South 4th Street in Columbus, Ohio.  By 1940, Howard's family was living at 113 Beck Street, and Howard was working as a clerk at a leather company.  On January 20, 1941, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and assigned to HQ Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.

    After basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Howard was sent to maneuvers in Louisiana.  HQ Company did not actively take part in the maneuvers, but they maintained the equipment of the battalion during the maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the members of the 192nd were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they learned that they were being sent overseas.  Men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.
    The decision to send the 192nd overseas -  which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away.  The island had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
    When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore.   Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

    From Camp Polk, HQ Company took the southern train route, through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and up the west coast, to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California.  From there, they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they were inoculated and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment.  Those with minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave to see the island.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see 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. During this part of the voyage, smoke     
    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 remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards, he went o have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts preparing to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
 
    On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks. 
    At six in the morning on December 8, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength around Clark Airfield.  The tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first they thought they were American planes and had enough time to count 54 planes.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    HQ Company remained in the bivouac of the battalion during the attack since they had no weapons to use against planes.  After the attack, the tankers saw the carnage done during the attack.  The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps.  The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
    HQ, B, and C Companies received orders on December 21 to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.  After the attack, the tanks were repeated sent on wild goose chases against factious Japanese paratroopers.      
    On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.  The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28 and 29.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.
   
    The 192nd
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23 until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had been cut off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I, and one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks.  

   It was at this time 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 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 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." 
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."        
   
On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  George was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.

    Howard and the other soldiers were loaded onto trucks and drove to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  Outside of the barrio, the POWs got out of the trucks and were herded into a schoolyard and ordered to sit.

   The men were told to line up and required to kneel.  The Japanese stood in front of them with guns aimed at them. The Americans realized that the Japanese were preparing to execute them.  About that time, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car.  He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the firing squad.  The officer got back into the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered his soldiers to lower their guns.

    The soldiers were ordered to move, they made their way to a field in which the Japanese had set up artillery.  Not too long after arriving, the guns opened up on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Within minutes, the islands returned fire on Corregidor.  The shells, from the American guns, began landing among the POWs.  One group of POWs died when a shell hit the small brick shed they had hid in for protection.  When the shelling stopped, three of the four Japanese guns had been knocked out.

    The POWs were ordered to move again, this time the POWs had started the death march and made his way to San Fernando.  There, they were put in a school yard that had been surrounded with barb wire.  They remained there until the Japanese ordered the POWs to form 100 men detachments.  After this was done, they were marched to the train station.  At the station were small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The boxcars were known as "Forty and Eights," since they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into the boxcars and closed the doors.  Since they packed in so tightly, those who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floor.  When the train reached Capas, the living climbed out and the dead fell to the floors of the cars.

    The POWs walked 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 transfer of POWs was completed 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 Brothers.  Howard was assigned to Barracks 5, Group 2.
    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.
    Within a week of arriving in the camp, Howard was admitted to the camp hospital on Thursday, June 10, 1943.  The records for the hospital do not state why he was hospitalized or when he was discharged. 
    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.  It appears that Howard spent his entire time as a POW at Cabanatuan and went out work details from the camp.  In early October, 1944, Howard was selected to be sent to Japan. 

    On October 10, 1944, Howard was taken to the Port Area of Manila by truck.  His POW group was scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail, but his POW detachment had not completely arrived.  Another POW detachment, which had completely arrived at the pier, was swapped with his detachment and boarded onto the ship so it could sail.  His POWs detachment were boarded onto the ship that detachment had been scheduled to sail on to Japan.

    Howard was one of almost 1800 POWs packed into the number one hold of the Arisan Maru on October 11th.  Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks.  These bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up while laying down.  Those standing had no room to lie down.  The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans, but since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans which meant the floor of the hold was covered with human waste.

    Later in the day on October 11th, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa and dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days.  Five POWs died in the first 48 hours because of the conditions in the hold.  Being anchored in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes on Manila Bay, but the ship was attacked by American planes during a raid on the island. 

    Some of the POWs found that although the Japanese had removed the light bulbs in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights.  They hooked the hold's ventilators into the lighting system and had fresh air for two days.  When the Japanese realized what they POWs had done, they turned off the power to the lights.

   After this, the prisoners began to develop heat blisters.  The Japanese soon realized that if they did not do something, the ship would be a death ship.  To relieve the situation in the hold, they transferred 800 of the POWs to the ship's second hold.  During the move, one of the POWs was shot and killed while attempting to escape.  Rations for the POWs, each day,  were three ounces of water and two rations of rice.

    The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th, where, it joined a twelve ship convoy.  On October 21st, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea.  The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.  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 crews, of the submarines, that ships were carrying POWs, which made the ships targets for the submarines.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea, off the coast of China.  Some of the POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds.  Suddenly, at 5:50 P.M., sirens and other alarms were heard indicating submarines had been spotted.  The men inside the holds knew what was happening and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.

    The Japanese on deck began running around the ship.  As the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo passed the in front of it.  Moments later, the Japanese ran to the stern and 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, but the explosion did kill some of the POWs in the other holds.  It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.

    The Japanese guards used their rifles as clubs on the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds, but hey did not tie down the hatch covers.  When they were done with this, the Japanese abandoned ship.  The POWs had stopped cheering since they were now aware what their fate could be.

    Some of the POWs, in the first hold, were able to climb out and reattached the ladders and dropped them down to the POWs in both holds.  The POWs climbed onto the deck of the 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." 

    At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship.  As the ship sank lower in the water, some POWs took to the water.  The POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam.  Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking.  Those to sick to swim, or who could not swim, raided the ship's food locker to eat their last meal.  At some point, the ship's stern went underwater, which caused the ship to split in two, but both halves remained afloat.  The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.  

    A group of 30 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed them underwater with poles to drown them and hit them with clubs.  The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.

    Three of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, and the seas were rough, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs.  According to the survivors, as the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer and fewer until there was silence.  The next morning, they rescued two other POWs.

    Cpl. Howard F. Stickel died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru on October 24, 1944.  Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila. 


 


 

Return to HQ Company

 

Next