| 2nd Lt. George
A. Van Arsdall was born on November 18, 1912, in
Harrodsburg, Kentucky, to Riker Van Arsdall &
Maude Rose-Van Arsdall. He had four brothers
and three sisters and was known as "Jimmy" to his
friends and family. George grew up at 108
North Greenville Street , Harrodsburg, and attended
local schools .
George joined the 38th Tank
Company of the Kentucky National Guard which was
headquartered in an armory in Harrodsburg.
He worked as a farmer and married to Esther
McNarmer and the couple became the parents of a
daughter. On November 25, 1940, his tank
company was federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank
George with the company trained at Ft. Knox,
Kentucky for nearly a year. During this time
he served as the company's mess officer, supply
officer, and maintenance officer. He married
Esther Louise McNamer in Sommerset, New York, on
November 3, 1940. In early 1941, he was
transferred to Headquarters Company when the
company was formed with men from the four letter
companies of the battalion.
After maneuvers in Louisiana in late 1941, George
and the other men learned that they were not being
released from federal duty as expected.
Instead, they were told that their time in the
regular army had been extended from one to six
years. It was at this time that George was
given the job of maintenance officer.
the battalion was being sent to the Philippines
was because of an event that happened during the
summer of 1941. A squadron of American
fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of
the pilots - whose plane was lower than the others
- noticed something odd. He took his plane
down and identified a flagged buoy in the water
and another in the distance. He came upon
more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in
the direction of an Japanese occupied island,
hundreds of miles to the northwest, which had a
large radio transmitter. The squadron
continued its flight plan and landed in the
Since it was too late to do
anything that day, another squadron was sent to
the area the next day, but the buoys had been
picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its
way to shore. Since communication between
the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was sent
to the area to intercept the boat. It was at
that time the decision was made to build up the
American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west by train to San
Francisco. Arriving there, they were taken
by ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M.
Coxe, to Angel Island in San Francisco
Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given
physicals and inoculated by the battalion's
medical detachment. Those men found to
have a minor medical condition were held back and
scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later
date. Some 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. The
ship 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
On Wednesday, November 5, the
ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route
away from the main shipping lanes. It was at
this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the
U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport,
the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge.
Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed
and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11. During the night,
while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Dateline. On Saturday,
November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen
on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its
engines, its bow came out of the water, and it
shot off in the direction of the smoke. It
turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged
to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on
Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water,
bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing
for Manila the next day. At one point, the
ships passed an island at night and did so in
total blackout. This for many of the
soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into
harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at
8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at
Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M.,
most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft.
Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove
them to the fort, while the maintenance section
remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by
Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to
live in tents along the main road between the fort
and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they
had what they needed and 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.
The members of the battalion
pitched the tents in an open field halfway between
the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort
Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two
rows and five men were assigned to each
tent. There were two supply tents and meals
were provided by food trucks stationed at the end
of the rows of tents. Upon arrival at the
fort, George was put into the hospital because he
had developed tuberculosis.
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
The morning of December 8, 1941, George and the
other members of the battalion learned that the
Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. They
were put on alert. Around 12:45 in the
afternoon, George lived through the Japanese
attack on Clark Field.
Being assigned to HQ, George most likely saw
little or no front-line action. But,
since there was no American Air Force, he lived
through the constant strafing and bombing.
It was while George was fighting in the
Philippines that he became a father when his wife
gave birth to a son.
At some point, George developed a lung infection,
but it is not known how long he had it. George
and the rest of HQ Company learned of the surrender
from Capt. Fred Bruni. They were told to
destroy their weapons and wait. They were now
Prisoners of War. Two days later, they were
ordered out onto the road by the Japanese and told
As they knelt alongside the road, the Japanese
took whatever they wanted from the soldiers.
They were then told to make their way south to
Mariveles. The members of HQ Company road
trucks south to Mariveles. They got out of
the trucks and ordered to the airfield. Once
there, they were told to wait.
As the soldiers stood facing the
Japanese guards, it appeared that the Japanese
were going to execute the prisoners. Out of
the car climbed a Japanese officer, the officer
gave orders to the soldiers that they were not to
kill the POWs. After doing this, he got back
into the car and it drove off.
George and the other POWs were ordered to moved to
a school yard where they were made to kneel in the
sun without food or water. They soon realized that
behind them were Japanese artillery firing on
Corregidor and Ft. Drum. The American guns
on the island and at Ft. Drum began returning
fire. Shells from the American guns began
landing around the POWs. The men had no
place to hide and several were killed. Three
of the four Japanese guns were also destroyed.
It was from Mariveles late in the afternoon that
George began what would later become known as the
Bataan Death March. The first night the POWs
were marched all night. The first place that they
were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machine
gun nest. Corregidor was shelling the area
and several of the shells landed among the POWs
George and the
other POWs were lined up and marched all night the
first night. They marched for days and were
told there would be food and water at the next
stop; but these were lies to keep the prisoners
going. During every hour, the POWs received
a five minute break. The Japanese would
change guards and keep the POWs
What made things worse was as they marched, they
came across artesian wells and watering holes, but
they were denied their request for water.
The Japanese would chase the POWs away from the
wells. It got to the point that even though
the Japanese attempted to keep the prisoners from
the water they still went to the wells. This
resulted in the deaths of many men who were
bayoneted while getting water.
The lack of food and water caused physical
disabilities; such as, the prisoners' mouths
swelling and their tongues splitting open.
If the prisoners drank the water, they were often
As the prisoners marched, the guards promised them
food and water at the next stop. George went
three days and nights without food or water.
At San Fernando, he and the other men were herded
George and the other POWs were taken to a train
station. At the train station, they were
packed into small wooden boxcars and rode to
Capas. At Capas, they got out of the boxcars
and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell
which was an unfinished Filipino training base
that was pressed into use as a POW camp on April
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
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
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.
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
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 consisted of
30 wards that could hold 40 men each, but it was
more common for them to have 100 men in
them. Each man had approximately an area of
2 feet by 6 feet to lie in. The sickest POWs
were put in "Zero Ward," which was called this
because it was missed by the Japanese when they
counted barracks. The Japanese put a fence
up around the building to protect themselves and
would not go into the area. 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.
Camp medical records indicate
that July 21, 1942, George was admitted to the
camp hospital. The records do not show why
he was admitted to the hospital or when he was
It should be noted that a month
after George became a POW, his wife gave birth to
a son. In one of the seven POW cards that he
was allowed to send home, he mentioned that he had
received the photo of his son.
At some point, George was selected to go out on the
Nichols Airfield on the Las Pinas Work Detail.
With him was Capt. Edwin Rue.
This detail quickly became known as a death detail
because of the large number of POWs who died from
being overworked and abused by the Japanese.
The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay
School in eighteen rooms. 30 POWs were
assigned to a room. The POWs were used to
extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.
The plans for this expansion came from the
American Army which had drawn them up before the
war. The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards
wide and a mile long going through hills and a
Unlike the Americans, the
Japanese had no plans on using construction
equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do
the work with picks, shovels, and wheel
barrows. The first POWs arrived at Pasay in
August 1942. The work was easy until the
extension reached the hills. When the
extension reached the hills, some of which were 80
feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.
The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with
mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and
dumped as land-fill. As the work became
harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
At six A.M., the POWs had
reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in
detachments of 100 men. After this came
breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.
After breakfast, there was a second count of all
POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before
the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
After arriving at the airfield,
they were counted again. They went to a tool
shed and received their tools; once again they
were counted. At the end of the work day,
the POWs were counted again. When they
arrived back at the school, they were counted
again. Then, they would rush to the showers,
since there only six showers and toilets for over
500 POWs. They were fed dinner, another meal
of fish and rice and than counted one final time.
Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.
The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt.
Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore
a spotless naval uniform. He was commander
of the camp for slightly over thirteen
months. One day a POW collapsed while
working on the runway. Moto was told about
the man and came out and ordered him to get
up. When he couldn't four other Americans
were made to carry the man back to the Pasay
At the school, the Japanese
guards gave the man a shower and straightened his
clothes as much as possible. The other
Americans were ordered to the school. As
they stood there, the White Angel ordered an
American captain to follow him behind the
school. The POW was marched behind the
school and the other Americans heard two
shots. The American officer told the men
that the POW had said, "Tell
them I went down smiling." There,
the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at
him. As the man lay on the ground, he shot
him a second time. The American captain told
the other Americans what had happened. The
White Angel told them that this was what going to
happen to anyone who would not work for the
The second commanding officer
of the detail was known as "the Wolf." He
was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval
Uniform. Each morning, he would come to the
POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the
sickest and made them line up. The men were
made to put one leg on each side of a trench and
then do 50 push-ups. If a man's arms gave
out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with
On another occasion a POW
collapsed on the runway. The Wolf had the
man taken back to the barracks. When the
Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man
was still unconscious, he banged the man's head
into the concrete floor and kicked him in the
head. He then took the man to the shower and
drowned him in the basin.
A third POW who had tried to
walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot
him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School
and strung him up by his thumbs outside the
doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich
in front of him. He was dead by evening.
The remains of the POWs who had
died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison
in boxes. The Japanese had death
certificates, with the causes of death and signed
by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.
The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the
boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had
happened. It was only when the sick, from
the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they
learn what the detail was like. These men
were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look
better when it was reported to the International
When it became evident to the Japanese that
American forces would soon be invading the
Philippines, they began transferring large numbers
of POWs to Japan or other occupied
countries. In late 1944, George was taken to
On December 12, 1944, roll call was taken and the
names of the men selected for transport to Japan
were called. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of
December 13th, George and the other POWs were
awakened and marched to Pier 7 in Manila.
George boarded the Oryoku Maru for
transport to Japan.
The Americans saw that the American bombers were
doing a job on the Japanese transports.
There were at least forty wrecked ships in the
bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7, it
too was in disarray. There were three ships
docked at the pier. One was a old run down
ship, the other two were large and in good
shape. They soon discovered one of the two
nicer ships was their ship
It was at this time that the
POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the
POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon. They
were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku
Maru for transport to Japan.
The high ranking officers
were the first put into the ship's afthold.
Being the first on meant that they would suffer
many deaths. Around the perimeter of the
hold were two tiers of bunks for the POWs.
The heat was so bad that men soon began to pass
out. One survivor said,
"The fist fights began when men began to pass
out. We knew that only the front men in
bay would be able to get enough air."
The POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch used
anything they could find to fan air toward those
further away from it.
The ship left Manila at 8:00
P.M. but spent most of the night in Manila
Bay. At 10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter
threatened to have the guards fire into the holds
unless the POWs stopped screaming. Some of
the POWs fell silent because they were exhausted,
and others because they had died. One major
of the 26th Cavalry stated the man next to him had
lost his mind. Recalling the conversation he
had with the man he said,
"Worst was the man who had gone mad but would
not sit still. One kept pestering me,
pushing a mess kit against my chest, saying,
'Have some of this chow? It's good.' I
smelled of it, it was not chow. 'All
right' he said, 'If you don't want it.
I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I
heard him eating it , right beside me."
At 3:30 A.M. it sailed as part
of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao,
Formosa. The ships sailed without any lights
out of the bay. By the swells in the water,
the POWs could tell that the ship was in open
water. The cries for air began as the men
lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened to
cover the holds and cut off all air. When
the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and
fried seaweed, those further back from the opening
The Japanese covered the holds
and would not allow the slop buckets to be taken
out of the holds. Those POWs who were left
holding the buckets at first asked for someone
else to hold it for awhile. When that did
not work, they dumped the buckets on the men
As light began to enter the
hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who
were in stupors, men out of their minds, and men
who had died. The POWs in the aft hold which
also had a sub-hold, put the POWs who out of their
minds into it.
On the side of the holds, water
had condensed on the walls so the POWs tried to
scrap it off the wall for a drink. The
Japanese did allow men who had passed out to be
put on deck, but as soon as they revived they went
back into the holds. The Japanese would not
allow the bodies of the men who had died to be
removed from the holds.
The POWs received their first
meal at dawn. Meals on the ship consisted of
a little rice, fish, some water, and three fourths
of a cup of water was shared by 20 POWs. It
was 8:00 A.M., off the coast of Luzon, and the
POWs had just finished eating breakfast when they
heard the sound of guns. At first, they
thought the gun crews were just drilling, because
they had not heard any planes. It was only
when the first bomb hit in the water and the ship
shook that they knew it was not a drill.
At first it seemed that most of
the planes were attacking the other ships in the
convoy. Commander Frank Bridgit, had made
his way to the top of the ladder into the hold and
sat down. He gave the POWs a play by play of
the planes attacking, "I
can see two planes going for a freighter off
our starboard side. Now two more are
detached from the formation. I think
they may be coming for us."
The POWs heard the change in
the sound of the planes' engines as they began
their dives toward the ships in the convoy.
Several more bombs hit the water near the ship
causing it to rock Explosions were taking
place all around the ship. In an attempt to
protect themselves, the POWs piled baggage in
front of them. Bullets from the planes were
ricocheted in the hold causing many
Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the 60th
Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler of the
26th Cavalry on the cargo deck and said, "There's a hole knocked in
the bulkheads down there. Between 30 and
40 men have already died down there."
Barr would never reach Japan. The attack by
30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30
minutes. When the planes were ran out of
bombs they strafed. Afterwards, the planes
flew off, returning to their carrier, and there
was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the
next squadron of planes appeared over the ships
and resumed the attack. This pattern
repeated itself over and over during the day.
In the hold, the POWs concluded
that the attacking planes were concentrating on
the bridge of the ship. They noted that the
planes had taken out all the anti-aircraft guns
leaving only .30 caliber machine guns to defend
At 4:30 P.M., the ship went
through the worse attack on it. It was hit
at least three times by bombs on its bridge and
stern. Most of the POWs, who were wounded,
were wounded by ricocheting bullets and shrapnel
from exploding bombs. During the attack
Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic priest, led the POWs
in the Our Father. As they prayed, the bombs
that exploded near the ship sent torrents of water
over the ship. Bullets from the planes hit
the metal plates, of the haul, at an angle that
prevented most of them from penetrating the
haul. Somewhere on the ship a fire started,
but it was put out after several hours. The
POWs lived through seven or eight attacks before
sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the
ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing
At dusk, the ship raised anchor
and headed east. It turned south and turned
again this time heading west. The next turn
it made was north. It headed in this direction for
a good amount of time before dropping anchor at
about 8:00 P.M. The POWs figured out that
they had just sailed in a circle. What had
happened is that the ship's had been hit during
the attack and the ship could not be steered.
Sometime after midnight, the
POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians
being evacuated from the ship. During the
night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck
to treat the Japanese wounded. One medic
recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were
The ship reached Subic Bay at
2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the
beach where its anchor was dropped. At 4:00
A.M., the POWs were told that they would disembark
at daybreak at a pier. The moaning and
muttering of POWs who were losing their minds kept
the POWs up all night. That night 25 POWs
died in the hold.
It was December 15th and the
POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after
dawn. The first 35 POWs were taken out of
the hold and went into the water. At 8:00
A.M. as the other POWs waited, the sound of A
Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POWs, "All go home; speedo!"
He shouted that the wounded would be the first to
be evacuated. Suddenly, he looked up and
shouted, "Planes, many
planes!" As the POWs were
abandoning ship the planes returned and continued
the attack. The ship bounced in the water
from the explosions. Chief Boatswain
Clarence M. Taylor who was in the water said, "I saw the whole thing. A
bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and
debris go flying up in the air."
In the hold, the POWs crowded
together. Chips of rust fell on them
from the ceiling. After the raid, they took
care of the wounded before the next attack
started. In the hold a Catholic priest,
Father Duffy, began to pray,
"Father forgive them. They know not what
The Japanese guards and
interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's
captain remained on board. He told the POWs
- with his limited English - that they needed to
get off the ship to safety. The POWs made
their way over the side and into the water.
As they swam to shore, the Japanese fired at them,
with machine guns, to prevent them from escaping.
Four of the planes flew low
over the water above the POWs. The POWs
waved frantically at the planes so they would not
be strafed. The planes banked and flew lower
over the POWs. This time the pilots dipped
their wings to show that they knew the men in the
water were Americans. About a half hour
later, the ship began to really burn and the
bodies of the dead could be seen on the decks.
The Japanese sent out a
motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on
it. The POWs attempting to escape were
hunted down and shot. It is believed as many
as 30 men died in the water.
There was no real beach, so the
POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the the
Japanese Naval Landing Party had set up a machine
gun and had just laid flat to rest when the gun
opened up on them. Those who came
ashore were warned to stay in the water, but only
did so when one man climbed up on the seawall and
was wounded. There were also Japanese
snipers in wait to shoot anyone who attempted to
The POWs were gathered together
and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval
Station which was about 500 yards from the
beach. There, they were herded onto a tennis
court. The Japanese packed 1300 of the POWs
on the court with 100 wounded POWs taking up a
great amount of room at one end. They could
barely sit down and only lay down by lying
partially on another man. When roll was
taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619
POWs had been killed during the attack.
While the POWs were at
Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo
Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt.
Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly
wounded to continue the trip would be returned to
Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and
loaded onto a truck. They were taken into
the mountains and never seen again.
The POWs were held on the
tennis court from December 15th until December
20th. During this time they received little
to no food and water. Since the POWs had no
place to hide, they watched the attacks. The
POWs watched the planes go into dives, release
their bombs, and hit their targets. Some of
the planes dove over the POWs and released their
bombs. The POWs watched them float past the
tennis courts and hit the intended target.
Twenty-two trucks arrived the
morning of December 20th, and the POWs were loaded
into the trucks arriving at San Fernando,
Pampanga, between four and five the next
evening. After they disembarked the trucks,
they were housed in a dark movie theater.
On December 24th, the remainder
of the POWs were boarded onto trains at San
Fernando. Pampanga. The doors were kept
closed and the heat in the cars was
terrible. From December 24th to the 27th,
the POWs were held in a school house and, later,
on a beach at San Fernando, La Union. During
this time they were allowed one handful of rice
and a canteen of water. The heat from the
sun was so bad that men drank
seawater. Many of these men died.
The remaining prisoners were
returned to Manila where they boarded another
"Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru, or the Brazil
Maru, on December 27th. On this ship,
the POWs were held in three different holds.
Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the
ladders were shot by the guards.
During the night of December
30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges
exploding in the water. The ship arrived at
Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and dropped
anchor, in the harbor, around 11:30 AM.
After arriving at Takao, each POW received a six
inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to
eat. This was the first bread they had since
receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in
During the time in the harbor,
the POWs received little water. From January
1st through the 5th, the POWs received one
meal a day which resulted in the death rate
among the POWs to rise. On January 6th, the
POWs on the ship were transferred to the forward
hold of the Oryoku Maru. The POWs began to receive
two meals a day.
The POWs on the ship were taken
to Formosa. There, the ship was tied to a
buoy next another Japanese ship. On January
9, 1945, the POWs had just eaten their first meal
when American planes from the U. S. S. Hornet
attacked the Enoura Maru. Being next
to another ship made it a desirable
target. During the attack, a bomb
exploded in the hold Harley was being held in. The
explosion killed and wounded over 438 of
The dead remained in the hold
for three days, until the Japanese organized a
burial detail which put the bodies on a barge that
took them to shore. The POWs were too weak
to lift the dead, so ropes were tied to the legs
of the dead, and the bodies were dragged to shore
and buried on a beach at Takao.
According to information
gathered by the U. S. Army after the war, 1st. Lt.
George A. Van Arsdall died from wounds on Friday,
January 12, 1945, after the attack of the Enoura
Maru. His body was taken to shore on a
barge, and the POWs who were assigned to the
detail took him ashore for burial.
After the war, the remains of the American
soldiers who died in the sinking of the Enoura
Maru were exhumed, and he was reburied in
the National Cemetery of the Pacific at the Punch
Bowl in Hawaii as an unknown.
Since George's final resting place is
unknown, his name appears on the Tablets of the
Missing at the American
Military Cemetery outside Manila.
It should be noted that according to the report
filed by U.S. Recovery Team 9 on June 27, 1946, they
were able to recover and identify the remains of 1st
Lt. George A. Van Arsdall in a mass grave on
Formosa. The remains were next stored at
Recovery Team 9's warehouse at Kiirun, Formosa,
until the military made the decision on what would
be done with them. Since there was no second
way to confirm the remains were actually those of
Lt. George Van Arsdall, the remains were buried as
His widow, Esther, moved to
Harrodsburg, with her daughter and infant son, and
raised him there, since she knew it was where George
would have wanted him to be raised. She never
remarried. A memorial headstone was placed at
Springhill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.