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Altman, Capt. Jack C.

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Capt. Jack Cary Altman
Born: 1911 – Pitsburg County, Oklahoma
Parents: Abram Altman & Nellie Mumaw-Altman
– parents divorced
– father married Maud Allison
Residence: McAlister, Oklahoma
Siblings: 1 half-sister, 3 brothers
Education: Oklahoma Military Academy
– Class of 1927
Married: Ruth H. Putman
Home: 705 Northeast Eighth Street – Amarillo, Texas
Inducted:
– U. S. Army
– Army Reserve
Note: Member of the Texas National Guard
– 142nd Infantry Division
Training:
– Louisiana Maneuvers – 1940
Unit:
– joined 194th Tank Battalion as it prepared to leave for the Philippine Islands

On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.

The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

Overseas Duty:
– 4 September 1941 –
– battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
– Arrived: 7:30 A.M. – 5 September 1941
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – the same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – the same day
– escorted by heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– heavy cruiser intercepted several ships after smoke was seen on the horizon
– ships belonged to friendly countries
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippines
– lived in tents until barracks completed on 15 November 1941
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon
– 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– During this time HQ Company supplied the tank companies as they fought to cover the withdrawal toward Bataan
– 8 December 1941
– lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
– planes did not go after tanks
– after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 12 December 1941
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived at 6:00 A.M.
– 15 December 1941
– received 15 Bren gun carriers
– turned some over to 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts
– 22 December 1941
– sent to Rosario
– west and north of the barrio
– ordered out of the 71st Division Commander
– said they would hinder the cavalry’s operation
– 22/23 December 1941
– operating north of Agno River
– main bridge at Carmen bombed
– 24/25 December 1941
– tank battalions make an end run to get south of Agno River
– ran into Japanese resistance but successfully crossed the river
– 25/26 December 1941
– held south bank of Agno River from west of Carmen to Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road
– 192nd held from Carmen to (Route 3) to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin)
– 26/27 December 1941
– ordered to withdraw
– 1 platoon forced its way through Carmen
– lost two tanks
– one tank belonged to company commander – Captain Edward Burke
– believed dead, but was actually captured
– one tank crew rescued
– new line Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas-San Jose
– rest of battalion made a dash out
– lost one tank at Bayambang
– another tank went across front receiving fire and firing on Japanese
– Lt. Petree’s platoon fought its way out and across Agno River
– Altman’s tank company – D Company, 192nd, lost all its tanks except one
– the tank commander found a crossing
– Japanese would use tanks later on Bataan
– 29/30 December 1941
– the new line at Banban River established
– tank battalions held the line until ordered to withdraw
– 30/31 December 1941
– tank battalions held Calumpit Bridge
– covering withdraw of Philippine Divisions south on Rt. 3, San Fernando
– 2 January 1942
– both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
– 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
– 5 January 1942
– C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-Porac Line and moved into position between Sexmoan and Lubao
– 1:50 A.M. – Japanese attempted to infiltrate
– bright moonlight made them easy to see
– tanks opened fire
– Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them
– 3:00 A.M. – Japanese broke off the engagement
– suffered 50% casualties
– Remedios – established a new line along a dried creek bed
– 6/7 January 1942
– 194th, covered by 192nd, crosses Culis Creek into Bataan
– both battalions bivouacked south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– rations cut in half
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 8 January 1942
– composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
– their job was to keep the East Road open north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main the battle line had been
  formed
– the remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
– tanks also needed overdue maintenance
– 17th Ordnance
– all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
– three per tank platoon
– sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw
– tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
– mission abandoned
– Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using the beach but lost their heavy equipment
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– forward position with little alert time
– 13 January 1942
– mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
– returned to battalion
– 16 January 1942
– C Company sent to Bagac to reopen Moron Highway
– the highway had been cut by Japanese
– Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
– tank platoon fired on by an antitank gun
– tanks knock out the gun
– cleared roadblock with the support of infantry
– 20 January 1942
– Bani Bani Road -tanks sent in to save 31st Infantry command post
– 24 January 1942
– tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
– landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
– 26 January 1942
– the battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road
– four self-propelled mounts with the battalion
– 9:45 A.M. – warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
– when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
– 10:30 A.M. – Japanese withdrew after losing 500 of 1200 men
– prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
– 28 January 1942
– 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
– guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: “Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at the 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.”
– February 1942
– tank battalions on their own guarded airfields
– battalions also guarded beaches to prevent Japanese from landing troops
– March 1942
– two tanks were bogged down in mud
– the tankers were working to get them out
– Japanese Regiment entered the area
– Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range
– Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
– wiped out Japanese regiment
– 4 April 1942
– Japanese launched a major offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry,
Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– 3rd Platoon sent up the west coast road
– near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– at Cabcaban Field
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.”
– 10:30 P.M. – Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000 civilians
– less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
– he estimated they could hold out one more day
– sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
– Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
– Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
– 10 April 1942
– Japanese made contact with tankers
– 7:00 P.M. – started the march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
– 3:00 A.M. – halted and rested for an hour
– 4:00 A.M. – resume march
– 11 April 1942
– 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
– allowed to forage for food
– 9:00 A.M. – resumed march
– Noon – reached Limay and the main road
– officers separated from enlisted men
– 4:00 P.M put on trucks
– officers arrived at Balanga
– Japanese found a handgun in a field bag of an officer
– he was clubbed and bayoneted
– because of this, they were not fed
– Dusk – officers ordered to form ranks and marched
– marched through Abucay and Samal
– 12 April 1942
– 3:00 A.M. – reached Orani
– herded into a fenced in area and ordered to lie down
– in the morning found they had been lying in human waste
– latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
– Noon – fed rice and salt
– first meal
– Afternoon – enlisted men rejoin officers
– 6:30 P.M. – ordered to form 100 men detachments
– POWs marched at a faster pace
– fewer breaks
– when given break, the POWs sat on the road
– North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
– made march easier
– 13 April 1942
– 2:00 A.M. – POWs were given an hour rest on the road
– those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
– POWs march through Layac and Lubao
– rains – POWs drank as much as they could
– 4:30 P.M. – reached San Fernando
– POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
– one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
– pottery jars of water given out the same way
– 14 April 1942
– 4:00 A.M. – POWs awakened
– formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
– POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– 100 POWs packed into each car
– POWs who died remained standing
– 9:00 A.M. – Capas – dead fell to the floor as living left boxcars
– as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
– also gave them water
– POWs walked last 8 kilometers to Camp O’Donnell
Commanding Officer – D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
– the company was attached to the 194th but was never transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion
– the officers were transferred to other companies as part of the expected transfer
– with the Japanese attacked Clark Field, the transfer of the company never was completed
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor
– San Fernando – POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– 100 POWs packed into each boxcar
– those who died remain standing
– Capas – living left cars – dead fell out of boxcars
– POWs walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippines:
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead, washed and given to other POWs
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never to
  write another letter
– the ranking American officer was beaten with a broadsword after requesting medicine, additional food, and material to repair the leaking huts
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs were their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scrapped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scrapped and covered with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– Japanese opened a new POW camp to lower death rate
– 1 June 1942 – POWs formed detachments of 100 men
– POWs marched out the gate and marched toward Capas
– Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
– the guards did not stop them
– At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode them to Manila
– the train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
– POWs disembarked the train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a schoolyard
– fed rice and onion soup
– It was in May or early June that his wife received a message from the War Department.

“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Captain Jack C. Altman who according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.

“We deeply regret that it is impossible for us to give you more information. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the war department. Conceivably, the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly of other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese government has indicated its intentions of conforming to the terms of the Geneva convention with respects to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the war department cannot give you positive information.

“The war department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as ‘missing in action’ from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is hoped that the Japanese government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At this time you will be notified by this office in the event his name (Jack C. Altman) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”

– Cabanatuan:
– original name – Camp Panagatan
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by the Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in an attempt to lower death rate
– Camp 2: two miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
– Corregidor POWs were in better shape
– POWs from Camp 3 later consolidated into Camp 1
– Camp Administration:
– the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
– Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
– Japanese beat them for days
– executed them
– Blood Brother Rule
– POWs put into groups of ten
– if one escaped the others would be executed
– housed in same barracks
– worked on details together
– Barracks:
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– no showers
– Jack was assigned to Barracks 1-2A
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in
their shins with their hobnailed boots because they didn’t like the way the POWs lined up
– Work Detachments:
– Two main details
– the farm and airfield
– farm detachment
– POWs cleared land and grew camotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
– Japanese took what was grown
– Guards:
– Big Speedo – spoke little English
– in charge of detail
– fair in treatment of POWs
– spoke little English
– to get POWs to work faster said, “speedo “
– Little Speedo
– also used word when he wanted POWs to work faster
– fair in the treatment of POWs
– Smiley
– always smiling
– could not be trusted
– meanest of guards
– Airfield Detachment:
– Japanese built an airfield for fighters
– POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
– at first moved dirt in wheelbarrows
– later pushed mining cars
– Guards:
– Air Raid
– in charge
– usually fair but unpredictable
– had to watch him
– Donald Duck
– always talking
– sounded like the cartoon character
– unpredictable – beat POWs
– POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
– at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
– POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– worked 6 days a week
– had Sunday off
– Other Detachments:
– work detachments sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detachment were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on to drive them deeper into the mud
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detachment decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on detachments were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– Burial Detail
– POWs worked in teams of four
– carried 4 to 6 dead to the cemetery at a time in a litter
– a grave contained from 15 to 20 bodies
– daily POW meal
– 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– rice was the main staple, few vegetables or fruits
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6-foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given the name, because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– assigned to Barracks 1-2A
– During July 1942, his wife received a second message from the War Department.

“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Capt. Jack C. Altman had not been reported as a casualty. The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, until definite information to the contrary is received.

“Efforts to secure prisoner of war lists from the Philippines have not been successful to this date due to the lack of communication and the fact that the Japanese Government has not yet given permission for the Swiss representative and the International Red Cross delegates to make visits to prisoner of war camps in the islands. When the lists of prisoners are received, we will clear the name of your son and send you any additional information that we may have.”          

– Hospitalized – no date was given – malaria
– Discharged: no date was given
– Hospitalized – 1 October 1942 – malaria
– Discharged – 15 October 1942
– Christmas 1942 and 1943 – Japanese issued Red Cross packages
– contained: 2 cans meat, 1 can dried milk, 1 chocolate bar
– the death rate among POWs dropped after they received Red Cross Boxes
– Hospitalized – September 1944
– Note: Not known if Altman went out on any work details
– Trucks arrived at the camp and POWs rode them to Pier 7 at Manila
Hell Ship:
– Altman’s POW detachment was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru
– ship ready to sail – 2 October 1944
– one group of POWs had not arrived at the pier
– Japanese swapped POWs detachments so the ship could sail
– Sailed: 3 October 1944
Arisan Maru
– Boarded: 10 October 1944
– five POWs died in the first 24 hours
– Sailed: Manila -11 October 1944
– Arrived: Palawan Island – 11 October 1944
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, “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.”
– ship hid in a cove to avoid American planes that were attacking Manila at this time
Calvin 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 freshwater 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.”
– 8 steel drums served as toilets
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.” 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.”
– POWs hot-wired ventilation system into the lighting system
– Japanese had removed lights but did not turn off the power
– had fresh air for two days
– when the Japanese discovered what had been done, they turned power off
– heat in hold rises and the POWs developed heat blisters
– Japanese acknowledged they had to do something or the POWs would die
– transfer POWs into the second hold
Graef described conditions in the hold. “There were so many (that died ) out of 1800. The condition in that hold…..men were just dying in a continuous stream. Men, holding their bellies in interlocked arms, stood up, screamed and died. You were being starved men were dying at such a pace we had to pile them up. It was like you were choking to death. Burial consisted of two men throwing another overboard.”
– Sailed: 20 October 1944 to Manila
– Arrived: Manila – 20 October 1944
– Sailed: 21 October 1944
– Sunk: Tuesday – 24 October 1944
Cichy said, “The Japs told us that they’d be in Formosa the next day to pick up some cargo. They had to make room on deck so they tossed a whole bunch of life preservers down into the hold. I held onto one but didn’t think anything about it.”
– 4:00 P.M. – American submarines spotted in the Bashi Channel of South China Sea
– about 4:40 P.M.
– POWs on deck prepared dinner for POWs in holds
– each POW received 2 half mess kit of rice each day and 3 ounces of water
– about half of the POWs had been fed
– POWs on deck hear bells and sirens
– watched as Japanese ran to the bow of the ship
– the torpedo passed in front of the ship
– Japanese ran to the stern
– the torpedo passed behind the ship
– the ship hit by two torpedoes amidships
– it is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the U.S.S. Shook or the U.S.S. Shark
Cichy recalled, “When the torpedo hit everybody in the hold hollered ‘Hit her again!’ We wanted to get it over with.”
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said, “When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn’t care a bit–they were tired and weak and sick.”
– He also said, “The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn’t break in two.”
– the ship came to a dead stop
– the POWs cheered wildly until they realized they were facing death
 Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said of the incident: “The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn’t break in two. For about five seconds 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.”
– Japanese guards used guns as clubs to chase POWs on deck into holds
– cover hatches but did not tie hatch covers down
– cut rope ladders into holds
– abandoned ship
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. Overbeck, Baltimore.” Cichy added, “The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their own.”
– POWs left holds
On the ship’s deck, an American major spoke to the POWs, “Boys, we’re in a helluva a jam – but we’ve been in jams before. Remember just one thing: We’re American soldiers. Let’s play it that way to the very end of the script.” Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, “Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men.”
Overbeck also stated, ” We broke into the ship’s stores to get food, cigarettes, and water — mainly water, we were so thirsty. All of us figured we were going to die anyway. The Japs ships, except for the destroyers, had disappeared. All we had were life belts which the Japanese had fortunately thrown down the hold the day before.”
“But as darkness settled and our hopes for life flickered, we felt absolutely no resentment for the Allied submarine that had sent the torpedo crashing in. We knew they could not tell who was aboard the freighter, and as far as the Navy could have known the ship could have been carrying Jap troops. The men were brave and none complained.
“Some slipped off their life preservers and with a cherry ‘so long’ disappeared.”
– according to surviving POWs, the ship stayed afloat for hours but got lower in the water.
– some POWs walked back to see the damage caused by the torpedo
– the deck was peeled back and water was inside the hold washing back and forth
– when waves went under the ship the stern would wobble up and down and the sound of steel tearing was heard
– the stern finally tore off and sunk quickly and the rest of the ship began to take on water quickly.

Graef said, “Men without any fear at all, just stayed where they were. They sat down, got water to drink, got rice to eat…they couldn’t swim. The majority went down with the ship.”Oliver recalled, ” I could see people still on the ship when it went down. I could see people against the skyline, just standing there.”

– many POWs swam to a nearby Japanese destroyer but were pushed underwater with long poles.

Of this, Glenn Oliver said, “They weren’t picking up Americans. A lot of the prisoners were swimming for the destroyer, but the Japanese were pushing them back into the water.”

In the water, he recalled. “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 lifeboat 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.”

– Men were heard calling the names of other men in the dark.
– The next morning there were just waves.
– Oliver and three other men were picked up by a Japanese destroyer and taken to Formosa and finally sent to Japan.
– The next day the three men in the boat picked up two more survivors and later made it to China and freedom.
– Only nine POWs of 1775 POWs survived the sinking
– Altman was not one of these men
Died: 24 October 1944
– Capt. Jack C. Altman died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Note: His parents learned of his death during July 1945. They were informed of his death because his wife had been killed in a car accident in Texas on August 15, 1943.

“Dear Mr. Altman,

“The International Red Cross has transmitted to this government an official list obtained from the Japanese government, after long delay, of American prisoners of war who were lost while being transported northward from the Philippine islands on a Japanese ship which was sunk on Oct. 24, 1944.

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that your son was among those lost when the sinking occurred and, in the absence of any probability of survival, must be considered to have lost his life. He will be carried on records of the war department as killed in action Oct. 24, 1944. The evidence of his death was received June 16, 1945.

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that your son, Capt. Jack C. Altman, O, 324, 003, 194th Tank Battalion, was among those lost when that sinking occurred and, in the absence of any probability of survival, must be considered to have lost his life. He will be carried on the records of the War Department as Killed in Action 24 October 1944. The evidence of this death was received 16 June 1945, the date upon which his pay will terminate and accounts will be closed.

“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 with deep regret that I must notify you of this unhappy culmination of the long period of anxiety and suffering you have experienced. You have my heartfelt sympathy.

“Sincerely yours,

“J. A. Ulio
“Maj. Gen., The Adjutant General of the Army”

Memorial:
– Tablets of the Missing
– American Military Cemetery – Manila, Philippine Islands
Note: Altman’s wife was killed in a car accident when her car blew a tire – 15 August 1943

Altmantm
Altmantm