Capt. Arthur V. Burholt was the son of Judson Burholt & Alice E. Conley-Burholt and was born on September 16, 1908, in Columbus, Ohio. He was the oldest of the couple’s three sons. While he was a child, his father passed away, and his mother would later marry Fred Gottschalk. Sometime during this period, the family moved to Port Clinton. There, Arthur attended school and was a 1926 graduate of Port Clinton High School. After high school, he attended Michigan State Normal College and received a degree in 1932.
On February 15, 1933, Arthur joined the Ohio National Guard, he also took a job at Port Clinton High School where he coached basketball and later became the school’s athletic director. On May 1, 1936, he married Virginia Van Rensselaer. He and his wife resided at 520 East Perry Street in Port Clinton.
The tank company, on September 19, 1940, was notified it was being called to federal service. On November 23, 1940, he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. Two days later he was called to federal duty as a member of C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He was granted a one year leave of absence from Port Clinton High School to go with the tank company to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
After arriving, they spent the first six weeks in primary training. During week 1, the soldiers did infantry drilling; week 2, manual arms and marching to music; week 3, machine gun training; week 4, was pistol usage; week 5, M1 rifle firing; week 6, was training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes; weeks 7, 8, and 9 were spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for weapons, and the cleaning of weapons.
In December, the names of the members of the company being transferred to the newly created Headquarters Company January of 1941, he was transferred to Headquarters Company were announced. Arthur was one of the men selected to be transferred.
During February – on different dates – four composite tank detachments made of men from all the companies of the battalion left Ft. Knox on problematic moves at 9:00 A.M. The detachments consisted of three motorcycles, two scout cars, sixteen tanks, one ambulance, and supply, fuel, and kitchen trucks. The route was difficult and chosen so that the men could become acquainted with their equipment. They also had to watch out for simulated enemy planes. Bridges were avoided whenever it was possible to ford the water. They received their rations from a food truck.
In late March 1941, the entire battalion was moved to new barracks at Wilson Road and Seventh Avenue at Ft. Knox. The barracks had bathing and washing facilities in them and a day room. The new kitchens had larger gas ranges, automatic gas heaters, large pantries, and mess halls. One reason for this move was the men from selective service were permanently joining the battalion.
On June 14th and 16th, the battalion was divided into four detachments composed of men from different companies. Two detachments were sent out on each date on a technical maneuver – under the command of the various company commanders – for a three-day tactical road march to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and back. The purpose of the maneuver was to give the men practice at loading, unloading, and setting up administrative camps to prepare them for the Louisiana maneuvers.
Each tank company traveled with 20 tanks, 20 motorcycles, 7 armored scout cars, 5 jeeps, 12 peeps (later called jeeps), 20 large 2½ ton trucks (these carried the battalion’s garages for vehicle repair), 5, 1½ ton trucks (which included the companies’ kitchens), and 1 ambulance. The detachments traveled through Bardstown and Springfield before arriving at Harrodsburg at 2:30 P.M. where they set up their bivouac at the fairgrounds. The next morning, they moved to Herrington Lake east of Danville, where the men swam, boated and fished. The battalion returned to Ft. Knox through Lebanon, New Haven, and Hodgenville, Kentucky. At Hodgenville, the men were allowed to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
It during this time that Arthur was promoted to the first lieutenant on May 18, 1941. On July 1, 1941, he was promoted to captain.
In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana aa part of the red army. During the maneuvers that tanks held defensive positions and usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters. For the first time, the tanks were used to counter-attack and in support of infantry. Some men felt that the tanks were finally being used like they should be used and not as “mobile pillboxes.”
The maneuvers were described by other men as being awakened at 4:30 A.M. and sent to an area to engage an imaginary enemy. After engaging the enemy, the tanks withdrew to another area. The crews had no idea what they were doing most of the time because they were never told anything by the higher-ups. Some felt that they just rode around in their tanks a lot.
One of the major problems was snake bites. It appeared that every other man was bitten at some point by a snake. The platoon commanders carried a snakebit kit that was used to create a vacuum to suck the poison out of the bite. The bites were the result of the nights cooling down and snakes crawling under the soldiers’ bedrolls for warmth while the soldiers were sleeping on them.
There was one multicolored snake – about eight inches long – that was beautiful to look at, but if it bit a man he was dead. The good thing was that these snakes would not just strike at the man but only struck if the man forced himself on it. When the soldiers woke up in the morning they would carefully pick up their bedrolls to see if there were any snakes under them. To avoid being bitten, men slept on the two and a half-ton trucks or on or in the tanks. Another trick the soldiers learned was to dig a small trench around their tents and lay rope in the trench. The burs on the rope kept the snakes from entering the tents. The snakes were not a problem if the night was warm.
They also had a problem with the wild hogs in the area. In the middle of the night while the men were sleeping in their tents they would suddenly hear hogs squealing. The hogs would run into the tents pushing on them until they took them down and dragged them away.
The food was also not very good since the air was always damp which made it hard to get a fire started. Many of their meals were C ration meals of beans or chili that they choked down. Washing clothes was done when the men had a chance. They did this by finding a creek, looking for alligators, and if there were none, taking a bar of soap and scrubbing whatever they were washing. Clothes were usually washed once a week or once every two weeks.
The major problem for the tanks was the sandy soil. On several occasions, tanks were parked and the crews walked away from them. When they returned, the tanks had sunk into the sandy soil up to their hauls. To get them out, other tanks were brought in and attempted to pull them out. If that didn’t work, the tankers went to Camp Polk and brought back the tank wrecker to pull the tank out.
At night, a number of motorcycle riders from other tank units were killed because they were riding their bikes without headlights on which meant they could not see obstacles in front of their bikes. When they hit something they fell to the ground and the tanks following them went over them. This happened several times before the motorcycle riders were ordered to turn on their headlights.
At one point during the maneuvers, the 192nd broke through the defenses of the blue army and was about to overrun its headquarters when the maneuvers were canceled. The blue army was under the command of General George S. Patton.
Instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. On the side of a hill, the men were informed, by the battalion’s commanding officer, that they were being sent overseas. Those 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service. Most of the remaining soldiers were allowed to return home to say their goodbyes.
At Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they had been selected to go overseas, 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 a 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 evening. Since it was too late to do anything that day.
The next 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.
He was given the job of S-3 or Staff Officer for Operations. Many of the members of the battalion returned home to say their goodbyes. On October 20 from Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over different train routes arriving in San Francisco, California, where the soldiers were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalions medical detachment. Those men with major health issues were released from service and replaced, while others were held back and told they would rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2, and had a two-day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, 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 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 that the unknown ship was from a friendly country, but two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters hauling scrap metal to Japan.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm’s way.
The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure they had what they needed, and that that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner – a stew thrown into their mess kits – before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th 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 ragged World War I 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.
The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise from the engines as they flew over was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat.
The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their on the tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool” meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon.
For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups.
At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore coveralls to do the work on the tanks. The 192nd followed the example of the 194th Tank Battalion and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms including going to the PX.
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 half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
The tank battalions were made aware of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 8. The tank and half-track crews were brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field. All morning long, the tankers watched as the sky was filled with American planes. At twelve noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch.
As the tankers sat at their tanks eating lunch, a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the tankers thought they were American. As they watched, they saw what looked like “raindrops” fell from the planes. It was when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
While Arthur was fighting the Japanese in the Philippines, his wife received several letters from him. In a letter dated January 17, 1942, he wrote:
“It’s been a week since I last wrote to you. I’m still O.K. so don’t worry about me. Keep your chin up and a smile on your face.
“We are putting up a good fight, and if any aid comes to us from home, I’m sure everything will work out for the best. Lt. Harold Collins has been promoted to captain. I haven’t received any letters from you since November 3, but am writing with the hope that some letters will arrive.
“I have no use for money now. There are no places to buy anything and besides that, there is nothing to buy. About the only use, I have for money is paying for washing out what few clothes I have left.
“I am certainly glad for your sake that the government didn’t allow us to bring our wives. No matter how much I miss you, I still will rather have you safe in the good old U. S. A. than subjected to the bombings that the people in the Philippines have been subjected to. If you pray a little extra hard, I’m sure that I will come home.
“Brother Ralph should be plenty busy at Douglas, at least I hope so because it sure would be a great sight to see a few American planes come over and give us a lift. Strange as it may seem, I will want to carry on and continue to make my career the army, so get ready for some good old army post life when I get back.”
In a letter his wife received during the Battle of the Bataan dated January 21, 1942, Arthur wrote:
“I can assure you that our outfit is very, very far from being out of action. We can, and will continue to give the Japs plenty to worry about. All we need is a little additional aid from the United States, and the government will not have to worry about the Philippines.” Like the other defenders of Bataan, Burholt believed General MacArthur’s claim that aid was coming, “Still very much o.k. and still fighting Japs. We are looking forward to the day when aid will arrive. Keep people back home plugging for increased production and the enlargement of our armed forces.”
Arthur also told his wife, “There isn’t much I can tell you of what is going on over here, but if you listen to the San Francisco broadcasts you will get a pretty good picture of where we are and what we are doing.”
“Don’t pay any attention to the Japanese broadcasts as they have already reported over the radio three different times that our battalion has been wiped out.”
Arthur also talked about events in the U.S.:
“Somewhere in the Philippines, we heard a radio broadcast telling of the planes crash in which Carol Lombard was killed. Also heard some music which really sounded good after hearing only planes and artillery fire for such a long time. Too bad about Lombard, but I guess it must have been her time.”
In another letter dated January 28, 1942, he wrote:
“Beefy” said “we are still safe. Had a pretty tough week, but everyone came through o.k. Weather is getting hot, but as a whole, everyone in command is in pretty good physical condition.
“Went to communion in the field this morning and prayed that all of you at home were o.k. I keep worrying that something will happen to you, or that you are sick and I would never know anything about it. I’ll be back soon so don’t worry about me. Keep praying and I know that I’ll come out o.k.
I hear by radio that they really are really expanding the armed force at Sandusky is good news.”
On February 3, 1942, Arthur was sent to the west coast of Bataan as S-3 of his battalion. His job was to coordinate the tanks in action against the Japanese. He would remain in the area until February 11. During this time, he commanded the tanks in action after action against the Japanese at the Anyasan River. The terrain was not suitable for tanks, but through his efforts, the tanks were able to support the troops.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.
A counter-attack was launched – on April 7 – by the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts which was supported by tanks. C Company was ordered to support the attack. Its objective was to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, was attached to the 192nd and had only seven tanks left.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who were sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day.
At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier, and Major Marshall Hurt to meet with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender. (The driver was from the tank group and the white flag was bedding from A Company.) Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment. It was at about 6:45 A.M. that 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 tank crews circled their tanks. Each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag. They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it. As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane. The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets. The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing.
About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender and that an officer from Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations. The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do.
After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags.
Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss King’s surrender. King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter – accused him of declining to surrender unconditionally. At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan. He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners. The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” King found no choice but to accept him at his word.
On April 9, 1942, Arthur became a Prisoner of War with the surrender of Bataan. Arthur and his company were ordered to go to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They were allowed to drive their trucks there. When they reached the outskirts of Mariveles, the POWs were ordered from their trucks and herded into a schoolyard where they remained for hours.
When ordered to move, Arthur’s company went to an open field. They found themselves in front of Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. While Arthur and his men sat there, Corregidor began returning fire. Shells from the American guns began landing among the POWs. When the barrage ended, three of the four Japanese guns had been knocked out.
The men were ordered to move again and had no idea that they had begun the death march. Like the other prisoners, Arthur went days without food and water. The death march had one lasting effect on Arthur, that effect was that his hair turned completely gray. It is known, that at one point on the march, he collapsed from exhaustion and fell to the ground. Two members of his company, Pvt. Lacey Prater and Cpl. Charles Everett, carried him between them for nine kilometers so he could regain his strength.
At San Fernando, Arthur and the other POWs were packed into small boxcars used for hauling sugarcane. 100 POWs were packed into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. From this barrio, he made his way to Camp O’Donnell.
Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed the camp 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, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Philippine 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 cleaned area, and the area they had lain was scraped 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.
While a prisoner, Arthur was credited with saving the life of Pvt. Charles Chaffin who was suffering from a bad case of malaria. Arthur somehow got him the quinine that saved his life.
When Cabanatuan #1 was opened, Arthur remained behind at Camp O’Donnell for a month and a half. It is believed he was too ill to be moved. After he recovered, he was sent to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Pangatian.
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.
Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. Since the POWs were underfed, many became ill and died of malnutrition.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Other POWs worked in rice paddies. 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.
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.
The barracks used by the POWs were built to hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each one. There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on bamboo strips. In addition, no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was provided which resulted in many becoming ill.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as “Zero Ward” which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier and died because their bodies were so malnourished that they could not fight the diseases the men had.
In the camp, he and Capt. Harold Collins was credited with organizing plays for the men to see and take part in as actors. These shows allowed the POWs an escape from the misery of their daily lives.
Arthur next went on a work detail to Camp McKinley on December 12, 1942, where they appeared to collect junk, left from the fighting, as scrap metal. From there, on January 21, 1943, the POWs were sent to Nielson Airfield to build runways. During the time at the airfield, the POWs leveled the ground and received frequent beatings with pick handles. They also received beatings with iron bars, bayonets, and clubs. When a rule was violated, the POWs stood at attention from six to nine hours. They also were made to do pushups and to stay on their hands and toes for long periods of time. If none of these was done to them, they had heavy weights hung from their ears.
The detail again moved, on October 25, 1943, and sent to Camp Murphy to build more runways. But, it appears that Burholt remained at Nielson Field into 1944. He may have been in a POW detachment finishing up the work at the airfield.
Medical records indicate that Burholt was admitted to the medical ward at Bilibid Prison on May 20, 1944, suffering from a cyst in his mouth. He remained in the ward until he was discharged on June 15 and sent to Cabanatuan.
In late 1944, as American forces approached the Philippines, Arthur was sent to Bilibid Prison. During his time as a POW, Arthur became close friends with Fr. Mathias Zerfas an American Army Chaplain from Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.
Bilibid Prison was the processing center for POWs being sent to Japan or other occupied countries. He was given a physical and declared healthy enough to be sent to Japan. On December 7, the Japanese gave orders to the medical staff at Bilibid to make a list of POWs healthy enough to survive a trip to Japan. Arthur’s name was put on the list.
On December 12, 1944, roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called. Arthur’s name was on this list. At 4:00 a.m. on the morning of December 13, the POWs were awakened for roll call. At 7:00 A.M. they lined up and their names were checked on rosters. This took almost two hours. After roll call, the POWs were allowed to roam the facility.
At 11:30 A.M., the POWs were assembled, formed into detachments of 100 men, and marched to Pier 7 in Manila. Marching through the city, they could see the destruction done by the attacks done by American planes. When they reached the harbor, they saw hulks of ships that had been strafed and bombed. After arriving at the pier, the POWs were allowed to sit down and did not board the ship until 5:00 P.M.
The high ranking officers were the first put into the Oryoku Maru’s aft hold. Being the first one 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 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 hatch used anything they could find to fan air toward those further away from it.
The ship sailed as part of the MATA-37. Inside the holds, the temperature was near 100 degrees. The cries for air began as the men lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened to cover the holds and cut off all air. After the ship sailed, the POWs could tell they were in open water from the wave swells. The ships sailed for Subic Bay to pick up Japanese civilians and reached the bay at 2:30 in the morning.
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.”
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 a while. When that did not work, they dumped the buckets on the men around them.
As daylight 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 that 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 casualties.
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 ran out of bombs they strafed. Afterward, 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 its .30 caliber machine guns to defend the ship.
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 William Cummings, who was 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 many POWs.
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 everywhere.
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.
At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese interpreter yelled into the hold that in two or three hours, the ship would dock at the pier and the POWs would be taken ashore. When daylight came, the interpreter shouted that the first 35 men would be taken ashore. 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 fell, hit near the stern hatch, and debris went 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 another chaplain, Father John Duffy, began to pray, “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”
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 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 escape.
The POWs were gathered together and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval Station which was about 500 yards from the beach. The surviving POWs were herded onto a tennis court. When roll call was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack. While they were sitting there, four American planes flew overlooking the men over. The planes circled and three dipped their wings to the men.
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. During this time, the POWs were not fed but did receive water.
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. POWs who died on the tennis courts were buried in a bomb crater near the beach.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time on the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs dropped their bombs and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
The evening of December 16, the Japanese brought 50-kilo bags of rice for the POWs. About half of the rice had fallen out of the bags because of the holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English, “No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid.” The guard knew as little as the POWs.
On December 21, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater which the POWs saw as a dungeon since it was pitch black.
During their time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
December 23, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24, the POWs were taken to the train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM. They walked two kilometers to a schoolyard on the southern outskirts of the barrio and were held, in a schoolhouse, from December 25 and 26. On the morning of December 26, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time the prisoners 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 those men died.
The POWs, on December 27, were marched to the wharf. Once there, they jumped into barges and were ferried to two ships. Arthur and the other POWs were put on the Brazil Maru. The ship arrived safely at Formosa arriving there on December 31. During the time at Takao. Formosa, the POWs remained in the holds. From January 1 through the 5, they received one meal a day and not enough water. On January 6, all the POWs were put in the forward hold of the Enoura Maru and their meals were increased to two a day.
The morning of January 9 the POWs were eating their first meal when the machine guns on the ship began to fire. Bombs began exploding in the water around the ship resulting in the ship rocking from the explosions. The bombs continued to fall closer and closer to the ship until it was hit.
One bomb exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 285 POWs. Arthur was wounded during the attack by the fighter-planes. One wound damaged his spine resulting in his being unable to walk.
The Japanese left the dead in the holds of the ship until January 11. At that time a POW detail was formed and the corpses of 150 POWs were removed from the ship on a barge and taken to shore. The POWs assigned to this detail were too weak to lift the bodies, so ropes were tied to their legs and the bodies were dragged to shore and buried in a mass grave on the beach. Later on the same day, the POWs from the forward hold were moved to another hold.
On January 13, the POWs were transferred to the Brazil Maru. For the first time, the POWs found they had room and mats to sleep on. The POWs also were issued life jackets. On January 15, the ship sailed for Japan.
According to another POW, Pfc. Roland Stickney, who was on the ship, sometime after the ship sailed for Japan, Arthur was taken to the back of the hold by other officers and left to die. Stickney had a great deal of contempt for these officers because while Arthur laid on the floor of the hold, they stripped him of his clothing. When he was found by Stickney a few days later, he was naked and near death. Capt. Arthur V. Burholt died of his wounds in the hold of the ship. He was 36 years old. After he died, his body was thrown into the sea.
On February 23, 1945, Virginia Burholt was notified that her husband had posthumously been awarded the Silver Star for his actions at the Anyasan River during the Battle of Bataan. His wife had joined the WACs and held the rank of captain.
After the war, Arthur’s family had a headstone placed in Riverview Cemetery in Port Clinton in memory of him. His name also appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.