PFC Martin Anthony Cahill was born on February 24, 1918, in San Francisco, California, to William & Lena Cahill. With his two brothers and two sisters, he grew up in San Francisco. While he was in high school, his family moved to Santa Cruz County, California, where he graduated from Santa Cruz High School in 1936. After high school, he lived at 715 Madison, in Watsonville, and worked on a farm. He was engaged to Lela Taylor.
Martin enlisted in the California National Guard on December 6, 1938, which meant that he did not have to register for the draft on October 16, 1940. He was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 29, 1941, and on February 10, his tank company was designated C Company, 194th Tank Battalion. They arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington on February 20.
When they arrived at Fort Lews, the men found the weather to be constantly rainy. Many came down with colds, so they were put in the base hospital to prevent it from spreading.
The day started with morning reveille at 6:00. During this time the men dressed, shaved, made their cots, policed the grounds around the barracks, and swept the floors of the barracks. Next, at 6:30 they ate breakfast, and at 7:30 drilled until 11:30. They ate lunch and drilled again from 1:00 P.M. until 4:30 P.M. Evening mess was after 5:00, and they were free after it. The only men not off duty were the six men from each company assigned to guard duty for the night. Those men took shifts during the night with two men on duty and four off.
There was a canteen near their barracks which they frequented and a movie theater on the base. On weekends, many of them went into Tacoma or Olympia. During their time at the fort, many visited the site where the Narrows Bridge had stood before it collapsed into Puget Sound late in 1940. Some men attended church services on Sundays which were held at different times for the different denominations.
The theater in Area 12 was not finished. It was there that the tanks crews parked their tanks. When it was finished all the tankers had to do is cross a road to get to their tanks. During his time at Ft. Lewis, Martin trained as a cook.
One of the biggest problems for the tankers was that the regular Army seemed to have a problem with them since they were National Guardsmen. After arriving at the fort, they trained in whatever clothing they had. One day, while they were training three officers, on horseback, rode up and asked why they weren’t training in the proper uniforms. It was explained that what they were wearing was what they had. That afternoon, a truck loaded with army clothing showed up at the 194th’s barracks. As it turned out one of the officers was the chief of staff of the camp’s commander, the officer’s name was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The battalion went on long reconnaissance with trucks and tanks and drove all over reservation following maps. They learned from observation what the land surrounding the fort looked like. The purpose of this training was to collect tank data which they would use later. They often had to live off the land during the training.
On April 30, 1941, the battalion went on an all-day march and ate dinner in woods brought to them by the cooks in the food trucks. The march was two hours one way and covered about 10 miles total. At one point the soldiers stopped in an abandoned apple orchard in bloom.
The battalion’s first motorcycles arrived in May 1941 and all battalion members had to learn to ride them. In early May 1941, the battalion – except men who had been drafted – went on its first overnight bivouac. The reason the new men did not go is that they did not have shelter halves. The battalion left around noon and returned around noon the next day.
Men assigned to jobs requiring special training were sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for training as mechanics, tank mechanics, radiomen, and radio repair for six weeks. Those who remained at Ft. Lewis were given the job of policing the base collecting garbage and distributing coal.
In September 1941, the 194th was sent overseas to the Philippine Islands because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island hundreds of miles away that had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
By the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore. Since radio communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the fishing boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
In September 1941, the company was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands. Arriving by train at 7:30 A.M. on September 5, the company was ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion’s medical detachment. The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8 at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship’s holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off the ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser and the U.S.S. Guadalupe, a replenishment oiler, that were its escorts. During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26, and reached Manila several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were driven on buses to Clark Field. The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion’s tanks and reattach the turrets.
The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and was taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort had learned of their arrival only days earlier. They remained in the tents until November 15th when they moved into their barracks.
The barracks’ outside walls were opened and screened from the floors to three feet up the wall. Above that, there was woven bamboo. This design allowed air to pass through the barracks. Sanitation facilities appeared to have been limited and a lucky man was one who was able to wash by a faucet with running water.
The tankers started working 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. According to members of the battalion the term “recreation in the motor pool” meant they 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.
Off the base, the soldiers went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups. They also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits and described the country was described as being beautiful
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. When they were discovered working in their coveralls by the base’s officers, the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms while working. The decision was made by Major Ernest Miller to continue wearing coveralls in their barracks area to do their work but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms, including going to the PX.
On December 1, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field. Their job was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived in November guarded the southern half. Two crewmen remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On December 8, 1941, Martin lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. During the attack, he took cover since he had no weapons to use against planes. When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
He spent much of the next four months driving a truck attempting to feed the tankers as they fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. This meant he was never too far from the tanks.
The 194th was sent to Mabalcat on December 10, and it was at this time that C Company was sent to southern Luzon where the Japanese were landing and put under the command of Brigadier General Albert M. Jones. To avoid Japanese planes, the company tried to cover the distance at night. They were successful and going 40 miles during the night but had to make a run for it during the day. They were successful and reached Muntinlupa and made it to Tagatay Ridge on December 14th.
The tanks remained at Tagatay until December 24th doing reconnaissance and hunting for fifth columnists who would signal planes with mirrors during the day near ammunition dumps resulting in the dumps being bombed and shelled. At night, the fifth columnists shot off flares near the ammunition dumps. The activity ended, when the company shot up native huts suspected as being used by the fifth columnists.
At 2:00 A.M. on December 24th, the Japanese landed 7,000 troops at Lamon Bay. The Japanese began advancing in the direction of Lucban. The company took a position to aid the 1st Infantry Regiment, Philippine Army, that was fighting the Japanese.
One platoon of five tanks – on December 26 – was ordered to advance down a trail in an area where the Japanese were known to be. A major ordered the tanks to advance even though no reconnaissance had been done. The trail made a sharp turn, and when the tanks made the turn, the first was knocked out by a Japanese anti-tank gun killing the platoon commander and the driver of the tank. The other two crewmen escaped into the jungle. The remaining four tanks were also knocked out by enemy fire resulting in two more men being killed.
From this point on the tanks fell back toward Bataan and were serving as the rear guard for Gen. Jones’ troops when they withdrew past Manila. C Company at one point saw 100 to 150 trucks belonging to the Philippine Army pass warehouses full of food and other supplies.
It was at this time that the 192nd Tank Battalion and A Company, 194th Tank Battalion were fighting to keep the roads open so that the troops withdrawing from southern Luzon would not be cut off.
The southern Luzon force with C Company serving as its rearguard crossed the Calumpit Bridge on January 1st. After the company crossed the bridge was destroyed. the tanks went through San Fernando and formed roadblocks to keep the junction of Routes 3 and 7 open.
Also on January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders of the northern force who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. The orders came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff and told the units holding open the bridges to withdraw. General Wainwright – who was in command – was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and half of the defenders had withdrawn. When Gen Wainwright became aware of what was going on, he countermanded the orders. Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted allowing the southern forces – including C Company – to escape.
Both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction on January 2, 1942, with the 194th withdrawing there on Highway 7. On January 5, 1942, C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-Porac Line and moved into position between Sexmoan and Lubao. At 1:50 A.M., the Japanese attempted to infiltrate their line in bright moonlight which made them easy to see. It also helped that the Japanese wore white shirts which reflected the moonlight. The tanks opened fire and in an attempt to cover their advance, the Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them. It was 3:00 A.M. when the Japanese broke off the engagement having suffered 50% casualties.
C Company was with the 31st Infantry on January 5 ambushed between 750 to 800 Japanese troops resulting in the Japanese suffering 50 percent casualties. When the company withdrew, the barrio of Lubao was in flames. A small skirmish took place on January 6 resulting in two members of C Company being wounded. One man died from gas gangrene.
A new defensive line was formed at Remedios along a dried creek bed. They fell back from this position and the tank battalions flanked the Layac Bridge over the Culo River. The night of January 6, the 194th crossed a bridge covered by the 192nd. The 192nd crossed the bridge becoming the last unit to enter Bataan. After it crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
For the first time in a month, both battalions bivouacked south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road giving long overdue maintenance work to be done on the tanks by the battalions’ maintenance crews and 17th Ordnance. It was also at this time that rations were cut in half and tank platoons were reduced to three tanks each. One reason this was done was to give D Company, 192nd tanks since it had lost all its tanks but one when a bridge had been destroyed before they had crossed it.
A 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 to prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been formed. The remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road. The tankers had been fighting for a month without rest and tanks also needed long overdue maintenance by 17th Ordnance. It was at this time that all tank companies reduced to ten tanks or three per tank platoon.
A platoon of tanks from C Company was sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw. The tanks ran into an anti-tank gun that fired at the lead tank, but the shell went over the turret of the tank. The tank returned fire and destroyed the gun before it got off its next round. Two tanks hit landmines disabling them and were abandoned but later recovered. The mission was abandoned. Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using the beach but lost their heavy equipment.
C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road on January 12 which was a forward position with little alert time. On January 13, 1942, mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road so the tanks returned to the battalions.
The tanks on January 26, held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road with four self-propelled mounts with the battalion. At 9:45 A.M., they were warned by Filipino that a large Japanese force was coming down the road. When the enemy appeared, the battalion opened up with all it had on the Japanese. At 10:30 A.M., the Japanese broke off the engagement and withdrew after losing 500 of 1200 men. This action prevented the new defensive line that was being formed from being breached.
The tanks from both battalions were given beach duty on January 28, 1942, with the tanks of the 194th given beach duty protecting southern beaches from Limay to Cabcaben with the half-tracks patrolling the roads. The tanks maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols.
During January 1942, Martin was hospitalized and wrote to his family:
Feb 10 – 1942
“Dearest Mother & Family
“It’s been a long time since I wrote you a letter. I sent a letter to you and one to Lela around X-mas. I am feeling fine and getting plenty to eat, sleep. For breakfast, we had coffee, sugar, cream, cereal, fried frankfurters, and potatoes so you can see we are having good food. I had a tooth pulled also. There isn’t much to write about as you already know what is happening. We have a radio and listen in to A.E.G.I. San Francisco. It sure sounds good to hear good music from home. I hope all are OK at Home. Every day I think of each one of you. I wonder if it is possible for Lela to live with you. I met a kid over here that I knew in Watsonville. I was surprised to see him. I must close now and I hope this letter will get to you. I am going to write one to Lela also. I’ll be seeing all soon.
“Love your son
In a second typed letter home, Martin said:
Feb 15 – 1942
“Just a few lines to let you know I am OK. I am still in the hospital. They said that I have Indolent fever and it comes in waves. My temperature will go up only to 101° for a few days and go down to normal. I have had it now since Christmas but seem to be getting better. Last X-mas I had a good Christmas Dinner. I was in a hospital in Manila and we had Turkey and all the trimmings and had lots of candy and nuts and cigarettes. I have had a tooth pulled out lately. While my fever is down I feel good and have a good time with the boys in the hospital. We got a good Radio Station to listen to out of San Francisco and get a little news from home and also some good music. The weather is a little hot here right now. How is Lela now? I haven’t heard from her since the end of Nov. I had a $10 raise in pay now as my year is past. I wonder if it is possible for Lela to stay with you and you could use the money I have sent home to take care of her and I could pay the balance when I get home. Also, write and tell her you received this letter. I wrote one to her and you a while back but I don’t know whether it got there or not. I will close now as I haven’t much more to say, will write again. Love to all.
Sometime in March 1942, two tanks were bogged down in the mud and the tankers were working to get them out when a Japanese Regiment entered the area. Lt. Col. Ernest Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range to fire on the enemy troops. Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire and wiped out the Japanese regiment.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U.S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers’ rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantily clad blond on them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger and a milkshake since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
Also in March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor which Wainwright denied.
The Japanese launched an all-out attack on April 3 and broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted 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, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company’s offer of assistance in a counter-attack. On March 30, 1942, his wife received a letter from him that was written on January 20. In it, he said he was well and in good spirits.
It was also at this time that the tank battalions, without orders, took on the job of protecting three airfields. The airfields had been built so a rebuilt Air Corps would have places to land. About the same time, the fighting on Bataan came to a standstill since the Japanese troops were exhausted and suffering from the same tropical illnesses as the defenders. To end the stalemate, the Japanese brought in fresh troops from Singapore.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an all-out 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. 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 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 white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.) 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, at 6:45 in the morning, the tankers received the order “crash,” which meant they were to disable their tanks. Martin decided, with other members of his company, to attempt to reach Corregidor.
The tankers made their way along the coast and made it to a cove. There they joined other Americans attempting to reach the island. The soldiers were able to get a boat operational and approached Corregidor. As they neared the island, they used a flashlight to signal the defenders. Finally, they received a response that told them how to maneuver through the mines that surrounded the island.
On May 6, the island was surrendered to the Japanese. From medical records kept on the island, it is known that Martin was still on there on May 31, 1942. How long he remained is not known.
In May or early June 1942, his family received a message from the War Department:
“Dear Mrs. L. Cahill:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Private First Class, 20, 900, 672, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter. 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 other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect 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 surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war. In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired. At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.
“Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months; to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held; to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress. The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records. Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.
“Very Truly yours
J. A. Ulio (signed)
The Adjutant General”
Information on Martin’s life as a POW is limited. It is known that he was also held as a POW at Cabanatuan for most of his time as a POW. The base had been a Filipino Army Base and home of the 91st Philippine Army Division.
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, as the POWs stood at attention and roll call was taken, the Japanese guards hit them across their heads. 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 made up of 30 wards. One ward had been missed when the wards were being counted so it was given the name of “Zero Ward.” The ward became the place were POWs who were going to die were sent. The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a fence up around it and would not go near the building. Most of the POWs who died there died because their bodies were too malnourished to fight the diseases they had.
in July his family received a second message from the War Department. The following are excerpts from it.
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Private First Class Martin A. Cahill 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.”
According to medical records kept at Cabanatuan, Martin was admitted to the camp hospital on October 31, 1942, suffering from a corneal ulcer. The records do not show when he was discharged.
It is not known what work details Martin went out on as a POW during this time. It appears that he spent most of the time as a POW at Cabanatuan. In early October 1944, Martin was selected to be sent to Japan and was taken to Manila.
As American forces approached the Philippines, the Japanese began to transfer a large number of POWs to other parts of their empire. When Martin’s group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila, on October 2, 1944, they were scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, which was ready to sail, but the entire detachment had not arrived at the pier. Another detachment of POWs had completely arrived and was waiting for their ship to be ready to sail. The Japanese flipped the POW detachments so that the Hokusen Maru could sail.
On October 10, 1944, Martin was boarded onto the Arisan Maru. 1775 POWs were packed into the ship’s number one hold which could hold 400 men. Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks. These bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up. Those standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five-gallon cans.
Anton Cichy stated, “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 there.”
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.”
On October 11, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa. Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died. The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp. During the night, the POWs were in total darkness. This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes, but the ship was attacked by American planes that were returning from an attack on the airfield on the island.
Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not turned off the power to the lights. Some of the prisoners were able to hot-wire the ship’s blowers into the light power lines. This allowed fresh air into the hold until the power was disconnected, two days later, when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
After this was done, the POWs began to develop heat blisters. The Japanese realized that if they did not do something many of the POWs would die. To prevent this, they opened the ship’s number two hold and transferred 600 POWs into it. At this point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.
Of this time, Graef said, “As we moved through the tropical waters, the heat down in the steel-encased hell hole was maddening. We were allowed three ounces of water per man every 24 hours. Quarts were needed under these conditions, to keep a man from dehydrating.
“While men were dying of thirst, Jap guards–heaping insults on us–would empty five-gallon tins of 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.”
The ship returned to Manila on October 20, where it joined a twelve ship convoy. On October 21, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea. The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs making them targets for American submarines. In addition, U.S. Military Intelligence was reading the Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese. To protect this secret, they did not tell the submarine crews that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines. The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.
Graef described the deaths of the POWs hold. “There were so many (that died) out 1800. The conditions in the hold…..men were just dying in a continuous stream. Men, holding their bellies in interlocked arms, stood up, screamed and died. You were being starved, men 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.”
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.”
It was about 4:00 P.M. on October 24, and each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice. Ten POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship’s holds. The waves were high since the ship had been through a storm in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. Suddenly, bells and sirens sounded warning of submarines. The POWs in the holds chanted for the submarine to sink the ship.
At about 4:50 P.M., about half the POWs had been fed. As the POWs, on deck, watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched as a torpedo passed in front of it. Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship’s stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship. There was a sudden jar and the ship stopped dead in the water. It had been hit by two torpedoes, amidships, in its third hold where there were no POWs.
At first, the POWs cheered wildly until they realized they were facing death. 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 recalled, “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.” Overbeck also commented on the reaction of the POWs in the holds. “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.” It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the U.S.S. Snook or U.S.S. Shark.
The guards began to beat the POWs on deck with their guns to chase them back into the holds. Once they had, they put the hatch covers on the hatches, but because they had been ordered to abandon ship, never tied them down.
Cichy said, “The Japs closed the hatched and left the ship in lifeboats. They must of 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 the 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.”
The POWs left the holds but made no attempt to abandon ship. On the ship’s deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, “Boys, we’re in a 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.” The ship slowly sank lower in the water.
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.”
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 a wave 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. After that, the rest of the ship began to take on water quickly.
Oliver recalled, “I could see people still on the ship when it went down. I could see people against the skyline, just standing there.”
In the water, many POWs swam to a nearby Japanese destroyer put 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.
Of the 1775 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived its sinking, and only eight of these men survived the war. PFC. Martin Cahill was not one of them.
Martin Cahill’s family received this message sometime around June 26, 1945:
“Dear Mr. & Mrs. Cahill;
“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, PFC. Martin A. Cahill, 20,900,694, 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.
“J. A. Ulio
“Maj. Gen., The Adjutant General of the Army”
Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Martin A. Cahill’s name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.