|A ship similar to the Arisan Maru|
It was the largest naval disaster in American history. In comparison, more than 1,500 perished on the RMS Titanic.
Seven hundred miles south raged the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23–27, 1944) to liberate the Philippines.
The Arisan Maru went down with 1,774 mostly American POWs of Japan. It was torpedoed by either the submarines USS Shark (SS-314) or the USS Snook (SS-279). The Shark was attacked and destroyed at the same time, adding 87 more Americans to the missing. The Snook was lost six months in the Luzon Strait later on April 8, 1945 with 60 onboard.
|Memorial at the National Pacific War Museum|
Dedicated October 24, 1999
Of the four taken to Taiwan, Texan Army Pvt. Charles W. Hughes, a member of the Coast Artillery assigned to the 31st Infantry HQ, died November 9, 1944 at the Shirakawa POW camp on Formosa.
He participated in the defense of Bataan and survived the Bataan Death March, Camp O'Donnell, Cabanatuan POW Camp, and Bilibid Prison. After U.S. aerial attacks on Manila September 21-22, 1944 (Overbeck says early October), men were boarded on the Arisan Maru on October 10th. They were kept in the sweltering holds for ten days as the hellship inched toward Palawan and then returned to Manila after more Allied air raids. On October 21, the Arisan Maru departed Manila for the final time, joining convoy MATA-30 heading for Takao, Formosa (Taiwan).
Pvt. Avery E. Wilber, a member of the 60th Coast Artillery (AA), Battery A from Maine had also survived battle on Bataan and the Bataan Death March.
Overbeck, more civilian than Army, was the only one with sailing experience and automatically took over command. Knowing roughly where they were at the time of the sinking, being able to visualize the coast of China as running approximately north northeast in these latitudes and having a good idea of the wind direction from the rising sun, he thought it "was easy to decide" on a rough course which would take us to China.
They made it the 250 miles in two and one-half days by following the stars. A Chinese junk rescued the and first took them to Kitchioh [Jieshi] a town in Lufeng, Shanwei Municipality, Guangdong midway between Hong Kong and Shantou [Swatow] and then up the coast to Hoifung.
The journey then continued to the interior to Hingning-a refugee town right out of a Star Wars movie. The former POWs were treated like royalty by the Chinese in every village they entered. For 12 days the five survivors were transported about 600 miles by foot, truck, bicycle and plane to Kunming airfield, base of the 14th Air Force and the former Flying Tigers. On November 28, 1944 they started their flight aboard a C47 back to the USA.
The Last Voyage of the Arisan Maru - Paperback - June 30, 2008 by Dale Wilber