Pvt. Daniel Joseph Boni
| Pvt. Daniel J. Boni was born April 13, 1917.
He was the son of Daniel F. and Phyllis Bronge-Boni and grew up in Melrose Park,
Illinois. He lived at 1419 North Broadway Avenue. To his
family, he was known as "Danny".
Danny attended Melrose Park School and Proviso Township High School. He enlisted in the Illinois National Guard on March 21, 1939, at the armory across the street from the high school. One of the other members of the company was his cousin, Bob Bronge.
With the other members of the Maywood Tank Company, Danny trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was upon arrival there that the company became B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
In late summer 1941, Danny participated in the Louisiana maneuvers. When these maneuvers ended, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana. There, they were informed that the battalion was not going to be released from federal service but sent overseas for additional training.
The companies of the 192nd were sent west to San Francisco over four different train routes. Arriving there, they were sent by ferry to Angel Island where they were given physicals. The battalion sailed for the Philippine Islands stopping in Hawaii and Guam on the voyage.
Danny and the rest of the battalion arrived in the Philippines on November 20, 1941, which was Thanksgiving Day. The tankers were sent to Fort Stotsenburg immediately after their arrival. On the main road between Clark Field and Ft. Stotsenburg, Danny and the other men lived in tents since the barracks assigned to them were not finished. On December 8, 1941, Danny lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.
For the next four months, Danny fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. When the order came for the defenders of Bataan to surrender, Danny and the other members of Sgt. Zenon Bardowski's tank platoon attempted to get their tanks across to Corregidor. When it became evident that they would not be allowed to take the tanks to Corregidor, the tankers abandoned the tanks and went to Corregidor without them.
Danny would continue to fight until Corregidor surrendered on May 6, 1942. One of the greatest regrets Danny and the other members of his tank platoon had was not destroying their tanks. When the final all out attack on Corregidor came, it was led by their tanks which had been captured by the Japanese.
Danny and the other prisoners remained a Corregidor for several days. They were then taken down to the shore and boarded onto smaller boats. The boats took them to a larger ship that took them to an area near Manila. A few hundred yards from shore the POWs were made to jump into the water and swim to shore. Once on shore, they were marched ten miles to Bilibid Prison. He remained there for almost a week before being sent to Cabanatuan.
Danny and the other prisoners were boarded onto a train and rode to the barrio of Cabanatuan. They were held in a school for two days before they marched ten miles to Cabanatuan #1. He would remain in the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail.
In either late 1942 or early 1943, Danny was sent on a work detail to the Bachrach Garage in Manila. The POWs on the detail repaired mechanical equipment for the Japanese. With him on the detail, were Arthur Van Pelt, Roger Heilig, Ralph Ellis and Warren Hildebrandt of B Company.
In late 1944, when it became apparent to the Japanese that the invasion of the Philippines was near, most of the POWs on this detail were sent to the Port Area of Manila. The Japanese were attempting to send the healthy POWs to Japan, and other countries, to work as slave labor and prevent them from being liberated by advancing American forces.
When Danny's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila on October 10, 1944, they were boarded onto the Arisan Maru. They had been scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru, but since one of the POW groups had not arrived on time, another detachment of POWs was boarded on their ship. With him in the detachment were the same members of B Company who had worked with him in Manila.
Danny and 1803 other POWs were packed into the ship's number two hold. 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 while laying down. Those standing also had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five gallon cans. Since the POWs were packed into the hold so tightly, many of the POWs could not get near the cans. The floor of the hold was covered with human waste.
On October 11th, 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 while in the cove.
Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice. Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters.
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 wire the ship's blowers into the light power lines. This allowed fresh air into the hold. The blowers were disconnected two days later when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
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.
The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th. There, it joined a twelve ship convoy. On October 21st, 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. The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds. The ship was near Shoonan Island off the coast of China. Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard. The men inside the holds knew this meant that American submarines had been spotted and began to chant for the submarines to sink the ship.
The Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship. As the POWs watched, a torpedo passed in front of the bow of the ship. 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. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S Snook.
One of the Japanese guards aimed his machinegun and began firing at the POWs who were on deck. To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds. After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie them down.
As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds, but since they had not tied down the hatch covers, some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders. They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.
The POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship. At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship. Many raided the ship's food lockers and ate their last meals.
A group of 35 POWs swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they pushed them away with poles and hit them with clubs. The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.
As the ship got lower in the water, some of the POWs took to the water. These POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking. At some point, the ship split in two. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
Five of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs. According to the survivors, the Arisan Maru sank sometime after dark. As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer until there was silence.
In June 1945, Danny's family received a POW postcard from him which was sent before he left Cabanatuan. In the card, Danny wrote:
"Received the package you sent and was very much surprised for I did not expect it. I did expect to receive some mail but did not. So please write and tell the folks to write. And also send me photos. I am doing fine and hope to hear the same from you. Regards to all."
When his parents received this, they had no idea that Danny had already died on the Arisan Maru.
Pvt. Daniel J. Boni lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea. Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking. Eight of these men would survive the war. Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Daniel J. Boni's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.