Pfc. Hubert Oris Brewer
known about Pfc. Hubert O. Brewer is that he was born in February 27, 1921, in
Onia, Stone County, Arkansas. He was one of four children born to
Floyd D. Brewer & Gertha E. Lawrence-Brewer. He lived in Lamar,
Arkansas, as a child. He had three brothers and a sister.
Hubert later resided in Ofuskee County, Oklahoma, and worked as a farmhand. He was drafted into the army on March 17, 1941, and inducted at Oklahoma City. After basic training, he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Hubert joined the 192nd Tank Battalion in the autumn of 1941, after those National Guardsmen 29 years old, or with two children, were released from federal service. Many of these replacements were volunteers from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Hubert was assigned to Company C which was originally an Ohio National Guard Tank Company. He arrived in the Philippine Islands on Thanksgiving Day, and with the other members of the battalion, was rushed to Fort Stotsenburg. There, he and his company spent the next two weeks preparing to take part in maneuvers.
On December 8, 1941, Hubert lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. After the attack, on December 21, 1941, his company was sent north to Lingayen Gulf to support B Company. There, they fought a successful battle against the Japanese at Demoritis to relieve the 26th U.S. Cavalry.
When Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942, Hubert became a Prison of War. He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. He was next sent to Cabanatuan. Hubert also was sent out to Nichols Field on a work detail. The POWs built runways at the airfield with picks and shovels. While on the detail, he and the other POWs were housed at Pasay School.
In early October 1944, the Japanese, knowing that it was just a matter of time before the American forces would invade the Philippines, began sending large numbers of POWs to Japan or other occupied countries. On October 11, 1944, Hubert was taken to Pier 7 in the Port Area of Manila. The POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru and packed into the ship's hold. The next day 80 POWs were moved to the ship's other hold which was partially filled with coal.
On October 10, 1944, Hubert was boarded onto the Arisan Maru. On October 11th, the ship sailed but took a southerly route away from Formosa. The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. Within the first 48 hours, five POWs died because of the conditions in the hold. The Japanese not wanting the ship to turn into a death ship opened the first hold. 800 POWs were moved to this hold.
The stay in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes on ships in the Manila Bay. During this time, one POW was shot attempting to escape. It is known that the ship was attacked once by American planes while in the cove. The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 20th. There, it joined a convoy of twelve ships.
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. This made the ships targets for submarines.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944, at 5:00 pm, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those POWs in the ship's two holds. The ship was near Shoonan off the coast of China. The Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and watched at torpedo pass in front of the ship. They then ran to the stern of the ship and watched another torpedo miss the ship. Suddenly, there was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes amidships. The ship stopped dead in the water. Two torpedoes had hit the ship 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 took a machinegun and began firing at the POWs who were on deck. To escape the fire, the POWs dove back into the holds. After they were in the holds, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds.
As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two occupied holds. Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the ladders into the holds. They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.
All of the POWs were able to get onto the deck of the ship. At first, few POWs attempted to escape the ship. A group of 35 men swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs. 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, more POWs took to the water. Those POWs too weak to swim raided the ship's food lockers. They wanted to die with full stomachs. Many POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Some of the POWs found a abandoned lifeboat floating in the ocean. These men stated that most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking.
The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark. According to the surviving POWs, as evening became night, the cries for help became fewer and fewer until there was silence.
Of the 1800 men on the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the sinking. Of the survivors, only eight survived the war. Pfc. Hubert O. Brewer was not one of them. Since he died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.