Pvt. Martin Giachino
Pvt. Martin Giachino was born in
1914 in Crook County, Wyoming, to Antonio Giachino and Domenica Minka-Giachino.
He had three sisters and one brother. The family moved to Missouri and resided in
It is not known when Martin joined the U. S. Army, but he was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 194th Tank Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington. He trained there for approximately six months before being sent to San Francisco, California for overseas duty.
Arriving in the Philippine Islands in late September 1941, the 194th was the first tank battalion to leave the continental United States. They would spend the next two months training with their equipment.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack of Pearl Harbor, Martin witnessed the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. The tankers had been ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.
Martin was not involved in front line action, but he did live with the constant strafing by Japanese planes. Being in HQ Company, Martin's job was to keep the tanks supplied with ammunition and gasoline.
When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese, Martin became a Prisoner of War. He took part in the death march from Mariveles, at the southern tip of Bataan, to San Fernando. There, he and the other POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men or eight horses. One hundred POWs were put into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. As they left, the dead fell to the floor of the cars.
The POWs marched ten more miles to Camp O'Donnell. Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Camp that the Japanese pressed into service as a prison camp. There was one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. Men died standing in line for a drink of water. Disease ran rampant. As many as fifty POWs died each day. The POWs worked day and night to bury the dead.
The Japanese realized that something had to be done to end the situation, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. Once the POWs received one of the few Red Cross packages they were allowed to receive, the death rate dropped dramatically.
It is not known if Martin remained at Cabanatuan or if he went out on any work details while a POW. What is known is that the POWs in late 1944 could hear the guns of American ships and watch American planes fly over the camp. It was at this time that the Japanese began transferring the POWs to other parts of their empire. It was at this time that Martin was selected to be sent to Japan.
When Martin's group of POWs arrived at the Port Area of Manila, on October 10, 1944, they were scheduled to be boarded onto the Hokusen Maru. The ship was ready to sail, but the entire detachment had not arrived at the pier. The Japanese flipped Vincent's group with another group of POWs so that the ship could sail.
Vincent and 1802 other POWs were put on the Arisan Maru and 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 lying 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. At some point, 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.
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 one 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 30 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.
Pvt. Martin Giachino 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. Martin Giachino's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.