Cpl. Frank Earl South
Cpl. Frank E. South was the son of Robert B. South and Allie N.
Cornell-South. He had one sister and three brothers. It is
known his sister died before her tenth birthday. He was raised in
Watauga County, North Carolina and graduated high school. Frank moved first to Montana and next to Brainerd, Minnesota, where he worked as a bell hop at a hotel and joined the Minnesota National Guard.
On February 10, 1941, his tank company was federalized as A Company, 194th Tank Battalion. He and the other National Guardsmen were sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. There, they were joined by B Company from Saint Joseph, Missouri, and C Company from Salinas, California. They spent the next six months training. It was at that time that Frank was assigned to HQ Company when it was created.
In September 1941, the 194th, without B Company, was sent to San Francisco. There the soldiers were inoculated and boarded a transport bound for the Philippine Islands. Arriving in the Philippines, they were sent to Fort Stostenburg. The tankers spent the next two months training.
The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after Pearl Harbor, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guar against Japanese paratroopers. All morning they watched as the sky was filled with American planes. At noon the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the Japanese bombed the airfield destroying the American Army Air Corps.
For the next four months, Frank fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. The evening of April 8, 1942, they received the news of the surrender the next morning. They circled their tanks and destroyed them. The next morning he was a Prisoner of War and went to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
From Mariveles, Frank made his way north to San Fernando. He and the other Prisoners of War received little food and no water. According to other members of A Company, it seemed that the Japanese guards intentionally prevented them from drinking good water from the artesian wells that flowed across the road, but the guards were willing to let the prisoners drink the dirty water in the ditches which had the bodies of men killed on the march floating in them.
At San Fernando, the POWs were herded into a bull-pin and and slept in the human waste of other POWs who had been held there the night before. The next day the POWs were taken to the train station in San Fernando and boarded into small boxcars used to haul sugarcane. They were packed in so tightly that the prisoners who died remained standing.
At Capas, Frank and the other POWs disembarked the cars. As they did, the bodies of the dead fell to the ground. The surviving POWs made their way to Camp O'Donnell. Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military camp. There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs in the camp. Men stood in line for days for a drink of water. Many died while waiting for a drink. Disease ran wild in the camp causing as many as 50 men to die each day.
It is not known if Frank went out on a work detail, but it is known that he was also held Cabanatuan prison camp when the new camp opened in May 1942. During his time in the camp, Frank most likely worked on the burial detail. As many as fifty POWs died each day.
It is not known if Frank remained at Cabanatuan or was sent out to another camp to do work. What is known is that he was still in the Philippine Islands in late 1944.
In early October 1944, Frank and 1802 other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. The POWs were scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, but since a detachment of POWs in his group had not arrived, another detachment of POWs were put on the ship so that it could sail.
On October 10th at Pier 7, Jack's POW detachment were boarded onto the Arisan Maru and forced into the ship's two holds. The ship sailed, but instead of heading north to Formosa, it sailed south. For the next ten days the ship hid from American planes in a cove off the Island of Palawan.
For ten days, the other prisoners were held in the ship's holds while the Japanese formed a convoy. During this time, the POWs discovered that the Japanese had removed the light bulbs from the holds but had not turned off the power. The POWs managed to wire the hold's ventilation system into its lighting system. For two days, they had fresh air. When the Japanese discovered what they had done, they turned off the power.
On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila. While it had been in the cove, the Port Area of Manila had been bombed. 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 American submarines.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru on October 24, 1944, near dinner time, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds. The ship was near Shoonan off the coast of China. As the POWs watched, the Japanese on deck ran to the stern of the ship. A torpedo passed behind the ship. Moments later, the Japanese ran to the stem of the ship. Another torpedo passed in front of the ship. The next two torpedo hit the ship's center. The ship stopped dead in the water. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S. Snook.
The Japanese guards chased the POWs who were on deck back into the holds. They then put the hatch covers in place, but did not tie them down. As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's holds. Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached and lowered a ladder to those in the first hold. They also dropped ropes down to the POWs in both holds.
The ship sunk slowly into the water. At some point, the ship broke in two. Many of the POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Those who could not swim raided the ship's galley and ate until their stomachs were full. They wanted to die with full stomachs. Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue them. The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them. The sailors on the other ships pushed the POWs away with poles while the ships picked up the Japanese survivors.
According to the survivors of the sinking, as the evening went on, fewer and fewer cries for help were heard. Then, all there was was silence.
Cpl. Frank E. South lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea on October 24, 1944. Of the 1803 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking. Only eight of these POWs lived to see the end of the war.
Since he was lost at sea, Cpl Frank E. South's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.