,

Pfc. Martin A. Cahill


    Pfc. Martin A. Cahill  was born in February 24, 1918, in San Francisco, California, to William & Lena Cahill.  With his two brothers and two sisters, he grew up in San Francisco.  While he was in high school, his family moved to Santa Cruz County, California.  He graduated Santa Cruz High School in 1936, and lived at 715 Madison in Watsonville.  He worked on a farm and was engaged to Lela Taylor.

    Martin enlisted in the California National Guard on December 6, 1938, and was inducted into the U. S. Army on January 29, 1941.  On February 10th, his tank company was designated C Company, 194th Tank Battalion.  They arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington on February 20th.  During his time at Ft. Lewis, Martin trained as a cook.

    In September 1941, the 194th was sent overseas to the Philippine Islands.  On December 8, 1941, Martin lived though the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  He spent much of the next four months driving a truck attempting to  feed the tankers as they fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. 

    During January, 1942, Martin was hospitalized and wrote to his family:

Feb 10 - 1942

Dearest Mother & Family

                                       Itís been a long time since I wrote you a letter.  I sent a letter to you and one to Lela around X-mas.  I am feeling fine and getting plenty to eat, sleep.  For breakfast we had coffee, sugar, cream, cereal, fried frankfurters and potatoes so you can see we are having good food.  I had a tooth pulled also.  There isnít much to write about as you already know what is happening.  We have a radio and listen in to A.E.G.I. San Francisco .  It sure sounds good to hear good music from home.  I hope all are OK at Home.  Every day I think of each one of you.  I wonder if it is possible for Lela to live with you.  I met a kid over here that I knew in Watsonville .  I was surprised to see him.  I must close now and I hope this letter will get to you.  I am going to write one to Lela also.  Iíll be seeing all soon.

                                    Love your son

                                                                        Martin

In a second typed letter home, Martin said:

 

Feb 15 - 1942

Dear Mother

                        Just a few lines to let you know I am OK.  I am still in the hospital.  They said that I have undolent fever and it comes in waves.  My temperature will go up only to 101į for a few days and go down to normal.  I have had it now since Christmas but seem to be getting better.  Last X-mas I had a good Christmas Dinner.  I was in a hospital in Manila and we had Turkey and all the trimmings and had lots of candy and nuts and cigarettes.  I have had a tooth pulled out lately.  While my fever is down I feel good and have a good time with the boys in the hospital.  We got a good Radio Station to listen to out of San Francisco and get a little news from home and also some good music.  The weather is a little hot here right now.  How is Lela now.  I havenít heard from her since the end of Nov. I had a $10 raise in pay now as my year is past.  I wonder if it is possible for Lela to stay with you and you could use the money I have sent home to take care of her and I could pay the balance when I get home.  Also write and tell her you received this letter.  I wrote one to her and you a while back but I donít know whether it got there or not.  I will close now as I havenít much more to say, will write again.  Love to all.

                                                Your son

                                                            Martin

 

    On April 9, 1942, Martin became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrender to the Japanese.   Martin took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando.  At San Fernando, Martin and the other POWs were put into boxcars that could hold forty men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From this barrio, Martin walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Information of Martin's life as a POW is limited.  It is known that he was also held as a POW at Cabanatuan for most of his time as a POW.  During this time, his family received six POW post cards from him.  Since each card was formatted and censored by the Japanese, little information is contained in them.  He repeated asked for news from home and for his parents to tell his family and friends he loved them.  

    It is not known what work details Martin went out on as a POW during this time.  It appears that he spent most of the time as a POW at Cabanatuan.  In early October 1944, Martin was selected to be sent to Japan and was taken to Manila.

    In October 1944, Martin was selected for transport to Japan and sent to the Port Area of Manila.  It should be noted that Martin's detachment of POWs was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru.  The ship was ready to sail, but not all the POWs in his detachment had arrived at the pier.  There was another POW detachment ready to sail, so the Japanese put that detachment of POWs on the ship.

    On October 10, 1944, Martin was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.  He and 1803 other POWs were packed into the ship's number one 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.  Those standing 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.

    During the time off Palawan, the ship was attacked by American planes.  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 cutoff the power.  Some of the prisoners were able to wire the ship's blowers into the 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 some point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.

    The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th.  There, it joined a 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.  This made the ships targets for submarines.  The POWs in the hold were so desperate that they prayed that the ship be hit by torpedoes.

    According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru,  on October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, 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.  Suddenly, sirens and other alarms were heard.  The men inside 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 began running around the ship.  As the POWs watched, a torpedo passed the bow of the ship.  Moments later, a second torpedo passed the ship's stern.  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 took a machinegun and began firing on the POWs who were on deck.  To escape, the POWs dove back into the holds.  After they were in, the Japanese put the hatch covers on the holds.

    As the Japanese abandoned ship, they cut the rope ladders into the ship's two holds, but they did not tie 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.  A group of 35 swam to a nearby Japanese ship, but when the Japanese realized they were POWs, they were pushed away with poles and hit 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 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.   According to the survivors, the ship broke in two, but both halves remained afloat.  The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.

    Five of the POWs found a 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.

    Pfc. Martin A. Cahill 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, Pfc. Martin A. Cahill's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.


 

 

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