Pfc. Robert Vernon Cloyd
Pfc. Robert Vernon Cloyd was
born on February 15, 1922, in Mercer County, Kentucky to Vernon Cloyd &
Jessie May Smith-Cloyd.
He and his four sisters and one brother grew up outside of Harrodsburg,
but in 1940, they were living at 937 Moreland Avenue.
Robert joined the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. When he was called to federal service on November 25, 1940, he was working on a dairy farm. At Fort Knox, his tank company was given the designation of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He remained in the company until Headquarters Company was formed with men from the four letter companies of the battalion in January 1941. It is not known what duties he performed.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd went on maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.
Traveling west by train, the 192nd arrived in San Francisco. They were ferried to Angel Island. On the island they received physicals and inoculations before being sent to the Philippine Islands.
Upon arriving in the Philippines, the battalion was housed in tents along the main road between Fort Stotsenburg and Clark Field. This was done since the barracks for the battalion were unfinished.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Fred Bruni, the commanding officer of HQ Company, told his men that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor just ten hours earlier. Robert and the rest of HQ Company were sent to the north end of the main runway at Clark Field.
All morning long, Robert and the his company watched as the sky was filled with American planes. Around 12:30 in the afternoon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. American B-17's loaded with bombs to be used on Formosa were left on the runway.
At 12:45, Robert and his company noticed planes approaching the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were American. It wasn't until they saw the bombs falling from the planes and exploding that they knew that the planes were Japanese.
For the next four months, Robert and his company worked to keep the tanks supplied with ammunition and gasoline. He most likely did not see frontline action.
The morning of April 9, 1942, Capt Bruni told his men of the surrender of Filipino and American forces on Bataan to the Japanese. He ate breakfast with his men and ordered them to destroy anything that could be used by the Japanese. Only the company's trucks would not be destroyed.
On April 11th, Robert and the other soldiers had their first contact with the Japanese. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions out to the road that ran near their encampment. Once on the road, they were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road. Robert was now officially a Prisoner of War. As the POWs knelt, their possessions were in front of them. The Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
Robert with his company were ordered into the trucks and rode to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once there, they were disembarked the trucks and ordered to Mariveles airfield. They sat at the airfield for hours without food or water. They did not know it at the time, but they were experiencing the "sun treatment".
As the POWs sat at the airfield, a line of Japanese soldiers began to form in front of them. The POWs soon realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad. As Robert and the other men watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out. He spoke to the Japanese sergeant in charge and got back into the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered his men to lower their guns.
Robert and the rest of the men were ordered to move and marched to a schoolyard. At the schoolyard, they were ordered to sit. They soon realized that the Japanese were using the them as human shields. Not too long after they were put into the field four Japanese guns began firing at Ft. Drum and Corregidor. Within minutes the two American fortresses began returning fire. Since there was no place to hide, the POWs hit the dirt. Several were killed during the artillery exchange. The American artillery did knock out three of the four guns. The POWs were ordered to move again, this time they had no idea that they had started what became known as the "death march".
On the march, Robert and the other men received no water and little food. Those POWs who fell were killed by the Japanese. At San Fernando, the POWs were put into small wooden boxcars. Each car could hold 40 men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs in each car. They were packed in so tightly that the dead remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars.
At Capas, the POWs disembarked from the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. The camp was a death trap with as many as 50 POWs dying each day. It is known that Robert was held at Cabanatuan which was opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.
On December 12, 1942, Robert went out on a work detail for Las Pinas. The POWs worked to build runways with picks and shovels at Nichols Airfield. The POWs were housed at the Pasay School and marched each day to the airfield. With him on the detail were Grover Whittinghill, Field Reed, James Choate, and Ancel Crick. Robert remained on this detail until April 1944, when he and the other POWs were returned to Cabanatuan.
The next detail Robert was on was building runways at Nichols Airfield. The POWs lived in a POW camp known as Pasay School. The POWs literally removed an entire mountain by hand. Robert remained on the detail until he was sent to Manila.
On October 11, 1944 the POWs was sent to Pier 7 in Manila. Once there, it was determined that one of the POW groups had not received its full compliment of men. It was decided by the Japanese that Robert's group would be boarded onto this group's ship. The ship they were boarded onto was the Arisan Maru. The hold the POWs were put in could hold 400 men. The Japanese put 1803 POWs in it. Within 48 hours, five POWs had died.
The ship sailed and took a southerly route away from Formosa. In a cove off the Island of Palawan, the ship dropped anchor. This resulted in the ship missing an air attack by American planes. Some of the POWs discovered that the blowers in the hold could be hooked up to the holds lighting. For two days the POWs breathed fresh air. When the Japanese found out what the POWs had done, they cut the power. The Japanese later transferred 800 POWs to the ship's number three hold to relieve the conditions..
The Arisan Maru returned to the Manila on October 21st. There, it joined a twelve ship convoy for Formosa. On October 23rd, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea. American submarines did not know what cargo the ships were carrying since the Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944, near dinner time, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those POWs who were still in the ship's two holds. The ship was near Shoonan off the coast of China. The POWs watched as the Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship. A torpedo from an American submarine pass just in front of the ship. Moments later, the Japanese ran toward the stern of the ship. Once again a torpedo missed and passed just behind the ship.
There was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit amidships by two torpedoes. 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 took their weapons and began to shoot at the POWs on deck. The men climbed back into the holds. The Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds but did not tie the hatch covers down. They then abandoned ship.
Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached and lowered the ladders to those in the first hold. They also dropped rope ladders to the POWs in both holds.
Many of the POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Others stuffed themselves with what was their last meal. Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue them. The Japanese destroyers in the convoy deliberately pushed away the POWs with poles or pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them.
Five POWs found an abandoned life boat and got into it. The boat had no oars, so they could not maneuver it. According to these men, the Arisan Maru slowly got lower in the water. At some point it split in two. The exact time of the sinking is not known since it took place at night. As time went on, the cries for help grew fewer. Then, there was just silence.
Pfc. Robert V. Cloyd 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 survived the war. Since he was lost at sea, Pfc. Robert Cloyd's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.