Capt. Arthur V. Burholt
Capt. Arthur V. Burholt was the son of Judson Burholt & Alice E. Conley-Burholt and
was born on September 16, 1908, in Columbus, Ohio. He was the
oldest of the couple's three sons. While he was a
child, his father passed away. His mother would later marry Fred Weisenblatt.
Sometime during this period, the family moved to Port Clinton. There, Arthur attended school. He was a 1926 graduate of Port Clinton High School and a 1932 graduate of Michigan State Normal College.
In 1933, Arthur took a job at Port Clinton High School. He also coached basketball and later became the school's athletic director. On May 1, 1936, he married Virginia Van Rensselaer. He and his wife resided at 520 East Perry Street in Port Clinton.
It was during this time, that Arthur enlisted in the Ohio National Guard's Tank Company headquartered in Port Clinton. He remained in his teaching position until he was called to federal duty as a member of C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion in the fall of 1940.
As a private first class, Arthur trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky for almost a year. It was in January of 1941 that Arthur was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed from the letter companies of the battalion. It was also during this time that Arthur rose in rank from Pfc. to staff sergeant. He next took part in maneuvers in Louisiana during the later summer of 1941.
At Camp Polk, Arthur and the rest of the battalion learned that they had been selected to go overseas. Being 32 years old, Arthur was given the chance to be released from federal service. He chose to stay in the military. He would be commissioned a second lieutenant and rise in rank to captain. He was given the job of S-3 or Staff Officer for Operations.
Sailing from Angel Island off the coast of California, Arthur left for the Philippine Islands. After stops in Hawaii and Guam, the battalion arrived in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day. Less than two weeks later, Arthur survived the Japanese attack on Clark Field.
During the Battle of the Philippines, Arthur fought to delay the Japanese victory. During an engagement with the Japanese in the Anyssan River area, from February 3 to February 11, Arthur's reconnaissance helped the tankers achieve a victory over the Japanese. For his efforts, he was awarded the Silver Star.
While Arthur was fighting the Japanese in the Philippines, his wife received several letters from him. In a letter dated January 17, 1942, he wrote, "It's been a week since I last wrote to you. I'm still O.K. so don't worry about me. Keep you chin up and a smile on your face.
We are putting up a good fight, and if any aid comes to us from home, I'm sure everything will work out for the best. Lt. Harold Collins has been promoted to captain. I haven't received any letters from you since November 3, but am writing with the hope that some letters will arrive.
I have no use for money now. There are no places to buy anything and besides that, there is nothing to buy. About the only use I have for money is paying for washing out what few clothes I have left.
I am certainly glad for your sake that the government didn't allow us to bring our wives. No matter how much I miss you, I still will rather have you safe in the good old U. S. A. than subjected to the bombings that the people in the Philippines have been subjected to. If you pray a little extra hard, I'm sure that I will come home.
Brother Ralph should be plenty busy at Douglas, at least I hope so, because it sure would be a great sight to see a few American planes come over and give us a lift. Strange as it may seem , I will want to carry on and continue to make my career the army, so get ready for some good old army post life when I get back.
In a letter his wife received during the Battle of the Bataan dated January 21, 1942, Arthur wrote, "I can assure you that our outfit is very, very far from being out of action. We can, and will continue to give the Japs plenty to worry about. All we need is a little additional aid from the United States, and the government will not have to worry about the Philippines." Like the other defenders of Bataan, Burholt believed General MacArthur's claim that aid was coming, "Still very much o.k. and still fighting Japs. We are looking forward to the day when aid will arrive. Keep people back home plugging for increased production and the enlargement of our armed forces."
Arthur also told his wife, "There isn't much I can tell you of what is going on over here, but if you listen to the San Francisco broadcasts you will get a pretty good picture of where we are and what we are doing."
"Don't pay any attention to the Japanese broadcasts as they have already reported over the radio three different times that our battalion has been wiped out."
Arthur also talked about events in the U. S., "Somewhere in the Philippines we heard a radio broadcast telling of the planes crash in which Carol Lombard was killed. Also heard some music which really sounded good after hearing only planes and artillery fire for such a long time. Too bad about Lombard, but I guess it must have been her time."
In another letter dated January 28, 1942, he wrote, "Beefy" said "we are still safe. Had a pretty tough week, but everyone came through o.k. Weather is getting hot, but as a whole, everyone in command is in pretty good physical condition.
Went to communion in the field this morning and prayed that all of you at home were o.k. I keep worrying that something will happen to you, or that you are sick and I would never know anything about it. I'll be back soon so don't worry about me. Keep praying and I know that I'll come out o.k.
I hear by radio that they really are really expanding the armed force at Sandusky is good news."
On February 3, 1942, Arthur was sent to the west coast of Bataan as S-3 of his battalion. His job was to coordinate the tanks in action against the Japanese. He would remain in the area until February 11th. During this time, he commanded the tanks in action after action against the Japanese at the Anyasan River. The terrain was not suitable for tanks, but through his efforts the tanks were able to support the troops.
On April 9, 1942, Arthur became a Prisoner of War with the surrender of Bataan. The members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac remained in their camp for two days. A Japanese officer and soldiers appeared and ordered the Americans onto the road that ran past their encampment.
Once on the road, Arthur and the other POWs were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road. They then placed their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers who were marching passed them, took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
Arthur and his company were ordered to go to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They were allowed to drive their trucks there. When they reached the outskirts of Mariveles, the POWs were ordered from their trucks and herded into a school yard. They remained in the school yard for hours.
When ordered to move, Arthur's company went to a open field. They found themselves in front of Japanese artillery that was firing on Corrigedor and Ft. Drum. While Arthur and his men sat there, Corrigedor began returning fire. Shells from the American guns began landing among the POWs. When the barrage ended, three of the four Japanese guns had been knocked out.
Arthur and his men were ordered to move again, he and the others had no idea that they had begun the death march. Like the other prisoners, Arthur went days without food and water. The death march had one lasting effect on Arthur, that effect was that his hair turned completely gray.
At San Fernando, Arthur and the other POWs were packed into small boxcars used for hauling sugarcane. 100 POWs were packed into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. From this barrio, he made his way to Camp O'Donnell.
Being an officer, Arthur was not held in the main prisoner camp. While a prisoner, Arthur was credited with saving the life of Pvt. Charles Chaffin. Chaffin was suffering from a bad case of malaria. Arthur somehow got him the quinine that saved his life.
When Cabanatuan #1 was opened, Arthur he remained behind at Camp O'Donnell for a month and half. It is believed he was too ill to be moved. After he recovered, he was sent to Cabanatuan POW Camp which had been opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell. There, he and Capt. Harold Collins are credited with organizing plays for the men to see and take part in as actors. These shows allowed the POWs an escape from the misery of their daily lives.
Arthur next went on a work detail to Lipa Batangas to build runways. He was returned to Cabanatuan sometime in 1944. In late 1944, as American forces approached the Philippines, Arthur was sent to Bilibid Prison. This was the processing center for POWs being sent to Japan or other occupied countries. He was given a physical and declared healthy enough to be sent to Japan.
On December 7th, the Japanese gave orders to the medical staff at Bilibid to make a list of POWs healthy enough to survive a trip to Japan. Arthur's name was put on the list.
On December 12, 1944, roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called. Arthur's name was on this list. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, the POWs were awakened and marched to Pier 7 in Manila. Arthur boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
The ship left Manila as part of the MATA-37 convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish and water. The morning of December 14th, mess was being given to the prisoners when the sound of planes was heard. The POWs heard the change in the planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy. Explosions were taking place all around the ship.
In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying. Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. That night, the medics in the ship's hold were ordered out by a Japanese officer to tend to the Japanese wounded. One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying and wounded were everywhere.
In the ship's holds, the POWs could hear the sound of the Japanese passengers being loaded into lifeboats. By the next morning, all the Japanese passengers were off the ship.
The morning of December 15th, U.S. Navy planes resumed the attack. Again, the attacks came in waves. A guard shouted into the holds that the prisoners were going ashore. The wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. It was not until the pilots saw the POWs climbing out of the ship's holds that they realized it was a prison ship and stopped the attack.
Arthur and the other POWs swam to shore near Olongoa, Subic Bay, Luzon. While they swam, the Japanese fired at them with machine guns. After the POWs had abandoned ship, the Oryoku Maru was sunk.
The surviving POWs were herded onto a tennis court. When roll was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack.
While the POWs were at Olongoa, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibd. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again.
On December 24th, the remainder of the POWs were boarded onto trains at San Fernando, La Union. The widows were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. From December 24th to the 27th, the POWs were held in a school house and, later, on a beach at San Fernando, La Union. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of these men died.
Arthur and the other POWs were put onto another Hell Ship the Enoura Maru. The ship arrived safely at Formosa, but was bombed by American planes as it sat in the harbor. One bomb exploded in one of the holds and resulted in the deaths of over 400 of the survivors of the Oryoku Maru attack. Arthur was wounded during the attack by the fighter-planes. One wound damaged his spine resulting in his being unable to walk. Arthur survived the attack and was transferred to the Brazil Maru.
According to another POW, Pfc. Roland Stickney, who was on the ship, sometime after the ship sailed for Japan, Arthur was taken to the back of the hold by other officers and left to die. Stickney had a great deal of contempt for these officers. While Arthur lay on the floor of the hold, other POWs stripped him of his clothing. When he was found by Stickney a few days later, he was naked and near death. Capt. Arthur V. Burholt died of his wounds in the hold of the ship. After he died, his body was thrown into the sea.
After the war, Arthur's family had a headstone placed in Riverview Cemetery in Port Clinton in memory of him. His name also appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.
According to U. S. Army records, Capt. Arthur V. Burholt died on January 20, 1945. He was 36 years old.