Cpl. Glenn Stuart Oliver
Cpl. Glenn Stuart Oliver was born on April 28, 1919, in Minnesota.
He was the son of Stuart & Erma Oliver. With his sister, he grew
up in Aitkin Township, Aitkin County, Minnesota. He graduated from
Aitkin High School in 1937 and worked as a
bookkeeper in the Forestry Office of Civilian Conservation Corps. He
joined the Minnesota National Guard in 1940.
Glenn married his high school sweetheart, Ester Marie Brown on February 7, 1941. On February 10, 1941, his tank company of the Minnesota National Guard was called to federal service as A Company, 194th Tank Battalion. They were sent to Fort Lewis, Washington for training. Since Glenn was a radio operator, he was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for radio school. He remained there for several months before returning to Ft. Lewis after qualifying as a radioman.
Glenn and his battalion were sent to San Francisco for transport to the Philippine Islands. Upon arriving in the Philippines, they were sent to Fort Stotsenburg. There, he and the other men prepared their equipment for use.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glenn lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank company had been ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. During the attack, he was hit in the head by shrapnel and was hospitalized. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
For the next four months, Glenn's battalion fought to slow the Japanese advance. On December 26, 1941, his tank platoon, under the command of Lt. Harold Costigan, was in the area of Carmen at the Agnoo River. As the Japanese advanced, Costigan realized that unless he got his platoon out of the area that they would be trapped. He ordered his tanks through Carmen.
As the tanks advanced through the barrio, they were fired on by Japanese guns. The tanks were firing their guns as they went through the barrio. The tanks made a sharp right turn and received fire from Japanese guns. They continued out of the barrio as the Japanese fired mortars at them.
While attempting to get through Carmen, a Japanese soldier managed to attach a thermite mine on Glenn's tank outside the tank and above one of the interior ammunition trays. The area the mine was attached was flat. The mine burnt its way through the armor and fell into the ammunition tray. Glenn and the other members of his tank crew abandoned the tank. Within minutes, the ammunition exploded followed by the aviation fuel that the tanks used. The tank was completely in flames a few minutes later. Glenn and the other men were picked up by a crew of another tank. It is known that Glenn was wounded on January 2, 1942, when he was hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel.
On April 8, 1942, the tankers received the word that all Filipino and American troops would surrender the next day. Glenn and the other Americans were marched in groups of 100 with guns on them at all times. Each group was assigned six Japanese guards who would be changed at regular intervals. During the march, the Americans were seldom allowed to stop and were not fed. Those who stopped or dropped out were bayoneted or left to die. The lack of water and food was extremely hard on Glenn and the other prisoners.
The first camp Glenn was interred at was Camp O'Donnell. He quickly developed wet beriberi. This vitamin deficiency prevented him from urinating and caused his body to fill with fluid. He was then sent to Bataan to do construction work. The detail was composed of 75 Prisoners of War whose job it was to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed during the American retreat. This detail was also under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord the commanding officer of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
Glenn first worked at Calaun. There the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication. They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.
Glenn was next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge. Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed. Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.
The next bridge Glenn and the other POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria. Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans. An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner. It is not known if Glenn was one of the twelve POWs selected by Lt. Col. Wickord. But Wickord did select the twelve POWs who looked as if they needed a good meal.
When the bridge building detail ended, Glenn was sent to Cabanatuan #1. At this camp, the prisoners ate rice and lived in crude huts. If a prisoner was late or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole placed behind the knees to cut circulation. The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over. At this time the death rate in the camp was 100 POWs a day.
During Glenn's time in the camp, Glenn worked on the burial detail and in the camp farm. The POWs grew vegetables but were not allowed to eat any of them. He and the other prisoners would steal what they could and eat it.
Glenn was selected for another work detail. This time he was sent to Nichols Field to build runways. He remained on this detail for 21 months. When it ended, he was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing for shipment to Japan.
On October 10, 1944, Glenn's name appeared on a list of POWs who were being sent to Japan. The next day, he and the other selected POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. When they arrived there, it was determined by the Japanese that another group of POWs, which was scheduled to leave was ready to leave. The ship Glenn's detachment of POWs was suppose to sail on, the Hokusen Maru, was also ready to leave. Since his detachment had not completely arrived, the Japanese switched ships. Glenn's group of POWs was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.
Glenn was on of 1805 POWs 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. Being sent to Palawan resulted in the ship missing an air attack on Manila by American planes, but the ship was later attacked by American planes during a raid on Palawan.
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 for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.
According to Glenn and the other 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, in the Bashi Channel, 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 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 but did not tie them down.
The Japanese began abandoning ship. Before they left, they cut the rope ladders that went into the 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.
According to surviving POWs, the ship split in half but remained afloat. Most of the POWs had survived the attack, but those who could not swim raided the food stores for a last meal. 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. Some POWs attempted to escape by putting on lifebelts, clinging to hatch covers, rafts, and other flotsam and jetsam. When they reached other Japanese ships, the Japanese pushed them away with poles. The exact time of the ship's sinking is not known since it took place after dark.
Glenn had witnessed the POWs who had swam to the Japanese destroyers being pushed away, so he remained on the ship's deck. It was when the ship was six feet above water that he went over the side. In the water he watched the ship go under with men still on the deck. What saved his life was that he found wooden planks and held onto them. He heard men using what he called "GI whistles" to contact each other. It got dark and during the night he heard a weird sound and never found out what it was. The next morning there were just waves.
Five of the POWs found a abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs. Glenn heard someone shout if he could come over and join him. Glenn and another POW, Philip Brodsky, shared a raft they made from the boards. They survived on their makeshift raft for four days until another Japanese convoy picked them up. On the ship, there were two other survivors of the Arisan Maru The ship took them to Formosa. One of the other survivors died there. During his time on Formosa, Glenn was held at Toroku Camp.
On January 14, 1945, Glenn was boarded onto the Melbourne Maru. The ship sailed for Japan arriving at Moji on January 23rd. From there, Glenn was sent to Maribara #10B. The POWs in the camp built canals for drainage.
Glenn weighed 85 pounds when he was liberated in September 1945. He returned to the United States and recuperated at Madigan Veterans Hospital at Ft. Lewis. He was discharged from the army on November 11, 1946. He went to work for ASARCO working with soldiers. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and trained troops for the Korean War. The couple became the parents of two daughters. Glenn worked as a television and radio repairman until he retired in 1982.
Glenn S. Oliver passed away in Tacoma, Washington, on November 25, 2012. He was buried at Mountain View Memorial Park in Tacoma, Washington.