Pvt. Daniel Joseph Boni
| Pvt. Daniel J. Boni was born April
13, 1917, to Daniel F. Boni and Phyllis
Bronge-Boni and grew up at 1419 North Broadway
Avenue in Melrose Park, Illinois. To his
family, he was known as "Danny".
Danny attended Melrose Park School and Proviso
Township High School for two years but left
school to work as a furnace repairman. He
enlisted in the Illinois National Guard on March
21, 1939, at the armory across the street from
the high school. One of the other members
of the company was his cousin, Bob Bronge.
The company traveled west by train to
San Francisco, California, and was taken
by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island
on the ferry the U.S.A.T. General
Frank M. Coxe. At Ft.
McDowell, they were given physicals and
inoculated for overseas
duty. Those men found to
have a minor medical condition were held
back and scheduled to rejoin the
battalion at a later date, while other
men were simply replaced.
The morning of
1941, at 8:30,
the planes of
the the Army
Air Corps took
off and filled
At noon the
up in a
and the pilots
went to lunch
in the mess
hall. At 12:45 in the afternoon, just
ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor,
Danny lived through the Japanese attack on Clark
When the Japanese were finished, there was not
much left of the airfield. The soldiers
watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were
hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks,
and anything that could carry the wounded was in
use. When the hospital filled, they
watched the medics place the wounded under the
building. Many of these men had their arms
and legs missing.
When the order came for the defenders of Bataan to surrender, Danny and the other members of Sgt. Zenon Bardowski's tank platoon attempted to get their tanks across to Corregidor. When it became evident that they would not be allowed to take the tanks to Corregidor, the tankers abandoned the tanks and went to Corregidor without them.
Danny would continue to fight until Corregidor surrendered on May 6, 1942. One of the greatest regrets Danny and the other members of his tank platoon had was not destroying their tanks. When the final all out attack on Corregidor came, it was led by their tanks which had been captured by the Japanese.
Danny and the other prisoners remained a Corregidor for several days on the beach sitting in the sun without food or water. They were taken down to the shore and boarded onto smaller boats which took them to a larger ship that took them to an area near Manila. A few hundred yards from shore the POWs were made to jump into the water and swim to shore. Once on shore, they were marched ten miles to Bilibid Prison, where he remained for almost a week before being sent to Cabanatuan.
The prisoners were boarded onto a train and rode to the barrio of Cabanatuan and held in a school for two days before they marched ten miles to Cabanatuan. He remained in the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail.
In either late 1942 or early 1943, Danny was sent on a work detail to the Bachrach Garage in Manila, where the POWs repaired mechanical equipment for the Japanese. With him on the detail, were Arthur VanPelt, Roger Heilig, Ralph Ellis and Warren Hildebrandt, who had all had been members of B Company.
In late 1944, when it became apparent to the
Japanese that the invasion of the Philippines
was near, most of the POWs on this detail were
sent to the Port Area of Manila. The
Japanese were attempting to send the healthy
POWs to Japan, and other countries, to work as
slave labor and prevent them from being
liberated by advancing American forces.
In early October 1944, almost 1800 other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. When his POW group arrived at the pier, the ship they where scheduled to sail on, the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but some of the POWs in the detachment had not arrived at the pier. Another POW detachment, scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, had completely arrived, but their ship was not ready to sail. It was at that time that the Japanese made the decision that they switch POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail.
On October 11th the POWs boarded the Arisan Maru and 1800 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the Arisan Maru which could hold 400 men. They were packed in so tightly that they could not move. Those POWs who had lain down in the wooden bunks along the haul could not sit up because the bunks were so close together. Eight large cans served as the washroom facilities for the POWs.
Later in the day on October 11th, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa. The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp so during the night, the POWs were in total darkness. Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died. Being in the cove resulted in the ship missing an air raid by American planes, but the ship was attacked once by American planes while there.
Each day, each POW was given three ounces of
water and two half mess kits of raw rice.
the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold,
they had not turned off the power to the
lights. Some of the prisoners were able to
hot-wire the ship's blowers into the light power
lines. This allowed fresh air into the
hold, until the power was disconnected, two days
later, when the Japanese discovered what had
The Arisan Maru returned to Manila on October 20th, where it joined a twelve ship 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 making them targets for American submarines. In addition, U.S. military intelligence was reading the Japanese messages as fast as the Japanese. To protect this secret, they did not tell the submarine crews that ships were carrying POWs which made the ships targets for the submarines. The POWs in the hold became so desperate that they prayed for the ship to be hit by torpedoes.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on Tuesday, October 24, 1944, about 5:00 pm, some of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship's two holds. The ship was, off the coast of China, in the Bashi Channel. 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 waves were high since a storm had just passed. At about 5:50 P.M., as the POWs watched, the Japanese ran to the bow of the ship and a torpedo passed in front of the ship. Moments later, the Japanese ran to the ship's stern and watched as a second torpedo passed behind the ship. 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, but it still killed some POWs. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U.S.S. Snook.
The Japanese guards took their guns and used
them as clubs on the POWs who were on
deck. To escape, the POWs dove back into
the holds. After they were in the holds,
the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the
hatch covers on the holds, but they did not tie
them down. They then abandoned the ship.
Some of the POWs from the first hold climbed out and reattached the ladders and dropped them to the men in the holds. The POWs left the holds but made no attempt to abandon ship. On the ship's deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, "Boys, we're in a hellva a jam - but we've been in jams before. Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers. Let's play it that way to the very end of the script." Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, "Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men." The ship sank lower into the water.
According to surviving POWs, the ship stayed afloat for hours but got lower in the water. At one point, the stern of the ship began going under which caused the ship to split in half but the halves remained afloat. It was about this time that about 35 POWs swam to the nearest Japanese ship. When the Japanese realized that they were POWs, they pushed them underwater with poles and drowned them or hit them with clubs. Those POWs who could not swim raided the food lockers for a last meal, because they wanted to die with full stomachs. Other POWs took to the water with anything that would float.
POWs found an abandoned life boat and
managed to climb in but found it had no
oars. With the rough seas, they could
not maneuver it to help other POWs.
According to the survivors, the Arisan
Maru and sank sometime after dark on
Tuesday, October 24, 1944. The men in
the boat heard cries for help, which became
fewer and fewer, until there was
silence. The next day they picked up
two more survivors.
In June 1945, Danny's family received a POW postcard from him which was sent before he left the work detail. In the card, Danny wrote:
"Received the package you sent and was very much surprised for I did not expect it. I did expect to receive some mail but did not. So please write and tell the folks to write. And also send me photos. I am doing fine and hope to hear the same from you. Regards to all."
When his parents received this, they had no idea that Danny had already died on the Arisan Maru.
Pvt. Daniel J. Boni lost his life when the Arisan Maru was torpedoed in the South China Sea. Of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship, only nine survived the sinking, and only eight of these men would survive the war. Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. Daniel J. Boni's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.