Tec 5 Arthur George Van Pelt
T/5 Arthur G. Van Pelt was born in January 14,
1919. He was the son of George Van Pelt
& Henrietta Suber-Van Pelt. With his
brother, he was raised at 521 30th Street in East
Saint Louis, Illinois. He was a high school
graduate and attended college for one year.
Arthur joined Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This meant that he was recently drafted into the army. He was put into the company because the army, at this time, attempted to fill vacancies within the unit with other men from Illinois, since the company was originally an Illinois National Guard Tank Company.
is known about Arthur is that he trained at Fort
Knox, Kentucky, and took part in the Louisiana
Maneuvers of 1941. After the maneuvers,
the 192nd remained behind at Camp Polk.
The members of the company had no idea why they
were being kept there. On the side of a
hill the tankers learned that the battalion that
they were being sent overseas.
From Camp Polk, the battalion
traveled west over four different train
routes. Arriving in San Francisco, the
soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. On the island, the soldiers were
given physicals and inoculated for tropical
diseases. Those with health issues were held
back or replaced. Those who were held back
were told they would rejoin the battalion at a
The morning of December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times. On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
done by the
to their tanks
They finally received
that they were
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
The POWs made their
way north from
first five miles of
the march were
uphill. At one
point, the members
of the company had
to run past Japanese
artillery firing on
They received little
water and little
they reached San
Fernando, they were
put into a bull
pen. In one
corner of the bull
pen was a trench the
POWs were suppose to
use as a
surface of the
trench was alive
How long they
remained in the bull
pen is not
At some point, Arthur was sent to Clark Field to build runways. He remained there until the detail ended on August 20, 1944 when he was sent to Bilibid Prison. Bilibid Prison was a holding point for POWs being sent to Japan or a Japanese occupied country.
When the Japanese concluded that it was just the a matter of time before the Philippines would be liberated, he was sent to Pier 7 in Manila. The POWs were scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru. While the POWs were on the dock waiting to board their ship, the Hokusen Maru became ready to sail. Since the entire POW detachment assigned to the ship had not arrived, the Japanese put Arthur's group of POWs on the ship. The Arisan Maru, Arthur's original ship, was later sunk by an American submarine on its way to Hong Kong.
Arthur and the other POWs were boarded onto the Hokusen Maru on October 1, 1944. The POWs remained in the ship's holds until the ship sailed on October 3, 1944 for Hong Kong. It arrived there on October 11, 1944.
According to the other members of the B Company, while at sea, Arthur resisted another POW's attempt to take his canteen. During the fight for the canteen, the other man beat Arthur to death with the canteen. U. S. Army records have Tec 5 Arthur C. Van Pelt dying on Tuesday, October 10, 1944. The story of his death was told by surviving members of B Company who were also on the ship.
Since T/5 Arthur Van Pelt's body was thrown overboard, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.