Related Resource: Naval Armed Guard Service During World War II
of the Chief of Naval Operations. "History of the Armed Guard
Afloat, World War II." (Washington, 1946): 252-253. [This
microfiche, identified as United States Naval Administrative History of World War II #173, is located in Navy Department Library, and can be purchased, or borrowed through interlibrary loan.]
There are three outstanding examples of Japanese cruelty to survivors from ships which they had torpedoed which should not go unmentioned. These cases illustrate the fanatical nature of the opponent with which the armed guards had to deal while on duty in Pacific and Indian Ocean waters. These cruel acts took place in 1944 after the tide of battle had already turned against the Japanese.
The Richard Hovey was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean on March 29, 1944, just two days after she left Bombay. The Japanese submarine fired at No. 2 and No. 4 lifeboats and actually rammed No. 2 boat. The submarine took No. 1 lifeboat in tow and took four prisoners, including the master. The only persons who died were one [U.S. Naval] Armed Guard and three men who were lost in the engine room. The men were able to avoid machine gun fire only by diving into the water behind the boats and the rafts which were being towed by the lifeboats. The Armed Guard died of burns received aboard the ship. One of the most interesting facts about the struggle of the survivors for life is that the junior assistant engineer constructed a still. The water which was distilled helped to save the lives of several men.
The Jean Nicolet was also torpedoed in the Indian Ocean. Two torpedoes hit her on July 2. The Japanese shelled the ship and then forced about 95 men to come aboard the submarine from the boats. They forced the men to give up all personal possessions of any value and tied their hands behind their backs. They then forced the men to run through a gauntlet and hit them with bayonets and pieces of lead pipe. Others were taken to the after section of the submarine and beaten. About 60 people were killed in this awful ordeal. The approach of a plane forced the submarine to submerge. A few men were able to untie their hands and escape. Others died as the submarine submerged. Sharks killed others. There were few survivors. Five men refused to go aboard the submarine, including the Armed Guard officer. They were able to escape. British ships picked up the survivors.
On October 30 the John A. Johnson was torpedoed between Hawaii and San Francisco. The ship broke into two parts and both sections were set on fire by shelling. The submarine machine gunned lifeboats and rafts. Of the eleven dead or missing, five were Armed Guards. A plane quickly sighted the survivors. The submarine also rammed a raft and a lifeboat. Meanwhile the excited submarine crew shouted "Banzai" and hurled other remarks not fit to print at the helpless Americans.
For further information on the Prisoners of War During World War II