Sgt. Leroy C. Anderson was the son of Erwin and Emma Anderson. He was born on April 7, 1918, and raised in a house that his father built in Burlington, Wisconsin. When he was a child, his mother died and his father remarried.
LeRoy attended school in Burlington and was a 1937 graduate of Burlington High School. He was known as Roy to his family. His father died in November, 1937, leaving Roy to support his stepmother. After high school Roy worked in the Burlington Mills.
On January 29, 1941, Roy was inducted in Milwaukee into the U. S. Army with six other men from Burlington. He was sent to Fort Sheridan, Illinois. There, he was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion. This was done because the army was attempting to fill in vacancies in the battalion with men from the home states of the letter companies. From Ft. Sheridan, Roy was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, to join his new unit.
Roy spent the next eight months training at Ft. Knox and qualified as a tank driver. He was assigned to A Company which had been a Wisconsin National Guard Company from Janesville. During this time, he rose in rank to Private First Class.
In the fall of 1941, Roy took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, at Camp Polk, he with his battalion was informed they were being sent overseas. Roy like the other men received a leave home to say goodbye to his family and friends.
Roy with A Company left Camp Polk by train for Angel Island. There the soldiers received inoculations before being sent to the Philippine Islands. Arriving at Manila on Thanksgiving Day, 1941, the battalion was rushed to Ft. Stotsenburg. Roy and the other soldiers were assigned to live in tents since their barracks were unfinished.
For the next two weeks, Roy with his tank crew prepared their tanks for use in maneuvers. On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A 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. On December 21, 1941, his family received the last cable they were to receive from him. It it, Roy said, "I'm alright but busy."
About 12:45 in the afternoon, as the tankers were eating lunch, planes appeared in the sky. At first, the soldiers thought they were American planes. It was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling and saw explosions that the soldiers knew that the planes were Japanese.
Sometime after the attack, Roy was promoted to sergeant and given command of his own tank. On February 3, 1942, in an engagement against the Japanese, Roy led his platoon of tanks into action against Japanese. According to newspaper clippings from the time, an American counterattack was being held up by Japanese machinegun nests. Roy's platoon of tanks were called in to clear out the machinegun nests. While leading the counterattack and attempting to retake positions lost to the Japanese, Roy's tank was knocked out. Roy and his crew climbed out of their tank and continued the attack on foot using hand grenades and rifles to wipeout the machinegun nests. Roy was wounded during the attack and did not return to duty until February 12th.
Roy was awarded the Distinguish Service Cross. During the presentation General MacArthur stated that Roy had demonstrated "extraordinary heroism" in action against the Japanese. Roy was the first draftee in World War II to receive the medal.
The events that led to Roy receiving the medal was that the Japanese had stopped the advance of Filipino and American forces along the Pilar-Bagac Line. Roy volunteered to see if he could dislodge the Japanese. He did a personal reconnaissance then took his tank, which had been held in reserve, into the Japanese positions. His tank wiped out three enemy machine guns. It proceeded further and wiped out a fourth machine gun.
On April 9, 1942, Roy became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. He and the other members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula. It was from there that Roy began the death march.
It is not known how long Roy took to complete the march. What is known is that he was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd was put in command of a work detail being sent to Bataan. Wickord attempted to fill the detail with men from his own battalion. One of these men was Roy. The detail returned to Bataan to rebuild the bridges that had been destroyed by the retreating Filipino and American forces as they entered Bataan. Roy remained on this detail for several months until he returned to Cabanatuan.
In October 28, 1942, Roy and other prisoners were loaded onto the Erie Maru and sent to Davao, Mindanao. Druing the trip, the ship stopped at Iloilo, Cebu and Lasang, Mindanao. There the POWs were unloaded and used as labor. Some of the POWs were used as labor at construction sites while others farmed in the camp farm. Many of the POWs were ill and needed vitamins. The fruit that was being grown on the farm could have helped the prisoners, but it was allowed to rot on the ground by the Japanese instead of being given to the prisoners.
Roy spent almost two years at Davao. During that time, American forces were making their way toward the Philippines. Bombings of Japanese installations became a daily occurrence. It was at this time that the Japanese decided to move the 750 POWs at Davao back to Manila.
The POWs were taken to Lasang and boarded onto the Yashu Maru. The ship sailed on June 12, 1944 for Cebu City. There, the ship waited for the arrival of the Teiryu Maru. After the second ship's arrival, the POWs were transferred to the ship. The ship sailed for Manila on June 21, 1944 and arrived on June 24th.
From Manila, the POWs were taken to Cabanatuan when the Japanese began to transfer large numbers of POWs to Japan, Roy was returned to Cabanatuan. The POWs were later transferred to Bilibid Prison and examined to determine which prisoners were too ill to be sent to Japan. Those POWs remained at Bilibid.
In early October, the POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Arisan Maru. The ship sailed from Manila on October 10th, but instead of heading for Formosa, the ship sailed south to Palawan. There it sat in a cove off the island for ten days. This was done to keep the ship safe from American planes. After ten days, the ship returned to Manila.
Roy and the other prisoners were held in the ship's hold while the Japanese formed a twelve ship convoy. On October 21st, the convoy left Manila and entered the South China Sea. Since the Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs, the ship was endanger of being torpedoed by American submarines.
According to the survivors of the Arisan Maru, on October 24, 1944, near dinner time, POWs were on deck preparing the meal for those in the ship's two holds. The ship was near Shoonan, off the coast of China. There was a sudden jar which was caused by the ship being hit by two torpedoes. The ship stopped dead in the water. It is believed that the submarine that fired the torpedoes was the U. S. S. Snook.
The Japanese guards fired at the POWs on deck to get them back into the holds. Once they were in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders and put the hatch covers on the holds. They did not tie the covers down. When this was done, the Japanese abandoned the ship.
Some of the POWs in the second hold were able to climb out and reattached the rope ladders to those in the first hold. They also dropped rope ladders to the POWs in second hold.
Most of the POWs survived the attack but died because the Japanese refused to rescue them. Many of the POWs attempted to escape the ship by clinging to rafts, hatch covers, flotsam and jetsam. Those who could not swim, ate their full of the food left behind by the Japanese as a last meal. At some point, the ship broke into two.
In attempt to survive the attack, the POWs swam to Japanese destroyers which were picking up Japanese survivors. Some of the destroyers in the convoy deliberately pulled away from the POWs as they attempted to reach them. The crews of other ships pushed the POWs away from the ships with poles and hit them with clubs.
Five POWs found an abandoned lifeboat. Since the sea was rough and they had no oars, they could not reach other POWs crying for help. As the night went on, the cries for help grew fewer until there was silence.
Of the 1800 men who had boarded the Arisan Maru in Manila, only nine survived the sinking. Eight POWs would survive the war. Sgt. Leroy C. Anderson was not one of them.
Since Sgt. Leroy C. Anderson was lost at sea, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.