Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release form captivity

                                                Gerald Block   Born Nov. 19, 1921-Oct. 24th, 1944

Information provided by niece Gloria Burkhardt, picture is about the time Gerald was around fourteen

 

Private Gerald Block was a Japanese Prisoner of war on the hell ship,  Arisan Maru consisting of approximately 1, 805 POW’s, 100 civilians and 200 Officers.

 This hell ship of American prisoners left Manila, Bilibid prison after loading supplies and rice at Pier 7 on the morning of October 11th, 1944. The ship headed for the open sea and anchored for 4 to 6 days along the western shore of Palawan Island and returned to Manila on October 20th, 1944 and sailed the next day, October 21st.  The Arisan Maru, a Japanese transport ship was torpedoed and sunk on October 24th, 1944 in the South China Sea at about 119 longitude and 23 latitude on a draft for Japan.

 

The weather was cool that late afternoon, rough waves with glistening whitecaps in icy cold waters and the strong wind blowing towards the west.

The boat was torpedoed at around 5:00 PM in Bashi Straits, off Shoonay, north of the Philippines and about 200 miles from the nearest land mass.  It was reported that the Arisan Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine, possibly one of two, the USS Shark or the USS Snook.

 

There were three torpedoes fired from a submarine, the first two missed and the third one hit the No. 3 hold on the starboard side. Although the ship had buckled when hit, the forward half of the ship remained afloat for a short time while the rear part went down into the water.

 

When the torpedo hit the boat it was in an empty hold and it was reported that no one was killed by the initial explosion, although some men were wounded by pieces of shrapnel.

Consequently, when the boat finally sank, 95 percent of the men aboard would have been trapped in the other holds.  The whereabouts of any Prisoners of War became unknown at this time as the result of this disaster.

“THE BATTLING BASTARDS OF BATAAN”

“COURAGE IS A QUALITY GOD HAS SEEN FIT TO DISPENSE WITH UTMOST CARE.

THE MEN OF BATAAN WERE HIS CHOSEN FAVORITES.”

MAJOR GENERAL EDWARD P. KING JR.

COMMANDING GENERAL LUZON FORCES 1942

Gerald Block’s  Brief Biography 

Gerald Block‘s death was the result of the sinking of the Japanese hell ship, The Arisan Maru  of which he was a POW soldier en route from Manila to Japan.

Military Medals Awarded: 

Philippine Independence, Philippine Liberation, Philippine Defense, Asiatic Pacific Theater, World War II Victory Medal and a Ribbon attachment.

 

Name:  Gerald F. Block

Grade:   Private

Organization:  75th Ord. Co. (D) Philippine Ordnance Depot

Date of Death:  October 24th, 1944……….23 years old

Cause of Death:   Killed In Action

Place of Death:   Southwest Pacific Theater

Height:  6 ft. 2”   Brown hair and Brown eyes

 

Military Enlistment date in the United States Army:   July 25th, 1941 Seattle, Washington

Boarded the USS Cleveland headed for Manila, Philippine Islands in August of 1941 and was assigned to Nichols Field.

Manila, Philippine Statistics Timeline and The Fall of Bataan was on April 9th, 1942

Camp O’Donnell after surviving the Bataan Death March:  1941

Cabanatuan Camp No. 3 and 4   1942

Old Bilibid Prison Camp No. 3     1942-43 through September of 1943 for 2 weeks and then became a POW/passenger aboard the Arisan Maru on its journey to Japan.

 

Family History:

Birth:   November 29th, 1921, Beardsley, Minnesota on a farm

Gerald F. Block    (Son of Louis and Bessie Block)

Siblings:   3 Sisters, Rita, Theckla (Pat) and Dorothy Block

                  1 younger brother, Norbert Block

All are now deceased.

Story about Friendship with Glenn Frazier:

Gerald Block and  Colonel Glenn Frazier story…………….”A Story of a Promise.”

 

 

Two young WWII American soldiers who defiantly defended freedom with exhausted resistance made a promise to each other.

 

Determined, stubborn, courageous defenders like my Uncle Gerald Block and Col., Glenn Frazier without hope of support or rescue gave fierce opposition to deny the Japanese to wage warfare on Luzon Island. They carried with them, a wave of confusion and fearing slaughter as they came under attack against a relentless Japanese enemy in the Battle of the Philippines.

The two young soldiers side by side in jungle foxholes, made a “promise” to one another, this is that promise.

 

Gerald and Glenn promised one another that if something happened to one of them, they would contact their families.  They would let them know the life or death of each other that forever bonded the two men together by the ravages of war.  One lived to tell the compelling story of both men and an enduring friendship that took an agonizing 67 years to unfold.

 

Linda (Block) Ray, niece of Gerald Block and the eldest daughter of Norbert Block, (Gerald’s younger brother) sponsors a “Memorial Sunday” service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Jamestown, North Dakota every year.  This sponsorship is in honor of our Father on the Anniversary of his death.

 

A young WWII researcher in New York State, Jason McDonald, had been involved with a project at his University trying to identify all the WWII soldiers in a photograph. Jason had discovered our Father’s name, Norbert Block on the Church Memorial Sunday roster and contacted Trinity Lutheran Church.  Jason sent a letter to the Pastor of our Church inquiring about Norbert and his family.  Our Pastor then gave the letter to our Mother, Elinore Block, who in turn gave the letter to her youngest daughter, Susan (Block) Johnson.

 

Col., Glenn Frazier had been looking for Gerald Block’s family of the man who helped him as a POW and Bataan Death March survivor for several years.  Jason McDonald knew that Col., Glenn had been seeking information on Gerald and thus, brought this story to life for all of us through his research. 

 

Susan Johnson spoke with Jason McDonald in New York and Jason made the connection with Col., Glenn Frazier possible.  Glenn was thrilled! Success, after 67 years, he was finally going to meet and talk to Gerald’s family.  Our Mother, Elinore Block, mentioned that Col., Glenn had written a book called, “Hell’s Guest” and in it, had an email contact.  I emailed Glenn and he called me the very next day and we talked for quite a while.

 I could feel the excitement and the joy he had in his voice, he was cherishing every moment. Col., Glenn spoke of so many things about Gerald, the words and memories just flowed from his lips and his heart and as he spoke of his brother in arms, we both felt God’s presence and blessings.  Glenn and I both knew that Gerald was right there with us, hearing every word smiling back at us.

 

We met for the first time in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2011 at the ADBC convention and had a fabulous time getting to know one another.  Many, many conversations, happiness and joy and by God’s grace, a story of a promise with a lost but now found, loving family and the missing pieces of two hearts bonded, once again.  Thanks, Pops!  We still remain in contact today with each other and always enjoy our conversations.

 

A “HAUNTING” promise made, a “LOVING” promise kept and a “REUNION OF HEARTS,” between two men who chose never to forget each other.  It took 67 years, truly remarkable, isn’t it?