On this day…
For weeks, 1,783 American prisoners of war were crammed into the holds of a Japanese ship the Arisan Maru. With standing room only, the fatigued soldiers, who had already been starved and forced to perform daunting labor as Japanese prisoners for nearly two years, were denied water and utterly stripped of their dignity. Aboard the nasty ship, they began to die of heat exhaustion, suffocation or were murdered during the night. Nearly a third of these POWs died of dysentery and malaria. No medicine was given and the incredible stench became unbearable in the tight spaces. Many lost their will to live and some literally went crazy. In order to keep from being brutally murdered and escape the grave circumstances, a few men daringly climbed the rope ladders in hopes of jumping to their deaths at sea but were promptly shot by guards.
On this day, October 24, 1944, around 5 pm nearly 20 prisoners were on deck preparing a meal as the ship neared Shoonan, off the eastern coast of China. Suddenly, the Arisan Maru stopped dead in the water as it was bombarded by two torpedoes. Quickly, the Japanese cut the ropes where the American prisoners were being held, closed the latches to ensure they would never be found, and abandoned ship.
Surprisingly, no POWs were killed initially by the torpedo strike. A few determined Americans onboard gathered their strength and successfully rescued the men trapped in the hold of the ship. Nearly all were able to escape. Many immediately chose to jump overboard and drown. Most attempted to swim to the Japanese lifeboats for safety but were denied the right to live as they were shot or speared with long poles.
The miserable ship sank to the depths of the sea around 7pm. The remaining men, with hopes of seeing their families again, clung to anything they could find in the frigid, rough waters. Of almost 2,000 Marines, there were only nine survivors. Amazingly, five escaped and made their way to China in one of the ship’s two lifeboats. They were reunited with U.S. Forces and returned to the United States. The four others were later recaptured by Imperial Japanese naval vessels where one died shortly after reaching land.
I’m ashamed to say, I have never studied this horrific event. I recently learned of it when I talked to a lady from my community who told me her brother, Private First-Class A. G. Hubbard was aboard that ship. He grew up just miles from our home in Big Creek, MS. At the young age of 17, he volunteered to serve our country several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was transferred to the Philippine Islands in October 1941 before the war began and was with the gallant Marines who put up a stiff fight on Bataan. Captured there by the Japanese at the fall of Bataan, it was 14 months before his family received word that he was alive.
Finally, his family received one last letter from him while he was in the Japanese Philippine Camp that said, “My health is excellent; not under treatment. Hope to see you soon. Give my regards from Grandpa and Grandma.”
This would be the last they would ever hear of their son.
When it became evident to the Japanese that the Americans would invade the Philippines, they attempted to transport a large number of Americans to Japan. This fragile, starved Mississippi boy, who had been in the hands of the enemy for nearly two years, was loaded onto the Arisan Maru. On this day, he was shot to death by the Japanese as he tried to escape the sinking ship.
The gut-wrenching thing about this story is that this was a senseless tragedy. The Arisan Maru was sunk by our very own American submarines who had no way of knowing their own countrymen were aboard that ship.
On this day, October 24, 2018, our nation is also in the midst of another devastating tragedy – we, too, are responsible for sinking our own ship, figuratively. We are no longer “one nation under God.” We are a nation divided. We are a nation who has encouraged dependence on government, not God. We are a nation who has moved so far from God’s standards that we can no longer see a way back. A nation who argues whether it’s right or wrong to kill babies. A nation who slanders, threatens, and attempts to ruin the reputation of the people who don’t agree with what they believe or the principles they stand on. We are a nation which has redefined God’s Word where it convicts us in order to satisfy sinfulness. We are a nation that has blurred the distinction of gender and caused nothing but confusion. On this day, our nation is also suffering from humiliation as we argue about which bathrooms are for men and which ones are for women. Our once well-respected nation was great because it was rooted in the belief of an Almighty God. We are now a nation who has forgotten that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
As the convictions of our people slip away every day, so do our freedoms. If America loses its character it cannot stand, but if it keeps it we cannot fail. Though Christians may not feel responsible for the things listed above, we are equally as guilty. We have buried ourselves in the business of life and become complacent. Will our children look back on this day with regret that the heroes they depend on (their parents, grandparents, and teachers) sunk our country because we didn’t take the time to stand? Are we turning a blind eye to the issues lurking at our door because we feel there’s nothing we can do or we don’t see the importance? Are we taking the time to teach the next generation that unwavering truth is worth fighting for as well as how to stand for our spiritual heritage? Unlike the American submarine that mistakenly torpedoed their own men on the Arisan Maru, we will have no excuse as to why we sat back in comfort and watched idly as our country was drowned by immorality.
Upon their son’s death on October 24, 1944, Private First-Class A. G. Hubbard’s parents received a letter months later from the Marine Corps stating: “He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives and through it, he lives in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.
Oh, how I love this land and how grateful I am to the heroes like Mr. Hubbard who willingly volunteered, knowing this country was worth dying for! America is wonderful because of its deep Christian heritage and the people who have loved and respected it. Will we dare to stand and protect that heritage, so that our freedoms might live and grow? Are we humbly repenting for the sins of our nation and seeking God through these perilous times? Are we willing to stand in an unbroken line, die to ourselves and the pleasures of the world, and become a righteous nation so that our blessings may increase?
Glory be to our conquering Christ and mighty Defender. We can turn this ship around! It’s not yet too late. As stated in the opening line of our nation’s first document, the Mayflower Compact: “In the name of God, Amen.”
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.