Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

ARTHUR (ART) RICE

1916 - 2006

 

 


Army Air Corps

SHOULDER PATCH


 

ARTHUR "ART" RICE

Patriot, Chapter 1919

"Bataan Death March” Survivor

Past Senior Vice Commander, Chapter 1919

(USAF, WWII, Pacific) Article March 2005

 

Arthur Rice was born in 1916 in Janesville, Wisconsin.  His family moved from Janesville to Milwaukee and Art grew up there, attending Roosevelt Junior High School, North Division High School, and then graduating from Vocational School.  He was eighteen when he enlisted in the Army at Fort MacArthur, California in July 1935.  His first unit of assignment was Battery B, 59th Coast Artillery on “topside” Corregidor Island guarding Manila Bay.  He returned to the United States in August 1937 and was discharged.

 

After a break in service, Art says, “I let an old WWI veteran talk me into reenlisting in the Army Air Corps in December 1938.”  After assignments and training in Louisiana, Oklahoma and California, in July 1941 he accepted individual transfer back to the Philippines.   

 

Arthur Rice was assigned to the 27th Materiel Squadron, 20th Air Base Group, Far East Air Force, stationed at Nichols Field, one of five airfields in the area around Manila.  Art says, “I was aero engineer on Captain Wray’s B-18, but; on December 7, 1941, I was on duty as Sergeant of the Guard for the perimeter around Nichols Field.” 

 

When he came off guard duty, Art heard that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and the news that we were at war spread quickly throughout the base.  That afternoon they moved Art’s plane from the hangar to concealment under some trees at the edge of the airfield.  Then the men stripped .50 caliber machine guns from unserviceable B-18’s and set them up in the adjoining cavalry orchard for use as antiaircraft guns. That evening (Dec 8th), Art was part of a skeleton crew designated to remain at the hangar and he set up his cot just inside the hangar door.  Japanese bombers struck Nichols Field that night and Arthur Rice was wounded by one of the first bombs that fell.  He was helped to shelter in the crater from the bomb blast that injured him, just before the hangar door fell inward crushing his cot.  The flight chief called for an ambulance that took him to the dispensary where he was properly tagged and sent on to the Fort McKinley Hospital for initial surgery.  Dr. Weinstein performed the operation and sutured Art’s right sciatic nerve.  Several days later he was moved into the city of Manila and put in the Philippine Women’s College with many other wounded from the bombing of Cavite Naval Yard and other installations in the area.  There, he had a large piece of bomb fragment removed from his right thigh on Christmas Eve.  Soon after that he was evacuated to Bataan to Limay Field Hospital. 

 

Meanwhile, in late December American and Philippine military forces were withdrawn to Bataan where they set up a line of defense across the peninsula.   Most of the ground troops of the Far East Air Force moved from their bases to the port of Manila, were ferried over to Mariveles in Bataan, and reorganized into Provisional Infantry Regiments where they would fight as Infantry during the Defense of the Bataan Peninsula. 

 

Art says, “I volunteered out of the hospital about January 10th because it was filling up with men coming in with malaria.  I found my squadron bivouacked at the foot of Mariveles Mountain near Little Baguio Because I was still lame, I couldn’t go out on patrol so initially stayed in camp on guard duty.  Later, I moved to the front with my squadron until February 15th when my commander assigned me to duty at the Provisional Air Depot.  I was in charge of the tool dump there, and then I also came down with malaria.

 

Arthur Rice was suffering from malaria and walking with a limp from his still painful bomb wounds when the surrender took place on April 9th and the “Bataan Death March” began.   He rode down to the point of surrender on the depot truck, but; walked from that point on.  Art says, “The Japanese guards denied us food and water for days during the march and they were brutal beyond any comprehension. The feeling of thirst was unbearable, but the guards ordered us not to drink even where water could be had and we had to endure it or die.  At one point our column was halted at the side of the road where, stopped in the roadway, was one of those small Coca Cola delivery trucks.  One of the men near me couldn’t stand it any more, so he reached out and grabbed a bottle of Coke from the open rack.  The guard nearest us quickly stepped up to him and, with a quick stroke of his rifle, ripped out the man’s throat with the bayonet. He fell and died on the spot.  Some of the men died from dehydration, others died almost at random in senseless killings at the hands of the guards who beat men to death, shot, or bayoneted them for little or no reason.”

 

After the 55 mile death march from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando the prisoners were first held at Camp O’Donnell where thousands of prisoners died.  In mid-July, Art was among a group that was moved 60 miles by truck to Cabanatuan Camp #3.  Conditions were better there than at Camp O’Donnell, but nonetheless, many prisoners died there also.  In September, Arthur Rice volunteered to go to Manchuria.  He arrived in Mukden on November 11, 1942 where prisoners were housed in old Russo-Japanese war barracks.  This was Camp 731 which later became infamous as the place Japanese doctors performed germ warfare experiments on prisoners.  Art became severely ill and totally lost his voice in December when the doctors were there, but doesn’t connect that with the experiments.  In January 1943 he was well enough to join the work force of about a thousand prisoners who walked five miles from the camp to work every day at the MKK factory.  After a few months Art was part of a group that were moved into new barracks near MKK. 

 

Later in 1943 Art was sent to work in a crane factory.  In December 1944 a bombing raid by American B-29’s hit the prison camp.  One bomb hit a shelter that had nineteen prisoners inside and it killed all of them.  Art Rice knew them and remembered the names of all nineteen men.  After that raid, he was sent to work at a sawmill located at a railhead. 

 

The Russians entered Mukden, Manchuria on August 19, 1945 and all prisoners were returned from the various work sites back to the main camp to facilitate B-29 food drops and the arrival of Americans to take charge and assist the prisoners.  At that time Art had a severe infection of what he called “Chinese rot” in both feet and was unable to walk.  American doctors cured his feet in just a few days and when he could walk again, he could walk without a limp for the first time since he was wounded in the early morning hours of Dec 9, 1941.

 

The ex-POW’s enjoyed their freedom for days touring Mukden and the surrounding area.  In September they were moved by train to Fuson, Korea, went aboard a Navy ship and were soon in Okinawa.  He was flown from Okinawa to Manila, and a week later put on a Navy LST that sailed for San Francisco.  After a week in Letterman General Hospital, Art was put on a hospital train that took him to Chicago. He arrived at Hines General Hospital on his birthday, October 27th.  He was soon discharged from the hospital and returned home to Milwaukee.

 

On February 10, 1946, Arthur Rice married the girl next door, Minnie Taglicht.  Art had reenlisted in the Army Air Force and as an ex-POW he was entitled to a two-week vacation anywhere in the United States at government expense.  He chose to use his for a honeymoon so he and Minnie spent two weeks in Miami, Florida.

 

Minnie has this to say, “The Taglicht’s lived next door to the Rice’s in a part of Milwaukee made up of all European immigrant families.  I was a seventeen year-old teenybopper when Art came home from the war and I had barely turned eighteen when we married after a three-month courtship.  My mother came from an Orthodox Jewish family in a village in Russia that was like the movie “Fiddler On The Roof”. She fled to Poland to escape the pogroms, and from there sailed for America, entered through Ellis Island and finally settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She first met my father in the Latin Park Library and they married when she was twenty-one.  He had come from Hungary, he worked in a Kosher Butcher shop and they were doing well until he died young, only 35 years old.  From that point on I grew up with Mom being a single parent, and life was pretty hard for her.

 

I spent the next eleven years as an Air Force wife and we had four children that spent their early growing-up years as Air Force kids, first was Jennyne, then our son, Thomas, and finally the twins, Marlien and Maureen.  We were at Gary Air Force Base in San Marcos when Art retired and we moved to Austin.”

 

Master Sergeant Arthur Rice retired from the Air Force in June 1957 and immediately began a second career working for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.  He retired from Met Life in February 1984 after which he and Minnie have continued to live in Austin.  Art is an active member of several veterans’ organizations and is especially supportive of the nationwide organization of Ex-Prisoners Of War, and of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.  He had served in an earlier Purple Heart chapter in Austin and after Chapter 1919 was chartered in 1995, he not only helped organize it, he also did invaluable service as Senior Vice-Commander and the chapter benefited greatly from his experience. Chapter 1919 salutes one of its founding fathers, Arthur Rice. 

 

 

Arthur Rice provided this Purple Heart story for publication in the March 2005 issue of PATRIOT BULLETIN.  Art passed away in April 2006.


 

Prison Camp in Manchuria

Art Rice (third from left) with other POWs and Chinese Interpreter

From left a POW, Russian Soldier, Art

 

Japanese Foreman of Factory

TOP: "Peachey" worked at the factory

Bottom: Forman's wife

 

Art and Minnie Wedding

Minnie at an Early Age

Art and Minnie - Golden Wedding Anniversary

Art in 1999 Veterans' Event


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