WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 30, 2009, 03:07 PM

Remembering Anton Cichy

Dent, Minn. (WDAY TV) - Anton Cichy's life is an unforgettable war story of torture, survival and victory. A veteran who not only survived the Bataan Death march, but was also one of only a handful to live through the sinking of his POW ship. We mark Anton's passing by remembering his fight to survive World War II.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Bataan Survivor

November 3rd, 2005 - (WDAY TV) - More than a thousand World War II veterans are buried every day. As we prepare to mark another Veteran's Day soon, an unforgettable war story of torture, survival and victory.

Reporter Kevin Wallevand introduces us to a veteran who not only survived the Bataan Death march, but was also one of only a handful to live through the sinking of his POW ship.

On Marion Lake near Dent, Anton Cichy watches summer turn to autumn; one last fisherman as colored leaves frame the shore. Anton is 92, A retired well driller, and a POW with a story so amazing he can never forget the details. It was 1942 and Anton's Tank Battalion in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese.

12-thousand sick and starving American soldiers were forced to march 60-miles in 90-degree heat to a POW Camp. They dropped like flies and men who fell behind or tried to drink from flowing wells were quickly dealt with. Anton remembers it well.

The one day march turned into a week long journey of death. More than 600-Americans died. Once at the POW camp, starvation killed hundreds more. But Anton’s nightmare was just beginning. The Japanese soon marched Anton and 1800 men on to this ship, The Arisan Maru. Crammed into the bottom of this un-marked, filthy ship, Anton would not only live thru days of dying and disease around him, he would have to live thru the sinking of this ship.

Surviving the Arisan Maru

The veterans call them Hell Ships. rickety, rusting boats the Japanese used to haul POW's across the Pacific during World War II.

Anton Cichy of rural Dent, Minnesota is one of a few to not only survive the Bataan Death march, but the sinking of his hell ship the Arisan Maru.

A movie was recently made about the sinking of the Arisan Maru. The reason, 18-hundred American soldiers, starving and sick went down with the ship.

Of the 18-hundred, five survived and tonight Anton Cichy is the only one still living.

Still in the Philippines, the Japanese loaded American POW's on to Hell Ships to re-supply slave labor. At the time, a starving Anton Cichy was down to 80-pounds, but he and 1800 others were crammed like sardines into the bottom of the Arisan Maru. No one could stand or move for 14-days.

There were no provisions on the ship, very little food for the men. And with so many men sick, dying and disease took over. While many prayed to die, others even wondered how a God could even allow this, but after two weeks at sea, disaster. Allied forces torpedoed the Arisan Maru. As the ship went down, Anton grabbed water canteens.

He floated for five hours, hanging on to lumber, and then found a life boat with 4-other survivors. At sea for three days, the men were finally rescued by a Chinese fishing trawler. Of the 18-hundred on that Hell Ship, only these five men survived and today, Anton is the only man still living.

Now the rest of the story, once in China, the five men still had to escape Japanese troops. They would walk and bike across 17-hundred miles of China. Anton and the others finally made it to an air base and then home. More than a thousand days in captivity.

After furlough, the Army assigned him duty at Fort Snelling in the cities, trapping gophers on the golf course there.