The HellshipsF
Lest We Forget 

Henry Morfit Neiger

Enjoy the view. Never forget this spot was not always beautiful and untroubled. World War II around here was rough. If Subic Bay is calm today, indeed if anybody anywhere is calm today, that calm has been purchased at the highest price.

We thank God for even one day of peace. We thank God for the peacemakers.
                                                      Hellships Memorial (Subic Bay: dedicated on Jan. 22, 2006)

Whatever its price, the price of peace is worth paying. Worth fighting and dying for. We thank God and we never forget those who paid the highest price.

The Hellship Oryoku Maru sank about 300 yards off this shore in December, 1944 after two days of hell for the more than 1,600 prisoners of war who were jammed below decks in its three cargo holds. Over 1,000 of these POWs were American Army officers, most of them survivors of the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the Bataan Death March, and over two years of imprisonment in various camps throughout the Philippines.

But by the Fall of 1944 the tide had turned. The liberation of the Philippines was underway. The Japanese were taking as many POWs as they could with them back to Japan or Manchuria.

The Japanese vessels used to transfer the POWs have come to be remembered by history as Hellships, and the Oryoku Maru surely was one of the most distressing Hellships. Dire conditions in the holds included unlivable overcrowding, lack of air and water, darkness and brutality of guards. More than 20 POWs died its first two days at sea.

In the madness of total war, American planes from the aircraft carrier Hornet began bombing the unmarked Oryoku Maru on 14 December, the day after it sailed, and the ship finally sank on the afternoon of 15 December in 80 feet of water. More than 300 POWs went down with the ship. Also, over 1,500 Japanese women and children, troops and crewmen from the other shipwrecked Japanese vessels were on the upper decks. Many of them suffered and died as well.

The earthly remains of those who died on the Oryoku Maru remain with the Hellship in this beautiful body of water, and we trust their souls have been raised to Godfs heavenly eternity.

Unfortunately, the Oryoku Maru was only one of dozens of Japanese Hellships. During World War II over 100,000 men and women were sent all over Asia in the holds of various Hellships, often in the harshest of conditions. The dead included more than 4,000 Americans, and thousand of British, Dutch, Australian, East Indian and unfortunates of other nations. It is impossible even to establish accurate numbers, and the suffering remains incalculable to this day.

Some 1,300 survivors of the Oryoku Maru swam ashore here only to be herded onto a 100-square-foot cement former tennis court where their brutal treatment continued. One marine, before he died, had his gangrenous, wounded arm amputated with a mess-kit knife. Many other POWs died of wounds, exposure or starvation before they could be transferred to other Hellships, and many of the POWs who made it to other Hellships died at sea or went down with their ships under similarly dire conditions. For many POWs, the Hellships were the worst of their many trials. While the details of their sufferings will never be completely known, the POWsf endurance and ability to sustain their spirits in dark times remain a big inspiration.

Indeed, the period provides ample evidence that war is hell. The living need to live even as they need never to forget what has been done to secure their peace.

This memorial is dedicated to everyone who paid with their lives that others might live. We who are living pray to be worthy of so many who did so much.

Mr. Henry Morfit Neiger is the son of Major John J Neiger, Jr.

Major John Joseph Neiger, Jr.

West Point - Class of 1935

Commander, Company F, 45 Infantry, US Army from June 1940

Promoted to Major during defense of the Philippines
Aide to Major General George Parker, South Luzon Force, Bataan Defense Force, II Philippine Corps

Taken prisoner by the Japanese on Bataan April 1942
Bataan Death March, Camp O'Donnell – April 26, 1942 to June 1, 1942, Cabanatuan Number 1 – June 1, 1942 to October, 1944, Bilibid, Manila – October 12, 1944 to December 13, 1944

Last seen aboard sinking Oryoku Maru December 14/15th, 1944 Subic Bay, Philippines

Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart
Memorial Service, Arlington Cemetery, October 18th, 1996

John's best friend and fellow POW Col gZeroh Wilson (West Point 1924) said: gThrough it all, John exemplified the West Pointer, the professional soldier, and the gentleman. He never lost his sense of humor, and he adopted a philosophical and optimistic view of our predicament.h

John J Neiger Jr. married Sallie Morfit in St. Louis, Missouri in March 1936. She sailed with their two sons from Pier 7 in Manila on May 14th, 1941.


John J Neiger III (wife Barbara)
Lake of the Woods, Virginia

Henry Morfit Neiger

John J Neiger III has a son John Neiger IV (wife Kemper, a son Forest) and a daughter Tracy Simon (husband Jim Simon, a son Timothy James Simon and a daughter Courtney Sallie Simon)


                                                                                                                       Neiger family in the Philippines -1941


John J Neiger III pointing at his father's name on the Cabanatuan memorial wall