to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead


Members of the US Merchant Mariners were truly the forgotten members of the US POW contingent, some of whom also worked the TBR at the Hintok area.

Beyond to the famous bridge, there are two somewhat less recognized portions of the Death Railway: The WangPo viaduct and Hellfire Pass. The former is still in use by the train that departs the River Kwai Station for NamTok. The latter is a bit farther west (about 80 Km from the Bridge) and has a Memorial Museum operated by the Australian gov’t. The Pass itself is accessed via a massive set of stairs. It is possible to do a multi-hour trek along the former path of the railway. (see URL below for a tour)

Although Hellfire Pass itself was worked mainly by Aussie POWs, The H Force based at Hintok was the home of a small group of the American POWs. These consisted of 7 Merchant Mariners who survived the sinking of the SS Sawolka freighter and a few of the TXNG 131 members who had initially been left behind in Singapore due to illness as the main body of the 131 was transported to Burma.

I am only aware of one survivor account that addresses the plight of the Mariners: DEATH’S RAILWAY by Gerald Reminick. He relates that the US POWs worked on what became termed the “Pack of Cards” bridge/ trestle. So named because it collapsed a number of times during its construction. It was dismantled after the war and at present there are no known photos of that section of the railway.

The work groups assigned to make this long, deep cutting were primarily from D Force working alongside a large number of romusha. But as illness and injury depleted that group, newly arrived members of H Force from the nearby Malay Hamlet camp were drafted to work this cutting as well. Since we have no first-hand survivor accounts, we do not know if any of the Americans worked there. My best guess is that this is unlikely.

[Also see Section 28.5 & .6]

Follow these URLs to learn more about their stories:

Merchant Marine rosters and story:


SS American Leader

Tamahoko sinking:

Another companion story is that of the SS RICHARD HOVEY:

Here are the names of the Merchant Mariners and US NAVY crew of the SS SAWOLKA related to this saga:

Houk, Norman William Jr3rd EngineerSW-MMTBR/HSw-SgChangi
Jalet, SylvianRadio OfficerSW-MMTBR/HSw-SgChangi
Moreno, Adolpho3rd Mate/3rd OffSW-MMTBR/HSw-SgChangi
Roland, Dennis A.2nd Mate/3rd OffSW-MMTBR/HSw-SgChangi
Willner, Stanley3rd Mate/2nd OffSW-MMTBR/HSw-SgChangi
Kelleher, Charles ReaRadio OfficerSW-MMTBR/HSw-JHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Torres, Xavier Joaquin1st EngineerSW-MMTBR/HSw-JOsaka Main Camp Chikko Osaka 34-135
Mackney, John NStewardSW-MMOTH-SwSgChangi
Nilsson, Henry Edvin AlexanderMessmanSW-MMOTH-SwSgChangi
AGRO, Harry CharlesSM 2nd ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
ALBERTS, Joseph EdwardSM 2nd ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJFukuoka POW #3 (Yawata)
ANDERSON, Harvey TurieSM 1st ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Atkociunas, Joseph JohnAble SeamanSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
BABCOCK, Benjamin WayneSM 1st ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Becker, ErichMessmanSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
BIAGINI, Joseph JohnSM 2nd ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Bryson, Walter AlanAble SeamanSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Buckley, Irwin FrancisAble SeamanSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
BURGER, Jr, James SpenceSM 1st ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Cebollero, Charles “Carlos”  HumbertoOrdinary SeamanSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Colmyer, William TheodoreCarpenterSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Coppenrath, Alfred Manoarii “Mano”2nd EngSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Cruickshank, Richard PaulMessmanSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Cudd, Lewis Edward2nd CookSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Dickman (Dreckman), Otto HWiperSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Evart, AlfredDeck Maintenance ManSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
GARGANO, Anthony Michael     “Tony”SM 1st ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Haglund, Elmer WalfidDeck Maintenance ManSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
HARTMAN, Frank WilliamSM 2nd ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Henderson, George RobertBosunSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Knudsen, John FallensenAble SeamanSW-MMOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi
Nieves, Ricardo  MorenoWiperSW-MMOTH-SwJHak-01B-Main (Bibai)
Pisarczyk, AndrewOilerSW-MMOTH-SwJHak-01B-Main (Bibai)
Ruiz, Alfonso CastilloOilerSW-MMOTH-SwJHak-01B-Main (Bibai)
Saar, ElmarChief MateSW-MMOTH-SwJRokuroshi
Sechak, PaulAble SeamanSW-MMOTH-SwJHak-01B-Main (Bibai)
Wardell, Clarence J “Dudley”UtilitySW-MMOTH-SwJHak-01B-Main (Bibai)
ZANDER, William OttoSM 2nd ClassSW-USNOTH-SwJHakodate POW Camp-Babai – Machi

I do not count these men among the 988 who were more closely associated with the TBR POWs. Only a few members of the SS Sowalka crew found their way to the TBR as part of H Force. Most of the Merchant Mariners served their POW in Japan and a few never left Java. They were POWs none the less and therefore deserving of mention in this saga.

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