Arthur W. Wermuth

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Arthur W. Wermuth
Brothers in arms - Arthur W. Wermuth.jpg
CAPT Arthur W. Wermuth (left) with Filipino aide
Nickname(s) "One-Man Army of Bataan"
Born 1915
South Dakota
Died 1981 (aged 65–66)
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Major
Unit 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts
Battles/wars Battle of Bataan
World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star
Purple Heart (at least 4 awards)

Arthur William Wermuth, Jr., dubbed the "One-Man Army of Bataan," was a United States Army officer during World War II and a prisoner of war from April 1942 until August 1945.


Wermuth was born in South Dakota, but raised in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood at 3631 N. Janssen Avenue.[1] His hometown during World War II was listed as Traverse City, Michigan. His father was a doctor and World War I veteran who died in 1937 and his mother was Clara Natalie Lorenz. His sister, Natalie, was a professional dancer in the Chicago in the 1940s using the stage name Talia.[2]

Wermuth was a graduate of Northwestern Military and Naval Academy in 1932.[3] He was an athletic youth and participated in many sports at the academy including in crew, football, track, and baseball. His teammates nicknamed him "Satch." He played guard and tackle in football and was an outfielder with a .299 batting average in baseball. In track and field he participated in shot put and discus. The student Log Book described him saying, "Defensively, he was a hard man to get through. Offensively, many gains were made through holes he opened."[4]

At North Park University, he was in the ROTC and received a Bachelor of Science in Bacteriology.[5] Wermuth was married to Jean Wilkins, of Chicago, from June 1, 1935 until they divorced in 1947.

World War II[edit]

Wermuth received his Army commission in 1936 while he was a junior at Northwestern University.[6] He served in the infantry reserves as a Second Lieutenant in the Civilian Conservation Corps and was stationed near Watersmeet, Michigan. It was during this time that he learned wilderness survival skills.[7] He entered active duty January, 1941 at Fort Brady, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where he remained until April, 1941. He was promoted to Captain December 19, 1941 after the invasion of the Philippines and was one of a handful of Americans in the primarily Filipino 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts.[6] On January 5, 1942, Wermuth organized a group of 185 Filipinos into a group that became known as "suicide snipers" to counter enemy infiltration behind American lines and as a counter-sniper force. Over the next three weeks he and his force claimed over 500 enemy killed while losing 45 of its own.[8] He was shot in the leg in January while on a successful mission to destroy a bridge and burn an enemy encampment.[9] On February 3, he was shot in the left breast and was carried back to receive treatment. On February 15, he left the medical facility without permission and rejoined his battalion. In early April he fell down a ravine and was seriously injured on a large boulder. He awakened in Field Hospital Number 2 as it was being overrun by Japanese forces.[10]

Wermuth received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in January, 1942 in the Philippines. He became known as the "one-man army of Bataan" and was widely credited with over 116 kills.[11][12] He also received the Silver Star and three Purple Heart decorations.[13]


Wermuth's injuries forced him to remain in a Japanese hospital until May 25, 1942 when he was transported to New Bilibid Prison. His injuries spared him from the Bataan Death March. After Bilibid, he was transported via boxcar to a camp near Cabanatuan. In September, he was sent to Lipa City, Batangas and placed in charge of a 500-man work detail to construct a runway. During the construction, his crew deliberately sabotaged the runway so that it buckled under the weight of landing bombers. His injuries forced him to be sent back to Bilibid in January, 1943, where he was operated on April, 1943 by an American surgeon who was also in captivity. In June, he was sent back to Cabanatuan to join a farming detail. In January, 1944 his detail was being worked to the point where men were collapsing in the manure. When he demanded that the Japanese commander take it easy on his men, he received a severe beating, damaging his kidneys and sending him back to a hospital.[14]

The Oryoku Maru under attack at Olongapo, Luzon, December 14–15, 1944

On October 13, 1944, he was transferred back to Bilibid until December, when he boarded the "hell ship" Oryoku Maru as one of 1620 prisoners.[14] Because the prison ship was unmarked, it was bombed December 15, 1944 at Olongapo in Subic Bay by aircraft from USS Hornet who mistook it for a troop transport, killing several hundred POWs. Wermuth survived the bombing and was transported by boxcar to San Fernando. 160 men were placed in his car and as there was no room to move or sit, were forced to stand for the duration of the 26-hour trip. According to Wermuth, the man beside him died on his feet and was held in place by the crowd for the rest of the trip since there was no room to remove the corpse. In January, 1945, he was transported to Formosa aboard the Enoura Maru.[15] Wermuth received his fourth Purple Heart due to the injuries sustained when bombers from the USS Hornet attacked Enoura Maru.[16][17] Next he was transported to Japan, then to Pusan, Korea, then to Mukden, where his prison camp was liberated by the Russians in August, 1945. When he was found, he weighed 105 pounds (48 kg), having weighed 190 pounds (86 kg) earlier in the war. Wermuth returned to the United States on the transport SS Marine Shark, arriving November 1, 1945 in San Francisco. On his return, he modestly credited the Filipino scouts for many of his exploits saying, "Ninety percent of the credit for what I did was due to them. They're the best soldiers in the world. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."[18]

Post war[edit]

Shortly after the war ended, Olivia Josephine Oswald, a Filipino nurse, claimed to have married Wermuth December 7, 1941 on the rooftop of the Great Eastern hotel in Manila, though this was disputed by Wermuth.[19] His divorce to Jean was finalized June 4, 1947 and the same day he married Patricia Steele, a 23-year-old parachutist from Denver, Colorado.[20][21] He and Patricia adopted an 8 year old named David about 1956.[5]

In 1948 Wermuth was elected Marshal of City Court in Wichita, Kansas.[22] and subsequently arrested L. Ron Hubbard in 1951.[23] He was sheriff of Jefferson County, Colorado from 1957[24] to 1962. He resigned May 1, 1962 in lieu of prosecution on an embezzlement charge.[25][26][27] As sheriff, Wermuth was also involved in the 1960 investigation of the kidnapping and murder of Adolph Coors III. In the early 1960s, it was reported that he was married Julia while Sheriff of Jefferson County, Colorado.


  1. ^ Southport Neighborhood Association, Chicago. September 2002 Newsletter.
  2. ^ "Widow Finds Secret of Peace in Small Town in Black Hills," Hal Boyle, Post-Tribune, Jefferson City, Missouri, August 5, 1954. p. 6.
  3. ^ SJNMA Alumni list Archived January 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine..
  4. ^ 'Art Wermuth, "One-Man Army of Bataan", Was Known As "Just a Regular Guy" During School,' Burton Benjamin, Ironwood Daily Globe, Ironwood, Michigan. February 25, 1942. p. 8.
  5. ^ a b "War Hero Maintains Order as Sheriff," Harold Ellithorpe, Anderson Daily Bulletin, Anderson, Indiana, October 3, 1957. p. 11.
  6. ^ a b "Capt. Wermuth, "One Man Army" Tells of Heroic Stand on Bataan," Arthur Wermuth, The Coshocton Tribune, September 24, 1945.
  7. ^ None More Courageous - American War Heroes of Today. by Stewart Holbrook. 1942. ISBN 1-4067-4119-1
  8. ^ "Captain Tells How Snipers Got Japs," Arthur Wermuth, The Coshocton Tribune, September 26, 1945. p. 5.
  9. ^ '"One-Man Army" Burns Town, Blows Up Bridge,' Arthur Wermuth, The Coshocton Tribune, September 27, 1945.
  10. ^ "Capt, Wermuth Reveals How He Was Captured," Arthur Wermuth, The Lowell Sun, Lowell, Massachusetts, September 27, 1945.
  11. ^ Home of the Heroes. Distinguished Service Cross "for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with the 57th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts, in action against enemy forces from 10 to January 16, 1942", in the Philippine.
  12. ^ "One-Man Blitz", Time, February 23, 1942.
  13. ^ "Wonderful Lug", Time, March 16, 1942.
  14. ^ a b "Gallant Captain Tells How He Felt When He Was Captured," Arthur Wermuth, The Lowell Sun, September 28, 1945.
  15. ^ "Horrors of Trip Aboard Jap Ship Carrying U.S. Prisoners Described," Arthur Wermuth, The Coshocton Tribune, October 4, 1945.
  16. ^ Deposition of Major Arthur Wermuth.
  17. ^ Oryoku Maru Roster.
  18. ^ 'Bataan's "One-Man Army" Arrives, Disclaims Credit for Soldiering Feats,' Billings Gazette, Billings, Montana, November 2, 1945.
  19. ^ "Marriage claims", Time, February 11, 1946.
  20. ^ "War Hero Divorced and Wed in an Hour [on June 4, 1947]" Joplin Globe, June 5, 1947.
  21. ^ "Marriage", Time, June 16, 1947.
  22. ^ "Marshal of City Court, Wichita" Time, November 15, 1948.
  23. ^ "Dianetics leader found in Wichita", Los Angeles Daily News, April 15, 1951.
  24. ^ "One-Man Army Named Sheriff [of Jefferson County, Colorado]," Daily Globe, Ironwood, Michigan. January 12, 1957. Page 1.
  25. ^ "Hero of Bataan Facing Charges," The Progress-Index, Petersburg, Virginia. September 19, 1961. p. 7. (indicted for "illegally obtaining $3,673 in county funds over a two-year period.")
  26. ^ "Sheriff Fined For Paint Theft," Daily Capital News, Jefferson City, Missouri, March 6, 1962, p. 1. (Fined $240 for personal use of $37 worth of county paint, was set to resign May 1, 1962 as Sheriff.)
  27. ^ Turbulent Sixties 1960-69 Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. - (Wermuth resigned in lieu of prosecution on indicted charges.)

Further reading[edit]

  • Achen, Norman and Lee Smart. Go With God ISBN 1-4120-6874-6
  • Holbrook, Stewart H. None More Courageous - American War Heroes of Today. 1942. ISBN 1-4067-4119-1
  • Ramsey, Edwin Price and Stephen J. Rivele. Lieutenant Ramsey's War: From Horse Soldier to Guerrilla Commander. Brassey's, 1996. ISBN 1-57488-052-7. page 72.

External links[edit]