Wednesday’s Hero – Bataan Death March Victims & Survivors


A PINK FLAMINGO NOTEMy father was in the Merchant Marines during WWII (at the age of 19 he went to see Action on the North Atlantic with Bogey, joined up the following day.)  One of his duties while in the Philippines at the end of WWII was as one of the officers in charge of some of the “clean up” of certain parts Death March road.  He never spoke of it until perhaps ten years ago, and then just in passing.  He did not go through any of the depredations of the death march, but just assisting in the removal of the decayed bodies, bones, and things he will never tell us, greatly effected his life.  Something happened during that time and he has never spoken of it.  If just working on the “clean up” caused a tremendous amount of psychological trauma, I doubt if we will ever even be able to imagine what the survivors went through.

Here in New Mexico, parts of Hwy 70, which goes by my front door, are dedicated to survivors and those whose lives were lost on the Bataan Death March.  Many of the Americans who were captured were from New Mexico.  On a yearly basis the remaining survivors and their families meet.  It is a very emotional meeting.  There is a designation on some of the license plates here that identifies the survivors.  I’ve seen my mother tear up and go over to introduce herself and thank the person.

I doubt if anything exemplifies why Americans are different, why we are so very great as a people than the survivor stories.  My mother had a friend who survived.  He told her how one of the elderly Japanese officers was cast aside to die.  The American soldiers rescued him and carried him, taking care of him until he died, treating him decently while even his own men were ready to slaughter him.

Wednesday Hero has never been issued a warning before but I felt it necessary for this one.  This post contains graphic descriptions of torture and brutality that some may find it difficult to read.

This weeks Wednesday Hero is dedicated to thousands of men who lost their lives in April of 1942 in what has become known as the Bataan Death March.

On April 9, 1942 Major General Edward P. King, Jr. surrendered 75,000+ men (Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and Americans) who had been fighting the Japanese since January of that year when they launched a full scale invasion of The Philippines.

They were starving and wracked with disease.

Upon their surrender the men were robbed of their possessions and forced into a 61 mile, 5-12 day, march to Camp O’Donnell.

Along the way men were brutally beaten, staved of food and water, some had their throats cut, some were beheaded, some died to disease or exposure or untreated wounds and others were simply executed.

In all the death tally is unknown but it’s estimated that between 6,000 to as many as 20,000 men didn’t survive the march.

Maj. Richard Gordon: “I didn’t come down with a surrender group. They caught me actually two days after the surrender took place. First thing I did was receive a good beating. And everything I had in my wallet, in my pockets was taken from me. And as I was marched down that road, where they captured me, I passed my battalion commander, Major James Ivy, and he had been tied to a tree and he was stripped to the waist and he was just covered with bayonet holes. He was dead obviously. And he had bled profusely. He had been bayonetted by many, many bayonets. And that’s when I knew we had some troubles on our hands. We were in for deep trouble. And they brought us down into a staging area and put me in with the rest of the thousands that were assembled on the side of the road, and that’s where I spent my first night.”

Here’s a great link with more information and interviews with survivors.

The sacrifice and Hell that these men went through will not be forgotten. I don’t know about anyone else, but I never learned about this while in school. If you’re children aren’t being taught this piece of history make sure that you do it for them. These men must be remembered and honored.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

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One thought on “Wednesday’s Hero – Bataan Death March Victims & Survivors

  1. I just read a book Escape From Davao about the POWs from Bataan. This period of history was very emotional for me. I was a child eight years old. The day Bataan fell was the day my youngest brother 17 years of age enlisted in the Navy never to come home again. Every man in my family went off to war. My father was at Omaha Beach in the D Day invasion. My oldest brother fought at Tarawa and my youngest brother was on a merchant ship in the arctic circle where his ship was torpedoed on the Murmansk run. My uncle was at the battle of the bulge. With no thought for themselves these men were will to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be free. People today forget the sacrifices and even today I still feel the pain. I will never forget the fear and the anguish the day they announced on the radio that our flag had gone on Bataan. We did not learn of the atrocities and the mistreatment of POWs until 1944.

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