Less we forget
More than 120,000 Americans ended up as prisoners of war (POWs) during World War II. In general, Allied POWs fared better under the Germans than under the Japanese. The average POW in Germany lost 38 pounds during captivity but the average prisoner of the Japanese lost 61 pounds. During the infamous Bataan “Death March” in 1942, thousands of Americans and Filipinos died of starvation, disease and exhaustion on the way to the Cabanatuan prison camp.
I have the privilege of serving with eight Marines who were captured on Corregidor in May 1942 and lives to tell about it. The Corregidor prisoners were forced to march through Manila on May 23, 1942, having previously been forced, while still a hundred yards from the beach, to jump out of the barges which had brought them over to the island. They said as they marched through Manila, they presented the worst appearance possible: wet, bedraggled, hungry, thirsty and many so weak from illness they could hardly stand. All during the march through Manila the heat was unbearable. The weaker ones in our ranks began to stumble during the first mile. They were cuffed back into line and made to march until they dropped. If no guards were in the immediate vicinity, the Filipinos along the route tried to revive the prisoners with ice, water and fruit. Those Filipinos were severely beaten or shot if caught.
The “March of Death” was an indication of what lay in store for those whose fate was to spend the rest of the war in Japanese prison camps: not as prisoners but as captives. Most of the 50,000 survivors of Bataan and Corregidor were murdered in one way or another: either on the march, while at work, in camp or under the studied Japanese cruelty which constantly devised new methods of torture.
Next time I will tell you about a very fine friend of mine, Marine Master Sergeant Lou Curtis, who just passed away a year ago at the age of 91. He was a survivor of the Corregidor, the Death March and Japanese prison camps.
He told me he did not hold any animosity toward the Japanese people as a whole. Forgiveness is rarely perfect except coming from those who have suffered. God washes the eyes with tears until they can see the invisible land where tears will flow no more.
We should never forget our POWs and MIAs. Please keep all our service men and women in your prayers.
Charles R. Pearson
Malvern Legion Post #375