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Not forgotten Bataan Death March has only 1 Gallup survivor left

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by JCFalkenbergIII, Feb 27, 2008.

  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Jan 23, 2008
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    Not forgotten
    Bataan Death March has only 1 Gallup survivor left
    Gallup residents Ephrem J. Landavazo, fourth from right on top row, and Porfirio Diaz, second from right on top row, pose with other U.S. soldiers in this World War II vintage photograph. According to the photograph's inscription, the photo was reportedly taken in August 1945 in Japan after Bataan Death March survivors Landavazo and Diaz were liberated from a prisoner of war camp. [Photo courtesy of Sally Burrola]
    By Bill Donovan
    Staff writer
    Long-time Gallup resident and Bataan Death March survivor Timothy Smith reflects on his time spent as a POW during WWII and the life he has lived as a Gallupian since the war ended. [Photo by Jeff Jones/Independent]GALLUP — As a group, they probably suffered more than any other unit of soldiers who fought in World War II.
    Those who took part in the infamous Bataan Death March, many of whom came from Gallup and surrounding areas, may soon get the national recognition that previously has been denied hem.
    Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced legislation that would collectively bestow veterans of the march with the Congressional Gold Medal.
    This is similar to the honor that was bestowed on the Navajo Code Talkers a few years ago. But instead of being given individual medals, as what happened with the Code Talkers, Udall is proposing to have one medal that will be housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and then made available on request for ceremonies and events commemorating the march.
    About 50 men from this region, who were part of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery units of the National Guard, were called up in 1941 and stationed in the Philippines.
    Many of those in the unit were residents of Gallup, said local historian Martin Link, but there were also a couple from Zuni and Tohatchi and another from as far away as Aztec. Only about half returned after the war and with the death of Edward L. Rollie last week, there is only one Gallup survivor of the March — Tim Smith — still alive.
    Smith said Sunday he wasn’t aware of Udall’s plans to get Congress to honor those who went on the March but he agrees it is long overdue since he doesn’t remember any official recognition that was given to the survivors when they returned home. At the time Smith lived in Albuquerque and after spending about a year in a veteran’s hospital recuperating from the deprivations he encountered during his three years of captivity, he returned to Albuquerque for a time before moving here to Gallup to go and work for the post office.
    A lot has been written about the suffering that the 90,000 to 100,000 Americans who went on that March suffered with many dying through beheadings and cut throats.
    Soldiers who fell down or were unable to keep up were killed by having trucks run over them.
    The irony here, said Link, is that these were American trucks and when the American forces surrendered they agreed not to destroy the trucks so they could be used to transport them to the ships that would take them to prisoner of war camps. “But the Japanese didn’t keep their word and instead, they rode in the trucks when the prisoners had to walk,” Link said.
    Smith survived the March and then he and all the others from Gallup were also fortunate enough not to be put on the first ships that left for the camps. These ships, which were not marked with the official Red Cross, were attacked by American planes and sunk. Smith remembers being put on a cargo ship and along with some 600 other prisoners, forced to make the journey in a cargo hold filled with coal.
    “We were pretty dirty when we reached our destination,” he said.
    Like the other prisoners, Smith spent the rest of the war basically as a slave laborer, working for about a year to build an airstrip in the Philippines and then spending the next two years working in a steel mill. The constant, during that time, was a lack of food, since the prisoners had to exist on a diet that consisted primary of rice.
    “We never received any meat or potatoes,” he aid, adding that there was one day that the prisoners said a hunk of meat in the rice but it was attached to the pan so no one could dig it out. “The guards probably ate that later,” he said.
    While Smith, at the age of 84, remains healthy, Link said many of those who did return — such as former Mayor Eddie Junker — had health problems that would result in them dying way before they should have.
    Udall’s efforts to honor the survivors is being endorsed wholeheartedly by the New Mexican Hispanic Cultural Preservation League.
    “The League is dedicated to correcting omissions of valor and honor to the historical records,” said Conchita Lucero, the league’s president emeritus.
    “The Bataan veterans walked in the shadows and are examples of our ancestors who fought to help the 13 colonies gain independence and have been overlooked in American history,” she said.
    She added that New Mexico lost more men in World War II per capita than any state.
    Udall said he felt compelled to introduce the legislation to honor the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery units from New Mexico. “These units were remarkable because they were mostly Hispanic, a group who at that time was often subjected to discrimination in the military due simply to their ethnicity.”
    A local commemoration of the Bataan March survivors can be seen at the new courthouse on the first floor near the elevator.
    This plaque was put up when the courthouse was built four years ago and contains the names of some of those from this area who was sent on that March. After the plaque was put up, there were several complaints that names were left out so the county is in the process of having the plaque redone.

    Independent - February 26, 2008: Not forgotten; Bataan Death March has only 1 Gallup survivor left
  2. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Disheartening to learn that there are only so few Bataan Death March survivors left.

    When I was a kid, World War II veterans could march in Independence Day parades. As I grew older, they were in wheelchairs. At present, only a very few of them can still attend. Gone are their formations. They have been replaced with boy scouts carrying the World War II unit banners.

    However, whoever wrote that story got her numbers wrong. It's impossible to have 100,000 Americans in the Death March. If memory serves correct, only about roughly a third of that number could've have been Americans in the Death March. The only reason that this writer could've been misled into believing all were Americans I can think of is this: back in 1941, the Philippine Army was made a component of the US Army and carried in some records as US troops. The Philippines at that time was an American colony.
  3. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

    Nov 28, 2000
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    This is sad to hear but thanks for the Heads up on this men. His name rings a bell. I wonder if he was featured in a Histyory Channel Doc on the Death March?

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