They Were Expendable

On Dec 8, 1941, about eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers began attacking air bases on the Philippines. Most of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet was withdrawn from Philippine waters following the Japanese air strikes. The bombing continued over the next several days, concentrating on the remaining air fields. On Dec 11, the remaining US bombers were withdrawn to Mindanao and the few remaining aircraft were relegated to reconnaissance missions and occasional bombing raids.

With these successful strikes, the Japanese eliminated [General Douglas] MacArthur’s ability to defend the Philippines before a Japanese ship had reached the islands or a Japanese soldier had landed. Once the Japanese had established air superiority, the game was up for the United States Army Forces in the Far East.
[Air Power History 48.1 (Spring 2001): p22.]

The “game” may have been “up”, but the fighting and suffering was just beginning for the roughly 31,000 US sailors, soldiers, and airman stationed in the Philippines.

The Japanese made their initial landing at some of the smaller islands starting on Dec 8. On Dec 13, 2500 Japanese troops landed on Southern Luzon (the major island of the Philippines) and began the march toward Manila. The main invasion started on Dec 22 as over 43,000 Japanese troops supported by artillery and tanks landed at three points along the east coast of Lingayen Gulf. Poorly trained and equipped US and Filipino troops were unable to stop the invasion or to pin the Japanese on the beaches. After sustaining heavy casualties, the US troops were forced to withdraw.

On Dec 26, General MacArthur realized that the beachhead defense had failed and instituted a prewar plan to defend only the Bataan peninsula and the island fortress of Corregidor. The hope was to hold out in this small part of the Philippines until relief could come. But with the near destruction of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, relief would never come.

Many US units suffered heavy losses holding back the Japanese and allowing US troops into the Bataan peninsula. In one such delaying action, the 194th Tank Battalion suffered 50% losses. But the Tank Battalion repeatedly stopped the Japanese attacks allowing time for the US troops to “escape”.

General MacArthur, the Philippine president, and other high ranking officials left for Corregidor In Dec 1941 to escape the bombing of Manila. Corregidor is a small island in the Bay of Manila fortified for coastal defense before WWI. An extensive set of tunnels connected the various artillery positions and gave shelter from enemy artillery and aerial bombardment.


We are the battling bastards of Bataan,
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam;
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces;
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces;
And nobody gives a damn

Journalist Frank Hewlett, 1942

Along with the US troops that escaped into Bataan, approximately 26,000 civilians and 80,000 Filipino troops fled the Japanese advance towards Manila.

There were some supplies in Bataan, but nowhere near enough for our purposes. Neither from the standpoint of food, nor from a standpoint of ammunition….

In addition to which, most of the Philippine Army troops, which was the bulk of the army that we had there, were very, very poorly equipped. Many of them had no shoes, many of them had no guns. They were very ill prepared to withstand a major attack. So, the amount of logistic supply that we had in Bataan, was very minimal. When the war began and the attack began, they tried to move as many things as they could from Manila, but by that time, they were short of transport… everything was chaotic…

Forced to feed such a large number of military and civilians, food became an immediate and critical problem to the command. Tons of precious rice were left in the warehouses upon the withdrawal into Bataan and were destroyed by the Japanese. Americans accustomed to “stateside chow” found themselves (mid-January) on half-rations along with the Filipino soldiers. A month later, these rations were cut again (1,000 calories per day) and consisted of rice and fish, or what little meat could be found. Most of the meat came from the horses and mules of the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts, or the Philippine beast of burden, the carabao, or water buffalo. Occasionally monkeys, snakes, ECT, supplemented the diet. Malaria ran rampant in Bataan, one of the most heavily mosquito-infested areas in the world at that time. Medication to offset the effects of that disease began to disappear early in the campaign.

Starting on Jan 9, the Japanese began to assault the US defensive lines. Outmanned, outgunned, and under-supplied, the defenders fought, but were gradually forced back (south). The original Japanese time-table called for four weeks to capture the Philippines, but the US and Filipino troops refused to cooperate. After breaking through the first defensive line, the Japanese were momentarily halted and forced to suspend offensive actions on Feb 8.

Several posthumous medals were awarded for actions taken in Bataan in early 1942

On 12 January, amid fierce fighting, 2nd Lt. Alexander R. Nininger, a platoon leader in the 57th Infantry, with uncommon valor, sacrificed his life when, armed with only a rifle and hand grenades, he forced his way into enemy foxholes during hand-to-hand fighting, permitting his unit to retake Abucay Hacienda; for his actions he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

On 3 February 1942, 1st Lt. Willibald C. Bianchi of the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts voluntarily led a reinforced platoon forward against two enemy machine-gun nests, silenced them with grenades, and then manned an antiaircraft machine gun until his wounds disabled him. His Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously.

One other extreme act of bravery was put forth by a Filipino named Narcisco Salbadin. He was on a heavy water-cooled machine gun when the Japanese burst out of a canebreak in a banzai attack. He shot down dozens of the Japanese with his machine gun, then pulled out his Colt .45 and shot down five more when the machine gun jammed. Then, when one Japanese soldier stabbed at him with a bayonet, he desperately tried to grab the gun, but got his thumb cut off. But he still held on, and then with a sudden burst of adrenaline he turned the gun on the enemy soldier and stabbed him in the chest. When another Japanese soldier swung a bayonet at him, he turned his rifle on the soldier and shot him dead. Narcisco received the Silver Cross.

After their initial failure to take Bataan, the Japanese reinforced their troops and brought in additional artillery. The Japanese had to bring in 25,000 troops from other planned invasions to complete their capture of the Philippines. However, the momentary lull in the Japanese attack did not improve the Americans’ situation.

But the lack of food and medical supplies got increasingly worse. Soldiers were willing to eat anything, and did. As rations thinned, they turned to carabao (water buffalo), horses, mules, monkeys, lizards, and snakes. (35) When fresh water was not available, some soldiers drank from dirty streams. Troops were down to two meals a day and less. A lack of proper nutrition, combined with contaminated food caused many severe to deadly medical conditions. Besides those wounded in the fighting, the medical units, which were running hospitals with make-shift operating rooms and various wards (surgery, orthopedic, head, abdominal, and dental, to name a few), had to treat a wide variety of illnesses, often without proper medication, especially quinine. Sometimes the nurses would sterilize used dressings and use them again on the patients. Some common diseases caused by malnutrition and impure water were malaria, dysentery, and beriberi….

…Despite the critical situation, MacArthur sent orders to Wainwright, which said: “I am utterly opposed under any circumstances or conditions to the ultimate capitulation of this command. If food fails you will prepare and execute an attack upon the enemy.” (39) President Franklin Roosevelt agreed with MacArthur and issued his own “no surrender” orders. Wainwright forwarded the orders to King on April 4. (40)

While the U.S. troops were faltering, due to poor health, the Japanese were strong due to reinforcements. On April 3 they implemented a full attack. By April 8, the Americans and Filipinos could fight no longer. “As the Japanese approached Cabcaben, Bataan’s commander, Major General Edward King, sadly concluded he had no alternative to surrender. Thus 79,500 men, the largest force in American military history to succumb to an enemy, put down their arms.” (41)

“Courage is a quality God has seen fit to dispense with utmost care. The men of Bataan were His chosen favorites.”

Major General Edward P. King, Jr., USA
Commanding General, Luzon Forces, 1942


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 bayoneted by many, many bayonets. And that’s when I knew we had some troubles on our hands. We were in for deep trouble.

Major Richard Gordon

After three months of fighting on ½ and then ¼ rations, the surviving forces of Bataan were exhausted, many were sick, and none were in any condition for a forced march. In addition to the poor condition of the captured troops, they were given little food or water for what turned out to be a six-day march to a temporary internment camp known as Camp O’Donnell. The march was punctuated by constant physical abuse, bayoneting, or beheading by swords whenever a soldier could not keep up.

Whenever they were allowed to stop for rest, they were herded into open fields, in the hot Philippine sun, with no water, helmets, or shade of any kind. Even when running streams or artesian wells were passed, the captured soldiers were not allowed to get water….and those that tried were shot. Stragglers that were not immediately killed were left to lie on the side of the road. Tanks headed south were seen to swerve so that they could run over soldiers that had collapsed.

More from Major Gordon:

After the first day of marching, without food or water, men began to drop out of column. Japanese guards would rush up, shouting commands in Japanese to get back in the group. When that approach failed, shots rang, out killing those who would not or could not rise. Many of those failing to obey the order to march were beheaded by sword wielding-Japanese guards, usually officers and non-coms.

Such actions on the part of the Japanese brought many captives to their feet and they continued the march for awhile longer. As each day and night passed without water, the marchers began to break from their group to run to anything that resembled water. Most often they would hurl themselves into a water puddle alongside of the road and lap up, similar to a cat lapping milk from a saucer, the so-called water. The puddles were used by the carabao to coat themselves with mud as a protection against the huge flies constantly about them. Upon rising from the puddle, the water would assume a “clear” state. Needless to say, the water was not potable and drinking of it soon brought on cramps, diarrhea, and eventually dysentery caused by the numerous flies found in the puddle. Such acts continued for each day of the March, lasting from five to ten days, depending upon where one joined the March, and continued until the marchers reached the town of San Fernando, Pampamga, P.I., a distance for most marchers of over 100 kilometers.

Upon reaching San Fernando, the prisoners were forced into 1918 model railroad boxcars (40X8) used in France during World War I. With over 100 men in each car, the Japanese then closed the doors on the prisoners. There was no room to sit down or fall down. Men died in the sweltering cars. Upon arriving in Capas, Tarlac, almost four hours later, the men detrained for Camp O’Donnell, another ten kilometer walk.

Official figures estimate that between 44,000 and 50,000 of the Filipinos arrived at O’Donnell after completing the March. Between 12,000 and 18,000 of their number are unaccounted for. What happened to them is unknown, but a safe guess is that between 5,000 to 10,000 of them lost their lives on the Death March. The death toll for both Filipinos and Americans, however, did not cease upon reaching O’Donnell. Instead, during the first forty days of that camp’s existence, more that 1,500 Americans were to die. At least 25,000 Filipinos died by July 1942 in the same camp. All of the deaths were the direct result of malnutrition on Bataan, disease, and the atrocities committed by the Japanese on the March.

In June, the Japanese decided to move the POWs out of Camp O’Donnell. The only ones left were too weak to move. The majority went to Cabanatuan, but others went to Manila’s Bilibid Prison and to Santo Tomas, where civilians stuck in the Philippines were held.


Starting in late December 1941, the Japanese began bombing and artillery attacks on the fortified positions. The large gun emplacements were easy targets for aerial bombardment, but the large tunnel complex under the positions provided safe haven for its defenders. While better supplied than their counterparts on Bataan, conditions still grew grim under the constant bombardment with no incoming supplies.

On March 12, 1942, General MacArthur was ordered to leave the Philippines. MacArthur, his family, and several high-ranking members of his staff were evacuated by PT boats to Mindanao and eventually by air to Australia. Following the fall of the forces on Bataan, the attacks on Corregidor were intensified. Finally on May 6 1942, Gen Wainwright surrendered the Corregidor forces.

After two weeks of the famous Japanese “sun treatment” for prisoners, in the sun-baked areas of Corregidor, these troops were taken across Manila Bay to Manila and then by train to Prison camp Cabanatuan, Cabanatuan, P.I. The men were in that camp when the Bataan survivors arrived from Camp O’Donnell in June 1942. The extremely high death rate in that camp prompted the Japanese to make such a move, and thereby allowed the American medical personnel to treat the Filipino prisoners remaining behind until their release beginning in July 1942. The condition of the prisoners arriving in Cabanatuan was such as to shock their fellow Americans from Corregidor. In a short period of time, however, they, too, would feel the full effects of Japanese captivity.

It was not, however, until June 1942 that the men of Bataan and Corregidor began to share a common experience. During the first nine months of Cabanatuan’s existence, when the vast majority of the camp’s 3,000 American deaths occurred, most of the deaths were men of Bataan, still suffering from the effects of Bataan, the Death March, and Camp O’Donnell.

Conditions were not much better at Cabanatuan than they were at O’Donnell
, and illness continued to take a hard toll on the prisoners. Some diseases were the result of poor nutrition, such as night blindness, beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy. Other diseases flew through the camp because of poor sanitation (lice, cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, and typhus) or were associated with the tropical climate, like dysentery and malaria affected everyone at one time or another.

Prisoners struggled for survival. Food was meager. Lugao, a watery form of cooked rice, was the morning dish. Lunch was sticky rice, made into a ball. Dinner was rice and ditch weeds (weeds from the ditches around camp). One POW described the worms and weevils in the rice as the only meat they had. They did what they could to survive, eating rats, lizards, and whatever they could catch.

The Japanese were brutal captors. Punishment for breaking rules was swift and severe, even for small crimes. Men working on the farm were beaten if they took vegetables and beaten if they didn’t work hard enough. One prisoner had his arm broken for smoking; others were killed trying “to escape,” which usually meant they were killed for no reason. The sun treatment was a brutal punishment—men were left naked in the sun or in wooden boxes until they died.


Starting in late 1942 through 1944, Allied prisoners were shipped out of the Philippines to slave labor camps in Japan Taiwan, Manchuria, or Korea. The name given to the ships by the Allied prisoners should be a clue as to what conditions were like…soldiers crammed into cargo holds with no “passenger” facilities, limited food and water, limited/no bathroom facilities, and no medicine or medical treatment for a voyage that could last several weeks.

The Japanese did not mark these tankers as POW transports, and thus were subjected to aerial and submarine attacks by the Allies. Thousands of POWs died because of these attacks by their allies. The worst example was the Junyō Maru, where 5,640 out of 6,520 POWs died after being sunk.

…our ship left Manila on the 7th of November, 1942. On a ship called the Nagato Maru. And it took us about 23 days and 13 American lives before we got to Japan. And the conditions on that ship were something beyond description.

They jammed us into the holds of the ship, no lights. [They] let us up on deck for the first couple of nights out and then, after that, wouldn’t let us because American submarines were in the area. They had given us life jackets when we first went aboard that ship. And then when the submarines came near us, they took the life jackets off us and put them on the cases of their dead that they had, [that] they were taking back to Japan. The ashes. And they protected the ashes with our life jackets. So fortunately this submarine didn’t hit us that time. But it hit enough other ships after that. But there was no toilet facilities down in those holds. Pitch black. They had one bucket that you used for urinal and defecation and what have you. And the boat would rock and spill it all over and men were lying in it. It’s unbelievable to attempt to describe that.

Major Richard Gordon


As the POWs were distributed to camps all over the shrinking Japanese empire, their conditions and treatment varied from one POW camp to the next. Here are some excerpts from a PBS interview with Major Gordon:

The very first five months of Mitsoshima was probably the worst five months of my life.

Take a moment and let that statement sink in. Here is a soldier that endured:
– Four months of hand-to-hand fighting on limited rations
– The Bataan Death March
– Internment in two different POW camps in the Philippines

And none of this was the worse than what he had to endure at the POW camp in Japan. Forgive me for the interruption; let’s continue with Major Gordon’s interview:

The very first five months of Mitsoshima was probably the worst five months of my life. Worse than anything in the Philippines. Because, number one, we had come out of the Philippines with no clothing, other than what we had on our backs. Which was trousers cut off at the knees because they wore out, shirts cut off at the elbows because they had worn out. No socks and no shoes.

The cold that first winter in Japan was incredible. We had no clothing, as I say. They gave us British clothing they had captured in Singapore. Which they wouldn’t let the Japanese people see us in. So they put a Japanese cloth clothing over us, which they made it so thin you could see through it, but it covered up the uniforms that the Japanese had taken in Singapore…So we would sleep in our clothing and even then, we’d freeze because [of] sub-freezing temperatures. And at the bottom of the bay where we slept was a pit. They gave us charcoal to burn. And then at nine o’clock at night, we had to put it out for fear of fires. There was no heat in those barracks all night long. So men slept huddled together for body warmth. And used all sorts of blankets just to wrap each other up in. And if you became ill, as I did, and you had the chills as I did from malaria, it just was that much colder on you because you shivered yourself all night long.

That first winter the guards were a Japanese army guard. They were not civilians yet. They still were active duty soldiers. Young. Japan had– everything they touched at that point in time had turned to gold. They had won everywhere. And the Japanese felt very filled with the spirit of winning. And they were acting out. They mistreated every prisoner they ever laid their hands on. They would make– take any pretext to beat on you, to make life miserable for you. If they caught you leaving the barracks at night to go to the latrine, because you had to make a lot of trips to the latrine, to the bathroom, if they caught you not completely dressed, they’d beat you. That first winter, we lost something like 48 men, Americans and British. And mainly from the cold and the fact that we were without food and were sick when we went into that camp. Men died.

Summary POW Statistics

All together, 12,935 out of the 34,648 total American POWs died in the hands of the Japanese. Japan captured several thousand Americans throughout the Pacific; however, the vast majority of prisoners were captured in the Philippine Islands. The overwhelming majority of these prisoners came from the fall of Bataan and later, Corregidor. The fall of Bataan, alone, gave the Japanese in excess of 75,000 troops to deal with; 60,000 of these being Philippine nationals. The POWs in the Philippines experienced a mortality rate of 40% with approximately 11,107 deaths out of the 27,465 internees in the Philippines.


As I finally reached the conclusion of this entry, I was shocked when I looked down and saw how many pages this entry has taken. I was shocked because I have done such a poor job in describing the literal hell on earth that the soldiers from the Philippines went through…and yet the entry is my longest here by far. So I hope that you will forgive me for this long entry and that they will forgive me for its brevity.

Someone made a comment in a previous Memorial Day entry here that we should not focus on a single event, but recognize all of the men and women that have given their life for our country. However, I feel that comments like this miss the whole point of a Memorial Day entry.

Memorial Day was established to honor those men and women who gave “that last full measure of devotion” to their country. Recognizing and discussing a single battle, company, or soldier in no way reduces the sacrifice made by so many others. How can we claim to honor all of our fallen soldiers, sailors, and airmen if we can’t be bothered to learn the details of even one?

We honor the sacrifice of all of our servicemen by discussing only a single instance, because we know that there are so many others that have made similar sacrifices. So when we discuss POWs, we come to realize what our POWs have suffered in nearly every conflict since the Civil War. When we discuss the D-Day invasions, we recognize that they are far from the only group to charge across open ground under machine gun fire. When we discuss the sacrifice of a single soldier, we recognize all of those men and women who left their normal lives to serve and ultimately die for our country.

I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant “Amen,”
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn’t free.

CDR Kelly Strong, USCG (Ret).

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982


31 Responses to They Were Expendable

  1. Pano Fasoulas 05/25/2009 at 6:43 AM #

    Great Read. Definitely a part of WWII that we don’t pay enough attention to. Everyone should take a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice on this Memorial Day.

    It saddened me yesterday at Disneyworld as I stood at attention while they lowered the flag while playing the national anthem with my hat over my heart how many people just went walking by way too interested in their own pathetic lives to even take the time to notice. Happy Memorial Day.

    One minor point of correction. This started in Dec of 1941, not 1942.

    VaWolf82: Thanks, typo corrected

  2. Texpack 05/25/2009 at 8:39 AM #

    Riveting. I read a lot about WWII growing up, so it’s one of my favorite historical subjects. Thanks for the sobering reminder of what men have endured to keep the United States free.

  3. StateFans 05/25/2009 at 9:11 AM #

    Fantastic read! I can’t believe you did all of that work. Thank you so much for sharing that.

  4. Alpha Wolf 05/25/2009 at 9:57 AM #

    An utterly fantastic article and well worth every moment spent reading it. Thanks VaWolf for taking all of the time to put it together, and folks, remember that this is supposed to be a somber holiday of remembrance rather than the unofficial first day of summer.

    Given the recent troubles across the world and the sacrifices many have made — not only the soldiers who gave their all but also the families, especially the children — we would do well to spend a bit of time reflecting on the simple fact that they paid for this day and for every day where the sun shines on a free America with their blood and their lives.

  5. Alpha Wolf 05/25/2009 at 9:59 AM #

    Another thought — given the nature of the last Monday in May in American culture I have often thought that switching the Memorial Day and the Veteran’s Day holidays would be a very good idea, so that the more important one gets more attention.

  6. travelwolf 05/25/2009 at 10:26 AM #

    focusing on a single ‘event’ allows one to understand what people who fought for this country went through. War is awful, causes people to do unspeakable things, should be avoided whenever possible, and should never be forgotten. Thanks and great job!

  7. old13 05/25/2009 at 11:43 AM #

    Much thanks for the article, VaWolf82!

    Memorial Day was established to honor those men and women who gave “that last full measure of devotion” to their country. Recognizing and discussing a single battle, company, or soldier in no way reduces the sacrifice made by so many others. How can we claim to honor all of our fallen soldiers, sailors, and airmen if we can’t be bothered to learn the details of even one?

    Well said. I’ve become somewhat of a buff on WWII and the “Greatest Generation,” and have come to immensely appreciate, not only the immeasurable sacrifices made by the military personnel of that time, but, also those made by the “Rosie the Riveters” and many others who fought the war at home. That has come through seeing “old” movies (of timeless stories) and reading books and articles about individual events and people which, when strung together, paint a more complete picture of attitudes, events and sacrifices associated with those times. It saddens me to know how little most of present-day America seems to know, understand and appreciate all of the sacrifices that were made during that time. As a result, they fail to understand the tragic need to go to war when all else fails to defend our great nation against tyranny. Thank God for the “Greatest Generation” and for all of those who “stand the wall” now, and have stood it over the history of the United States.

    I have the great honor of having three close friends who have served this country uniquely – one, who was crew chief on Marine 1 under four presidents and then, AFTER that service, won two purple hearts in Viet Nam as crew chief on a Marine helicopter flying insertion-and-recovery and search-and-rescue missions. The second is now a retired Air Force colonel who was on the Air Force Reserve command staff during the first Gulf War serving as chief of intelligence. (He volunteered for Viet Nam three times but was assigned otherwise each time. His father crewed on a destroyer off of Normandy on D-Day!) The third is a retired Navy Chief who served in a SEAL Team operating against terrorists after 9/11, as well as having SEAL training assignments. All three of them served with the attitude that their service could be a deterent to war rather than an opportunity to go to war. I think that it is an attitude that most military personnel have, even though they know war could be necessary anytime and are willing to rise to our defense. And knowing the story of each of my friends certainly gives me a good perspective from which to appreciate the military in general.

  8. VaWolf82 05/25/2009 at 11:56 AM #

    I should have included links to the previous Memorial Day entries here at SFN. If I missed any, please add them. (I was just very favorably impressed with the site’s search engine.)

    Some Gave All

    No Greater Love

    Tribute to Pat Tillman

  9. 61Packer 05/25/2009 at 12:13 PM #

    As a Navy vet and son of a Pearl Harbor survivor (USN, USS St. Louis), it’s good to know that N.C. State seems to be a school whose alums and fans seem more interested in the military than most other schools. Until I began attending football games regularly here, never had anyone had any interest in the fact that I was a vet, let alone recognized it. I guess that’s what you get when you work around government types for 30+ years, right? Anyway, kudos to NCSU for recognizing its vets during football games.

    And one more thing about Memorial Day. When it began and when I was growing up, May 30 was Memorial Day, not some random Monday near the end of May. It’s time to restore the Memorial Day observance to May 30.

  10. Greywolf 05/25/2009 at 1:11 PM #

    Thanks, VaWolf82, for this reminder.

    My father’s brother, my Uncle Reynolds, took a bullet in the mouth in the Battle of the Bulge and survived. My most dangerous time in the Navy was on East Main Street in Norfolk, Virginia. For that I am grateful to those courageous men in the posting above and such as my uncle in the European Theater.

    Reading the stories above has me a little embarrassed to have thought winning or losing a few basketball games could mean so damn much.

  11. VaWolf82 05/25/2009 at 1:40 PM #

    If someone knows how to embed video, here is one that we ought to play every Memorial Day.

  12. TOBtime 05/25/2009 at 3:12 PM #

    Thanks for an extremely well written article VaWolf82. There are so many rabbit trails that particular story could go down. Did Wainwright really have to surrender? Was the attack on Pearl at least very much suspected before it hit? No matter the story we had coureageous men and women who gave their all to stop a seemingly (at the time) unbeatable foe. I agree with Old13- it seems like no one gives a rats rear about the sacrifices made as long as nothing interferes with our “get it now” mentality. You should talk to someone from the Greatest Generation about the Depression and WWII. It will absolutely shock you the way of life then and the sacrifices made during the war. Thank you to all our Vets and the active duty personnel standing in the gap right now. Sometimes a little “nationalism” is a good thing if it makes you remember what could have been.

  13. BJD95 05/25/2009 at 3:52 PM #

    It is amazing to consider the breadth of the losses suffered in WWII, on all sides. While watching a 3-hour block History Channel programming (my offseason crack) focusing on the Eastern front, I was reminded of a trip my wife took to St. Petersburg a few years ago. The people were very gracious and hospitable, and the sense of history there was palpable.

    My wife noted how cats in the city were treated almost like royalty, and asked about it. During the German blockade, many local residents avoided starvation only by eating local pets (primarily cats). To this day, the people of St. Petersburg treat cats as almost sacred for their kind saving so many lives. It may seem like a small thing, but they remember.

    As many sacrifices as Americans made in the Great War, I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors of life when the war was taking place in your own backyard. Or what it must have been like to decide to drop the atomic bomb (IMHO, justly), and have that on one’s conscience for the rest of your life.

    I can only pray that the whole world remembers, and is determined not to let it happen again.

    Thanks to each and every veteran on this solemn day of remembrance.

  14. howlie 05/25/2009 at 5:57 PM #

    Great read.

    I was listening to a sports program earlier in the week (imagine that) when they talked of the origins of Memorial Day celebration. Following the Civil War, Congress identified a day to memorialize those who died. The states of the Confederacy, not surprisingly, did not want to honor ‘their’ dead on the same day as the Union.
    The only celebration of ‘the day’ in the south were among freed slave who exhumed mass graves of Union soldiers–‘honoring’ them by placement in individual graves.

    It wasn’t UNTIL WWII (’til “we” found an exlusive, common enemy] that Memorial day was celebrated nationwide.

    We’re a nation abounding in heroes–and there stories are seldom told.. except by articles like this^. Thanks for the read.

  15. Fenrir 05/25/2009 at 7:20 PM #

    We as Americas take alot for granted. The greatest of which is not acknowledging the people who have sacrificed for the freedom we have. We have all heard the saying that freedom isn’t free, but have you really put thought to that? Our country was formed at it’s earliest by people who sacrificed everything for the ideals that this country was founded on and for.
    Today we have people who enjoy all the liberties that freedom allow. They are unwilling or uncaring to acknowlege that it took a great price to pay for our country. These people want to rewrite history, they want to minimumize what our country stands for they want to sulley the reputation of the men and women of our armed forces.
    I have always wondered if I could or would be willing to give all for this great nation. I served in the military, the Air Force. I participated in Desert Storm. I saw first hand the awsome power that we as a country wield. I was never in any immediate harm or even close, but still wonder if put in a certain position would I without pause give all.
    I have read stories of common men doing extraordinary things in the face of battle. Men who have charged machine gun nest, jumped on handgrenades to save the lives of others. I don’t think that these men ever thought of thier self as heros or would consider their selfs heros after the fact. Most say afterwards that they did no different than the next man. Yet these men did when others didn’t, what drives a man to do those types of things?
    I think that those men and the men and women today know what freedom cost. That things like God, country, family hold a high value. i think that these people are willing to pay the price that others would not, to ensure that this country with all her faults remains free.

  16. highstickoutoftown 05/25/2009 at 8:04 PM #

    Howlie, we just had Confederate Memorial Day a week or so ago in South Carolina. Confused me cause my wife is a State employee and had the day off.

    “Several Southern states continue to set aside a day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day: Alabama: fourth Monday in April; Georgia: April 26; Louisiana: June 3; Mississippi: last Monday in April; North Carolina: May 10; South Carolina: May 10; Tennessee (Confederate Decoration Day): June 3; Texas (Confederate Heroes Day): January 19; Virginia: last Monday in May”

  17. highstickoutoftown 05/25/2009 at 8:17 PM #

    Had a Board member of a client back in the late 70’s/early 80’s who was one of the survivors of the Bataan Death march. Guess I’m getting so old, I’m drawing a total blank on his name though.

    Was practicing in Beaufort, SC then so I got to know a bunch of Marines. Another client, who was a Beaufort City Councilman and former City Manager, was Don Fisher, who was one of the Black Sheep. He had more than a few stories.

  18. VaWolf82 05/25/2009 at 8:42 PM #

    I just ran across Pres. Obama’s remarks at the Tomb of the Unknowns and thought that they were worth sharing.

    Why in an age when so many have acted only in pursuit of narrowest self-interest have the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others? Why have they been willing to bear the heaviest burden?

    Whatever it is, they felt some tug. They answered a call. They said ‘I’ll go.’ That is why they are the best of America. That is what separates them from those who have not served in uniform, their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.

  19. blpack 05/25/2009 at 8:46 PM #

    That is an incredible read. I remember first reading about Bataan as a teenager and was blown away by the inhumane treatment. I did not know about the other later events and camps. Makes you wonder how anyone could question our use of force in August 1945. Not for revenge, but to end that bloody war as quickly as possible.

  20. choppack1 05/25/2009 at 9:44 PM #

    I caught a couple of episodes of Band of Brothers Saturday evening.

    In one of the last episodes, the war is winding down – and the troops are in Germany. They are seperated by a river from a German compound. HQ orders Winters to send a team across the river, get some hostages, and bring them back. It’s a dangerous mission, high risk, low reward – the kind that seems almost insignificant when you think about how close the war is to being over.

    EZ company loses a man successfully executing the mission. HQ is so thrilled w/ the execution of the mission that they order another.

    As Winters is telling the men that there’s another mission – he tells them that they will get a good sleep, and write up a report that went across the river and were unable to get hostages.

    The narrator at the end of the episode says something to the effect of, must of us will never know or understand how much people gave, in the seemingly insignificant wanning moments when the war is basically won.

    I thought it was a very appropriate message for Memorial Day – especially since we have military serving out their terms of seemingly successful campaigns.

  21. ncsumatman 05/25/2009 at 9:54 PM #

    Prior to MacArthur’s arrival in the Phillipines, the island defense had been set to defend Corregidor and let the islands fall. The reasons for the short supply was due to what some might call MacArthur’s arrogance in his determination to defeat Japan with what he had. Supplies were spread around the islands, and destroyed in retreat. Many Americans gave their life in what certainly was a tactical error. MacArthur returned as a hero, and history will remember him as such, but his bravado early on cost lives. God bless America and all the veterans and fallen soldiers, not trying to rip or anything, but as a grandson of 2 veterans of WWII, I think it is important how poorly some of those guys have been treated during the war and afterwards by commanders and politicians alike. They made ultimate sacrifices for a country that sometimes viewed them as the title suggests, “expendable.” The greatest generation, and those who followed in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama the Middle East and Bosnia are some outstanding SOBs who rarely get their due. They deserve a lifelong admiration, not a damn day, but I’ll salute them on this day marked for their recognition even more.

  22. packalum44 05/25/2009 at 10:57 PM #

    I remember my Great Uncle telling me about his days in the Navy during WWII. He lost his brother to the Japanese as he was a marine invading some small forgotten island. So my uncle flew some sort of bomber off an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Theater and one day he sunk a sub. Upon hearing this I mentioned that he must have been happy. To my amazement he said no. He said it was one of the hardest things he’s done because around 100 soldiers were on board the sub he sunk. Even after losing his brother to the war he still had compassion for the men on the other side. Its so easy to forget how awful war truly is.

  23. MatSci94 05/25/2009 at 11:09 PM #

    “reminded of a trip my wife took to St. Petersburg a few years ago. The people were very gracious and hospitable, and the sense of history there was palpable.”

    We visited Moscow several years ago, and on the way to the airport noticed a large monument off to the side of the road. I asked our driver what it was, and he said that it marked the closest advance of the German army in WWII. Its maybe an hour drive from the outskirts of the city.

    We certainly take for granted that we have not been on the verge of extinction as a nation the way some have in recent history.

  24. turfpack 05/25/2009 at 11:13 PM #

    Yesterday at church, a 92 year old man of the Bataan Death was honored.
    The one thing that I will always remember that he said was”I am old and can barly walk,but the memories of that time is as it were yesterday and my heart breaks every day for the guys we had to leave behind”
    You could see the pain in his eyes for his fellow soldiers.My heart goes out to him and the many like him that live with this sacrifice of

  25. mafpack 05/25/2009 at 11:48 PM #

    Hrm, looks like the site blocks out embedded video in the comments section, sorry VAWolf.

    Note: I tried objects, divs, iframes, etc. Looks like the comments block out html tags of any kind (with the obvious exception of anchor tags). Makes complete sense for security reasons.

    I’ve seen a few of the other authors embed it into the post itself, so if you head over to youtube and grab the embed code on the right hand side of that of the page for the video that you’d like to post, you should be able to drop that into your actual article. The video you’ve linked isn’t available for embed, but this one is with the same song + photos:

    Which leads me to my actual reason for posting. Thanks so much for sharing all of this, it always stirs up a sense of pride in my forefathers and in my nation itself when I read of the struggles and sacrifices men like these endured. God Bless America.

    Thanks for the instructions. Now I know where to look for the code to embed video. (I couldn’t find it anywhere on the WordPress editing screen.) I can barely spell HTML, but I knew that it was possible to attach the video.

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