Veterans of the Battle of Bataan, the Bataan Death March, and the capture of Corregidor will be in Washington, DC from April 24 to April 26 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Philippines. All became POWs of Imperial Japan. The history of these survivors of jungle warfare, torture, abuse, starvation, and slave labor and of their success in reconciling with the Japanese is a timeless inspiration.
Congress did not commemorate the 70th anniversaries of Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, the USS Houston, or Texas’ Lost Battalion. These were all among the first battles of American involvement in World War II. To make up for this oversight, a series of commemorative events is being planned with the veterans of the Philippines defense to provide a venue to remember these early months of World War II and their unique contribution to American history.
The 70th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March is April 9th and the surrender of Corregidor is May 6th. The valor of the Filipino and American soldiers is celebrated annually on April 9th in the Philippines as Valor Day or Araw ng Kagitingan.
The veterans coming to Washington include past national commanders of the now-disbanded American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC) who traveled to Japan in 2010 and 2011 to receive an official apology from the Government of Japan for their maltreatment and to visit their former POW camps. The death rate and incidence of post-traumatic stress for American POWs of Japan was the greatest of any American conflict. One invitee, Dr. Lester Tenney, the last national commander of the ADBC was instrumental in persuading the Government of Japan to offer American former POWs an apology and to begin a program for them to visit Japan. He also founded Care Packages from Home for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another invitee, Mr. Ralph Levenberg who was on the Death March, was until recently an advocate for veterans benefits as a member of the Advisory Committee on Former Prisoners of War, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Ben Steele of Montana, another Death March survivor, has chronicled the Death March and Japan’s POW camps through his award-winning paintings and drawings. Mr. Ed Jackfert of West Virginia has championed and helped establish the ADBC Museum and Archive to preserve the memory of the American POWs of Japan and their lessons for war and peace.
- Reception on Capitol Hill the evening of April 25 hosted by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and others
- Roundtable discussion hosted by members of the House of Representatives on the Bataan Death March and the success of the two POW visitation programs to Japan
- Wreath laying at the WWII memorial Bataan/Corregidor site
- Lunch program with contemporary veterans for all to share their experience with PTSD (not recognized until the mid-70s), other war-related disabilities, and reintegration into society
- Dinner with Commemoration donors and the American and Japanese officials who encouraged the Government of Japan to establish a program of reconciliation for American POWs
The final list of veterans who will attend will be made closer to the event taking into consideration the health of each participant. Each veteran will be accompanied by a caregiver. The veterans have also requested that Ms. Kinue Tokudome, who has spent years working to help them communicate their story to Japan, be included.
- Dr. Lester Tenney, 92, San Diego, CA. Bataan Death March, Illinois National Guard, B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion from Maywood, Illinois
- Mr. Harold Bergbower, 92, Peoria, AZ. Bombing of Clark Air Field, Army Air Corps, , 28th Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bomb Group,V Bomber Command
- Mr. Edward Jackfert, 90, Wellsburg, WVA. Bombing of Clark Air Field, Army Air Corps 28th Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, V Bomber Command
- Mr. Joseph Alexander, 85, San Antonio, TX. Bombing of Clark Field, Army Air Corps 440th Ordnance Aviation Bombardment Squadron
- Mr. Ralph Levenberg, 92, Reno, NV. Bataan Death March, Army Air Corps, 17th Pursuit Squadron
- Mr. Earl Szwabo, 91, Florissant, MO. Corregidor, US Army, Battery C, 59th Coast Artillery
- Mr. Ben Steele, 94, Billings, MT, Bataan Death March, Army Air Corps, 7th Material Squadron, 19th Bomb Group (his painting is above)
- Special Guest: Ms. Kinue Tokudome, Kagoshima, Japan. Founder of the US-Japan Dialogue on POWs, who accompanied the POWs on their return to their POW camps.
Funding is needed for all the expenses of this program. Your help is requested to make these veterans of our greatest generation comfortable in their trip to Washington and to cover the program costs.
Donations can be made to one of two nonprofit, 501(c) (3) organizations:
Asia Policy Point, 1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Suite 414, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 822-6040. APP is organizing this program in Washington.
Brooke County Public Library Foundation, 945 Mail Street, Wellsburg, West Virginia 26070, (304) 737-1551. The Library houses the ADBC museum and archive.
For more information contact APP. Donate by clicking the DONATE button on the left side bar.