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Bataan Death March Begins: April 9, 1942


April 9, 1942, marks the beginning of the Bataan Death March, in which tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were forced on a grueling 65-mile trek across the Philippine island of Luzon, following their surrender to the Japanese. Thousands of men died on the march, and thousands more would die later in POW camps.

Fold3 Image - Photos from the Bataan Death March
Directly after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed Clark Field in the Philippines as part of their campaign to take control of Southeast Asia. This and other raids left the Philippines without air power when the Japanese landed 43,000 troops on the main island of Luzon on December 22, 1941. The American and Filipino troops, under General Douglas MacArthur, retreated to the Bataan peninsula, where they resisted the Japanese for months, enduring starvation, disease, and exhaustion in addition to the fighting.

Finally, on April 9, 1942, Major General Edward King surrendered all 76,000 American and Filipino troops under his command to the Japanese. (General MacArthur had by this time evacuated first to Corregidor, then Australia.) The prisoners of war were divided by the Japanese into groups of 100 to begin the journey to the POW camps at Camp O’Donnell.

The arduous 65-mile trek in blazing hot temperatures lasted about 5 to 10 days, and the already enervated men were allowed little food or water. They also faced numerous instances of brutality by their Japanese captors, from beatings to killings

The men were marched dozens of miles to a rail station at San Fernando, where they were crammed a hundred at a time into boxcars meant for 40. Additional men died on this train journey from suffocation, exhaustion, and dehydration. Estimates vary widely, but at least 500 Americans and 2,500 Filipinos (though likely far many more) died on the march and in the boxcars.

Things did not improve for the tens of thousands of men who survived to reach the POW camps. There were far more prisoners of war than the Japanese had anticipated, and conditions in the camps were horrific. Several hundred men died a day, with total deaths in the camps estimated at around 1,500 Americans and 26,000 Filipinos.

After the war, the Bataan Death March was designated a war crime, and various Japanese military leaders were executed or imprisoned for their role in it.

Do you have any relatives who are Bataan survivors? Share their stories with us! Or find more information about the battle and ensuing march by searching on Fold3.


  1. Another account of the Bataan Death March has been wonderfully written by James Bollich,”Bataan Death March: A Soldier’s Story”. Let us never forget the survivors and those who did not survive. Their sacrifices can never be repaid, only honored.

  2. For years my Mother worked for Forry and Hacker Printing. Partner Charlie Forry was a Bataan Death March survivor. He could never sit on his haunches or bend his knees much. He related to my Mother his experience. One thing that stood out was the Japanese would smash their rifle butts into the prisoners’ knees to try to get them to fall and drop out of line, so they could shoot them. There were other atrocities.

    When the business was for sale a business broker brought potential buyers to look it over. They were Oriental. Charlie flipped out and kicked them all out. He was still angry about the situation.

    • Oriental? What does that mean? Where they Chinese, Philipino or Idonesian?
      I gues the man remained stuck in an “all the same to me” mentality.

    • To you and me, and the thousands reading this fine work…Charlie Forry would be called HERO! Simply that, there is no decent call of “bigot” by a PC culture “warrior” of 2017. Got that….HERO!

    • Even heroes can have feet of clay. Don’t allow that word to blind you to reality. We are not perfect, after all.

    • Inote that Mr Edquist doesn’t realize how the pow’s reached that “mentality.” These were mostly very young men (my brother in law was 17 when he joined the army and was imprisoned in Japan where he worked in the mines as forced labor.) Today we think about the fact that there were millions of other Orientals who also suffered at the hands of the Japanese during the war. I make special note of “The Rape of Nanking” for those who haven’t read about that. But these young men were mostly farm boys who had never seen Chinese, Philopino, etc until a short time before. And yes, it was difficult to distinguish between them. I am sure all of us look alike to them, as well. My dear Chinese grandchildren are learning so much in their school here in Texas. They, too are appalled at the atrocities of war…all war.

  3. Joseph Quitman Johnson also was a survivor of the Bataan Death March, he wrote the book
    “The Baby Of Bataan”. The American Legion Post 96 in Surprise Az. is in the process of being named after him.

    Ed Foerster, Charterr Commander Post 96. – WW 2 Veteran.

  4. Another great account of Bataan Death March and the survivors is “Ghost Soldiers”. The brutality of the Japanese captors cannot be over-emphasized.

  5. I am the last of 5 children of Lt Milton Henry Woodside Bataan Death March survivor. My father was a P40 pilot at Clark field when the Japs attacked. He did not tall about his experiences. We lost him in 1973. He did leave 18 typed pages as part of the war departments debriefing. He was on the train at San Fernando and eventually put in the hull of a boat and transferred to Osaka as slave labor.

    I make sure my children read and reread the graphic accounts of his words. They should never forget his sacrifice!

    • How did you get copies of the transcripts? I would love to get my grand fathers.

    • What an incredible man. I can’t imagine what that does to someone. God Bless that he survived to have a family and the love that comes with it.

  6. My father-in-law, Angelo Pluchino, was a survivor. I have his handwritten diary that he kept with him during his imprisionment.

  7. In this report there is no mention of the women and children who were also there. A member of our church was a child who lost both of his parents during this atrocity. His mother died in the camp partly because she gave him most of her food.
    You might think he’d have a rough personality after living through such an evil childhood experience, but through faith and courage, he is an angel. He’s always been one of the nicest people.

    • I know of a survivor, as a child, son of missionaries, now goes by the name of Chuck Lewis, and now living (I think) in Connecticut. Could that be the person you mentioned?
      I had the pleasure of walking the Bataan Memorial March this past 25 March in New Mexico with our local survivor, Ret. Col. Ben Skardon, USArmy now 100 years young. An amazing and inspirational person (oldest living survivor).
      Thanks for mentioning those non-military that suffered also. Brings to mind a favorite movie of mine, Empire of the Sun, by Stephen King, about a 12 yr. old son of British state department parents, who was separated from his parents and catptured by the Japanese in their Shanghai invasion.
      Jim reed, Pendleton, SC

    • Read bout the Santo Tomas internment camp. There is at least one book (I can ‘see’ it but cannot remember the name) about that camp. This is the camp where civilian men and women were interned during the war…near Manila if I remember correctly.

    • There is also a really good one on Los Banos, called Rescue at Los Banos. This was opened after Santo Tomas became too crowded. They shipped a bunch of men there to build it first and then started sending families. My great uncle Carlin McClure and great aunt Ryanna McClure were sent there, while the rest of the family remained at Santo Tomas. The rescue of Los Banos was done in a raid behind enemy lines and is considered to be one of the most daring raids during WWII. Had it not happened and they had waited until the prison was back in US hands the internees there would have either starved since they were dying by the dozens every day, or the Japanese would have killed them all by mass murder. They had already forced the men to dig a long trench that would have been their mass grave. The Japanese were no kinder to the civilians than they were to the soldiers.

  8. Morgan French, 92, the last surviving member of the Harrodsburg Tankers, died Thursday in Plano, Texas.

    The Harrodsburg Tankers were a group of 66 Kentucky National Guardsmen who fought on the Bataan Peninsula of the Philippines during World War II. Many of them were captured by the Japanese and endured the Bataan Death March and other horrors as prisoners of war. Only 37 of the men survived the war.

    Mr. French grew up working on farms in the Harrodsburg area with his family, according to an obituary.

    He joined the National Guard in 1937. He, his brother Edward and the rest of the Harrodsburg Tankers, the 38th Tank Co., shipped out for the Philippines in November 1941.

    Edward French was killed in action in Bataan on April 22, 1942. Morgan French was captured less than a month later at Fort Drum in Manila Harbor. He was at first taken to Bilibid Prison, then spent five months in Cabanatuan POW Camp before being put on a “hell ship” and sent to Japan.

    He and other prisoners were liberated by Allied Forces on Sept. 10, 1945.

    After returning home, Mr. French returned to active duty in the Army, serving two tours in Korea. He also served in Germany and at various posts in the United States during his 23-year career. He earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

    Later, he taught at the Armored School at Fort Knox.

  9. My Cousin, 1st LT. Harvey F. Rice, was listed as MIA for many years by the U.S. Army, in the Philipines.
    They have recently contacted members of our Family for DNA matches and think they have found his remains in a mass grave(#1010) of over 20 persons. He was born 10/17/17 in North Dakota. He died 07/01/42 at the POW Camp at Cabanatuan, Luzon, PI. According to Army records he died of Dysentery and Malaria. He had previously survived the Bataan Death march.
    Very sad news but finally putting many questions to rest for the family. Does anyone else on this site have any information containing his name?

    Thank You, Adele Rice Spidahl

    • Is there a place where family members of POWS and MIAS can sign up in the event more remains are found?

    • Reply to Mary Hensinger: Try The American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor at They can point you in the right direction. The organization’s president, Jan Thompson, is a filmmaker who has made two documentaries, “The Tragedy of Bataan” and “Never the Same–the Prisoner of War experience,” about this terrible time. Her father survived Corregidor and imprisonment.

    • Thank you for the info. I’ll definitely check it out.

  10. My father, James Patrick Boyd, was stationed at Ft. Stotensburg. Here is a bit of his recount of that day.

    “Surrender came at daybreak on April 9, 1942. Company Commander Richard Caden called our 17th Ordnance Company together for the last instructions.

    Just as Captain Caden was about to speak, an officer from a military police company wheeled a jeep alongside. ‘This is it captain,’ he barked. We held them just as long as e possibly could.’

    He got back in the jeep, hesitated a moment and then snapped, “Best thing for you and the men to do is pile your guns in a stack and either blow them up or burn them.”

    The captain scowled. He look into the wall of questioning faces, ‘Well men, you heard it. There’s no use getting killed with our own guns, so put ‘em in a pile.’

    We were marched from our present location, Kilometer Post 182, back along the route of our retreat some 20 kilometers, or 10 miles, to a spot designated by the Japanese as a surrender point.

    Panama, a wiry, redheaded buck sergeant and longtime buddy of mind, spat disgustedly into the dirt. Squinting, he turned his gaze upward to the mountainous reach of green and tangled hills ascending to the north.

    I remarked pointedly, ‘You know, Panama, those hills look pretty good to me.’

    ‘Cactus, they look pretty good to me too. I think that’s the place we should be.’

    The idea of escape wasn’t exactly new. It had been with us since December 8, 1941, the day which the Japanese death their smashing blow to the Philippines. The possibility of escape lay in the mountainous terrain of the peninsula. We approached the Captain and told him.

    “If I didn’t have 147 men looking to me for leadership, I’d go with you.” he assured us.

    We started out with the rest of the men on their march toward to surrender area. It was deceptive tactic and also a practical one for we wanted to get back to a broken down supply vehicle we had passed along the road that morning. There might be food and some equipment we could use.

    We mingled with the flood of men and clanging vehicles trying not to arouse the suspicion of any Japanese officers who might be nearby, and at the same time watching for an opportune moment to get off the road and head for the mountains. A clump of bushes beside the road screen a maze of undergrowth gave us the opportunity. In a split second we left the markers, waited a couple fo minutes and then slid through the bamboo thickets leading towards the hills. We had our rice, flour, and hash and a little American display flag I had taken off a radiator cap on the supply truck.”

    This started a journey of nearly three years that found my father hiding in the jungles. Working with the other escapees and Filipino natives to help bring back MacArthur. In 2011 my father was honored by the Army’s 17th Ordnance division for his service. A building bearing his name is located at Ft. Lee Virginia.

  11. We hear a lot and continue to do so of the Nazi atrocities but the Japanese were just as brutal and in some cases more barbaric then the Germans. My father fought in the Pacific theater and let me tell you the average Army Joe was relieved when we dropped the A-Bombs a now controversial decision that is derided by those comfortable elites who sit back and question this decision. Thankfully we now have a good relationship with the people of Japan but their atrocities should never be forgotten and forever condemned.

    • Amen to all that you said! And the fools who revere MacArthur are just that – fools. He was NO hero!

    • As I have stated before, my Dad served with the 6th Army and landed on Leyte on Oct.20 1944. He never spoke of the war, but ALWAYS held a grudge against the Japanese and Mc Arthur….leaving those nurses behind…..NO EXCUSE…

    • Why “comfortable elites?” Your bias is showing.

  12. My uncle, John B Ivy, my mothers older half brother, survived the Bataan Death March. My mom and JB had the same mom, different dads. He never talked about being a POW but later an article was printed in the Columbia, Mississippi news paper. He married my Dads sister, Alice Wagley. He retired in Goss, MS., and lived there till his death. He did tell us about stealing vegetables from the Japanese gardens and boiling them with their clothes. He was a Texan and was with a group from Texas. He said the Texans stuck together and helped each other. His best friend helped him and he said if not for him , he could not have survived. He figured out that the Japanese were afraid of “crazy ” people and he acted crazy, they left him alone. My uncle JB was my favorite uncle and you would have never known what horror he went through. He said it was his faith and belief in God that kept him strong mentally. I lived with my grandparents during WWII , his mom and step dad. My grandmother, Lillie Walker always said JB was alive and would come home. He did.

  13. My father, Herschel Waller, who served in the 27th Bomb Group, was a survivor of the Bataan Dearh March. He spent the whole war in Japanese prison camps, first in the Philippines and, later, in mainland Japan. He was transferred from the Philippines to Japan in a convoy of “hell ships”. He was finally liberated from the Sendai 7-B POW Camp near Hanaoka, Japan, on September 15, 1945. He never revealed much about his experiences during his captivity before he passed away in 1995.

  14. My grandfathers step son Marion Terrell was in the Death March. He came home and shortly thereafter died of a brain tumor.

    Does anyone know any resources on where to find info on these soldiers other than the Natl Archives?

    • Outside of memoirs and military history books, I would try Fold3 and/or IF you are willing to do a lot of digging, then try and search on soldiers’ names or returning POW topics.

    • If he was from New Mexico, as 1600 of the Bataan fighters were, you can look him up in Eva Jane Matson’s book, “It Tolled For New Mexico.” This is a comprehensive record of all batteries of the 200th Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the New Mexico National Guard. A thorough history of the 200th is found in Dorothy Cave’s book, “Beyond Courage,” which has been mentioned elsewhere in this blog.

  15. Equidst……Must be one of those that have never had to sacrifice anything for his country. Just wanted to enjoy all the muilk and honey but relied on others to pay for it.

  16. This an important event in the war and I just don’t understand why Hollywood hasn’t made this a movie, yet???

    • They did, about five or six years ago. I can’t remember the name of it, but I saw it in a theater. It included Camo O’Donnell, but I don’t remember much about the film, overall. If you Google it, you might something about it.

    • “The Bridge On The River Kwai” was about the Bataan Death March. I believe it came out in the mid-60s. I recall I was in high school at the time. All the actors in it are dead now. My uncle, Ricard (Dick) Aust was not at Bataan, but survived the sinking of the USE Houston and was a LOW in a Japanese prison camp in Thailand.

    • “Bridge on the River Quai” was about the Allied (primarily British) troops captured in the defense of Singapore, and their imprisonment in Indonesia.

    • British POWs from the fall of Singapore in 1942 were forced north to build a rail line from Thailand to Burma (now Myanmar). Japanese supply rail line for invasion of India (never happened)
      Bataan death march was on Philippines’ island of Luzon around 1,000 miles southeast of Burma.

  17. Regarding the guerilla fighters there was a movie made starring Tyrone Power – An American Guerilla in the Philippines. I’ve also found this clip on You Tube. My father and Clay Connor knew each other in the mountains.

  18. My father served with the Australian army and fought at Kakoda in New Guinea and onto Borneo, Mala and onto Japan. I found out from one of my fathers mates how was with him when the battle for Kakoda was coming to a end as the Japanese had been pushed back to coast and the air stip that we’re defending was about to fall. My father added then the Americans showed up after the real battle to claim the victory.
    My father was injured during this final battle and was sent to Port Morsby to recover, while there McArthur showed up to the hospital with the media to showed he cared.
    During this my father apparently yelled at him and asked how many men under his command have to die so you can get your next star and called McArthur a coward.
    I read in my fathers service records that he was charged with disrespecting an officer would be courtmarshed and he was docked 1 weeks field pay, the charge was dropped as in his defence he’s said he fought for Australia and his opinions were that of all Australian services men.

  19. My step father, Wendell Minter, told of his brother who was part of this horrific treatment and lived to tell about it. I forget what his first name was but the last name was Minter. I would love to have more information on him to share with my grandchildren, my dad has since past.

  20. When I was about 10 years old, there was a man that was stationed at the same army fort as my father who had been in the Bataan March. I was told that he had to eat monkey as that was all the food that they could get since they weren’t fed by the Japanese soldiers. I was also told that as a result of that diet he had stomach problems as a result. This was back in 1950’s. I am glad that those soldiers are being honored at long last!

  21. Does anyone know where I can find a list of names of officers and nurses that were on the submarine Spearfish that were the last evacuees from Corregidor before it was taken?

    • What about the nurses on corrigidor? How and when wrrr they rescued? Does anyone have a nurse relative who was in corrigidor?

    • Only a few of the nurses who wound up on Corregidor were taken off the island. Most of them were captured when the surrender to Japanese forces happened. All of those eventually wound up at San Tomas in Manila.

    • Some of the nurses were later sent to Los Banos after that opened.

    • Navy Nurse Corps Association has the name of the last Nurse off The island with the patients

  22. My mother’s second husband and the father of my brother, Jim Williams was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. She received a letter that told her he was missing in action and presumed dead so she remarried Mr. Woods , at the end of the war Williams returned home with mental issues after suffering from tortures he had to endure. They pulled out his fingernails and toenails and asking for information he couldn’t reveal. He removed to Texas to live with his grown daughters. He never fully recovered and died in Texas.

  23. The Navy Nurse Corps Association has information and lots of history about the nurses. There is a memorial to the Angles of Bataan near other monuments in Bataan; I was there for the dedication in 1980. I met many of the survivors and most of the nurses

    • Thank you

    • Wow. As s nurse, I can’t imagine what they went through.

    • The NNCA has lots of historical info including makeshift uniforms, diaries, makeshift items for medical care, etc. the exhibit has travelled around the country. Contact them and ask for history

  24. I acquired a book ( Our Days were Years) by Horace G Teel about the Battan Road March. It is very good reading and informative. They went through HELL.

  25. I had privilege of knowing a survivor of Bataan death March & subsequent imprisonment. He was father of a friend.
    He was a quiet gentle man who did not speak about what happened to them. He is a Hero.
    The spoiled rotten kids of today would never survive such treatment. Nor would the stinking elites who occupy the swamp of DC .
    I have heard that McArthur failed his men.
    So sad. Always was taught he was a great General.

  26. My Uncle Philip Arslanian was Bataan Death March Survivor. He was in the Army Air Corp and was a lifelong and devoted member of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. He was national commander in 1982 and went back to the Philippines for the commemoration. I remember him also going to the launch of the USS Bataan…a light carrier. He was one of the finest persons I have ever known. Despite what he experienced and the atrocities he endured, he held no malice. In fact he stayed in the military until 1960 and was stationed in Okinawa. He spoke very little about his experiences but only through the work of his Veteran’s group. He was a Patriot I learned so much from and loved dearly.
    May God bless the souls of these heroes including the Philapino Scouts that served with honor.

  27. I have been reciving this [ fold 3 ] for some time now , and I must say this is the most talked about subject than all that I have stored, and the told story of “THE INFOMISS BATON DETH MARCH” I was in Japan for r r when I did my tour in VIET NAM and the tour guide told the whole group,[ 32 ] of us he was sorry, his father was a pow guard, and hade lived in the usa in the early thirty’s, At that time their were war lords, HIS FATHER DID HAVE some compashion, but then again this was war and the [JAPS ] at that time did not know about the Genovia convention, which I think is a bunch of (%^$#@(| ] We are the only country who o bides by it.

  28. There is a book about the nurses who were at Santo Tomas in Manila after they were captured by the Japanese. Many of them were Army and were captured when Corregidor fell, but there were also some who were Navy and were added to the group and sent with them to Santo Tomas. Most of them continued to function as nurses, working shifts and caring for the sick and injured. The few supplies they had to work with eventually ran out and they improvised where they could.
    While there was not as much outright cruelty at Santo Tomas as there was in many of the Japanese POW camps, none of the prisoners there were treated well. The nurses slowly starved right along with the other POWs. They were not freed until Manila was finally invaded during the liberation of the Phillippines.
    I can’t remember the name of the book, but it should show up with a search for Santo Tomas. There is also some info about some of the battles which forced the troops and nurses into living in open air hospitals on Bataan, the removal of the nurses to Corregidor just before Bataan fell, the hospital that the nurses worked in on Corregidor, which was set up in caves and corridors that had been dug into that island, and the removal of the.nurses to the mainland after their capture.
    The book is a good read for anyone interested in WWII, but especially for those interested In medical stuff.

    • There are two books about the women nurses that were POWs at Santo Tomas. All This Hell: U.S. Nurses Imprisoned by the Japanese (2000) by Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee and We Band of Angels: The untold story of American nurses trapped on Bataan by the Japanese (1999) by Elizabeth Norman. These were both very eye-opening as I had never heard about the “angels of Bataan” before. My grandfather was a Philippine scout and survivor of the Bataan death march. Unfortunately, he was haunted by this, experiencing PTSD years later and having to be incarcerated in a state mental hospital because of violent behavior that accompanied his flashbacks. It has always been a very painful memory for me visiting him in the hospital when I was a kid, seeing him as an inmate in an orange jumpsuit. I remember visiting him there one Christmas and he gave me a bottle of gold nail polish as a gift. I’ll never forget it – he didn’t stop being my grandfather.

  29. My great uncle Edwin Olson was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. He was from Colorado. His eyes were severely damaged from the experience. In spite of his health problems and the horrible memories from it, he remained in good spirits throughout his life.

  30. The war results on both sides was terrible. We Americans fire bombed Tokyo several times and caused more civilian casualties than either atomic bomb. That, along with the 100,000’s of deaths of young Japanese men in the war, you would think that there would have been lingering hostility in Japan against us.

    I was in the Navy from 1955 to 58 and went to Japan twoice. While there I went from Yokosuka to Tokyo by train, twice. The people were very friendly, polite, and helpful. Japan was safer for a youn American sailor then, than was Long Beach, Calif, after dark

    • I understand what your saying and that act was awful no question. I am sorry but it was that or more American boys dying trying to get Japan to finally surrender. The Japanese tortured people for years all over the pacific. Innocent women and children by the thousands including my mother and her family. Her cousin was mirdered just because he tried to find food. He was not even a teenager. The result of those bombs was truly horrific, but I believe it was necessary. I agree the Japanese people are wonderful, my family isn’t even bitter towards them, which I find amazing considering what they went through. Sadly war sucks and civilians get killed. They pay the consequences for what their government has done. It’s war.

  31. My son’s grandfather is a survivor of the big tan death march in three years as a POW. I’m fortunate to have found some information regarding this on the web. Unfortunately he died still a young man at 49 no doubt from the horrors that he experienced. I will be purchasing the recommended books/books to learn more. The soldier in our family’s name is Emerson Maytubby McCarter.

    • I am so terribly sorry for the AutoCorrect.

    • So so sorry to hear about all family’s trauma.
      My Mother(war was declared on her birthday 3/9/39) and her family were in England and left after the war for a fresh start in Rhodesia. Nobody in the family ever spoke about much of what happened in England. I do know they were sent into air-raid shelters often, a huge bomb blew an enormous hole in the road one street back from their home. My grandfather’s second wife was a refugee from Poland. Red Cross sent her to refugee camp in Rusape, Rhodesia from England(I think) She had spent time in a German concentration camp after working in the salt mines in Poland for them. Very sad for all in those times

  32. The Kentucky National Guard sponsored and helped put together a documentary about the Battaan Death March. At the time several survivors were still living and were interviewed for it. I know it’s abailable on cd. And if you live close to Kentucky is played every once in a while on KET television. Is playing this month

  33. My uncle Roy Edward “Sonny” Crenshaw Jr. of Kannapolis, NC, died in the camp. He was 19 years old. After the war his body was retrieved from the camp cemetery and he was reburied in his home town.

  34. What an gastly experience that must have been for all? How could the people who committed these atrocities actually live with themselves? and what was gained by it all.

  35. Last week I had the privilege to have breakfast with two WWII vets. I brought up the atomic bomb and asked them how they felt about that. They both replied at the same time-It saved many American lives, so it was bad but good. My wife had a cousin, can’t recall the name, but he died during the March.Terrible time, terrible war.

  36. I am trying to find information about Hugh Menish who was a POW of the Japanese. He survived the war but I can’t find anything about him.

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