Annual Bataan Day To Be Observed Sept. 13 In Chicago

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – A son of an American serviceman who saw action in Bataan during World War II will be the keynote speaker at the 73rd Annual Memorial Service of the Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO) on Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Veterans Memorial Maywood Park in suburban Maywood, Illinois.

Col. Richard A. McMahon, Jr., president of MBDO, said Stephen E. Gibson, director and webmaster of MBDO, will speak at the annual event observing the Fall of Bataan although “he (Gibson) hardly knew his father,” Capt. Emmett F. Gibson of the HQ Co., 192nd Tank Battalion, who died when Stephen “was just three years old.”

Stephen’s association with MBDO gave him an opportunity to “piece together a much deeper understanding of his famous father, who was the first Maywood soldier to return from the battlefields of Bataan in WW II.”

Stephen traveled to Manila this past year and visited the places his father wrote about more than 70 years ago. He will also talk about the journey of the men of Maywood from Armory in Madison Avenue  to the battlefields of Bataan where his father was “severely injured at the (battle) front and evacuated from Manila on the last medical ship the Japanese allowed to leave Manila on New Year’s Eve in 1941.”

Upon his return to America, Captain Gibson helped organize the first Maywood Bataan Day, and as a Maywood police officer, devoted his short life to public service.

PHILIPPINE CONSUL TO SPEAK

Consul Alena Grace S. Borra of the Philippine Consulate General in the Midwest will deliver welcome remarks prior to Gibson’s keynote speech.

As in past celebrations, the event features the playing by the Navy Ceremonial Band Great Lakes this time led by MUCS Jason P. Gromacki starting at 2:30 p.m. It will be followed by a Bugle Call Assembly at 3 p.m. and the Massing of Color Guards and posting of Military Colors.

Maj. Edwin H. Walker, IV of the U.S. Marine Corps, who will act as the emcee, will welcome the guests. It will be followed by a Pledge of Allegiance, then, by the playing/singing of the Philippines (Lupang Hinirang) and US’s (The Star Spangled Banner) national anthems. A memorial prayer will be led by Bishop Dr. Reginald J. Saffo, Pastor of United Faith Missionary Baptist Church Maywood, and president of United Faith Christian Institute and Bible College, Maywood.

Colonel McMahon will introduce the guests, among them Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, who will deliver remarks. There will also be a Maywood Fine Arts Presentation and a Monument Ceremony by DuPage Chapter of VietNow, Color Guard Jeff Agonath, chairman.Wayne Wagner, past Department Commander of the American Legion of Illinois, will also be a guest speaker.

A Rifle Squad from the American Legion Post #974 from Franklin Park led by Adjutant Randy Thomas will fire a gun salute followed by the playing of taps.

A wreath laying at the 192nd Battalion Tank Monument will be led by Army Col. Robert F. Bracki, Navy Commander Joseph E. Troiani. This  will be followed by Marine Corps GySgt. Leo Armwood, Cpl. Marcus Davis of Coast Guard, American Legion Filipino Post #509 and Auxiliary Philippine Campaign Survivors, American Legion’s Mr. & Mrs. Wayne Wagner, Consul Borra, Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago, Merchant Marine Veterans Association Chicago, Veterans Assistance Commission of Cook County, Daughters of the American Revolution, George Rogers Clark Chapter, River Forest, Village of Maywood and Maywood Bataan Day Organization.

A singing of “God Bless America” and benediction by Pastor Elliot Wimbush of the First Congregational Church of Maywood will follow before the release of the Rifle Squad and Color Guards.

The 33rd Tank Company was organized May 3, 1929 at Maywood and was inducted into active Federal service as Company “B” of the 192nd Tank Battalion on November 25, 1940.

Some 122 of these men left the Armory at Madison Street and Greenwood Avenue  to board a Northwestern Railroad train which took them to Fort Knox, Kentucky. Company B joined Company A from Janesville, Wisconsin. Company C from Port Clinton, Ohio, and Company D from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, to form the 192nd Tank Battalion.

After further training and participating in Louisiana maneuvers, the 192nd Tankers were at Camp Polk, Louisiana, to be fully equipped for overseas shipping. In October of 1941, 89 men of the original Company “B” left the United States for the Philippines. They arrived in Manila, Luzon, Philippines on November 20, 1941 — Thanksgiving Day. From the port area, they went to Clark Field on Luzon, 60 miles to the north of Manila.

ONLY HALF OF THE YOUNG MEN RETURNED

Out of the 89, who left for the Philippines in 1941, only 43 came home. The enormous loss of lives of young Maywood residents of the 192nd Tank Battalion, who were fresh from high school, was so traumatic for the suburban residents that they turned the tragedy into an outpouring of support for the troops that they did not want to forget.

On the second weekend of September 1942, the American Bataan Clan (ABC) of Maywood held a weekend of celebration of American spirit by hosting a parade thru the streets of Maywood that featured hundreds of marching bands, floats, soldiers and celebrities.

The celebration will become an annul ritual that became bigger every year. In 1964, the local Veterans council was able to enlist its guest of honor, Congressman Harold Collier, to pass a joint resolution in the U.S. Congress, declaring the second Sunday of September as (Bataan) National Day.

Second Lt.  Benjamin “Ben” R. Morin, Jr., S.J., Co. B, the last surviving officer of Co. B, 192nd Tank Battalion, had died last April 23, 2015. While Staff Sgt. Herbert “Bud” Kirchhoff, Co. B died in his sleep on June 10, 2015 at the age of 96. A member of Co. B, Kirchhoff fought in the Battle of Bataan as a tank commander. After surrender, he endured the Death March, the POW camps in the Philippines and Japan Hell Ships, and slave labor. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net

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