Bataan Death March Survivors To Meet At Clark Field, Pampanga

ANGELES CITY, Pampanga — Survivors of the Battles of Bataan and Corregidor, and the Bataan Death March, will gather at Hotel Stotsenburg, April 7 – 10, on the 70th anniversary of the fall of Bataan and the beginning of the Bataan Death March, for the annual meeting and reunion of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society.

These soldiers fought the first battles of World War II, and the United States Army awarded its first three Congressional Medals of Honor of the war to Philippine Scouts: Sgt. Jose Calugas, Lt. Alexander Nininger and Lt. Willibald Bianchi, for their heroic actions on Bataan.  Ultimately, all 80,000 Filipino and American soldiers in the Philippines became Prisoners of War, and more than half of them died in Japanese custody.

The Philippine Scouts were a unique organization within the U.S. Army, consisting of highly-trained Filipino soldiers, and American and Filipino officers, who formed the backbone of General Douglas MacArthur’s United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).  USAFFE included the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth, the U.S. Army’s Philippine Scouts and U.S. National Guard units brought from the States shortly before hostilities began, and was ordered to hold back the Japanese advance.  Despite being surrounded on Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island, and starved out by the Japanese Army and Navy, these men managed to fight on for more than four months while every other country and island in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific succumbed to the Japanese.  They bought America time to repair Pearl Harbor and throw a cordon of defense around Australia at the beginning of World War II.

Today, only about 100 of the original 12,000 Philippine Scouts are still with us, scattered around the Philippine Islands and the United States.  This meeting at Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Field, will be the first time they have officially gathered together in the Philippines since the end of World War II.

At their annual reunions, those who can make it are joined by families and admirers for two days of discussions, business meetings, and celebration.  As their numbers grow smaller, the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society seeks to preserve their memory and raise public awareness of the heroic role these men played in the early stages of World War II, and their gallant defense of the Philippines.

The Fort McKinley Chapter of the Society hosts their 2012 reunion at Hotel Stotsenburg in Clark Field, Pampanga, Saturday, April 7 through Tuesday, April 10.

Meanwhile, in only its third public showing, Forgotten Soldiers was featured at the 350-seat Post Theater on March 24 and 25 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. On Sunday, March 26, the 23rd annual “Bataan Memorial Death March” was held to commemorate the soldiers who gave their lives on Bataan, the U.S. Army’s first major battle of World War II.  Participants followed a rugged marathon course through the New Mexico desert that is close to conditions found on Bataan during the actual Death March.  A record 6,700 individuals, teams and military units participated in this year’s event.

Forgotten Soldiers
, narrated by Lou Diamond Phillips, tells the story of the Philippine Scouts, a little-known unit of the United States Army that formed the backbone of General Douglas MacArthur’s forces on Bataan.  Along with National Guard units from the U.S. and the fledgling army of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, they held off the Imperial Japanese Army for five months at the beginning of World War II. 

In this documentary, ten Philippine Scout survivors describe the battles of Bataan and Corregidor, and the Bataan Death March, over photographs, reenactments, and actual footage of the Death March, much of the film captured from the Japanese at the end of the war.  Despite their heroic efforts, the men were surrounded and starved out, and eventually forced to surrender.  The film depicts their gallant stand, the bitter surrender, and their eventual triumph over the enemy.

At each performance the audience of students, soldiers, civilians and marathon runners from across the United States broke into applause at the end of the film, but remained in their seats to be introduced to the handful of Bataan Death March survivors who were in attendance.  At the Friday performance, White Sands garrison commander Col. Leo Puller presented the filmmakers with a White Sands Missile Range “Coin for Excellence,” for the effective way in which the movie tells the story of Bataan, the Death March, and the Philippine Scouts.

On Saturday night General John Ferrari, commander of White Sands Missile Range, joined the crowd with his family.  At the end of the film, when the lone Bataan survivor in attendance that night was introduced, “Mr. Dionisio Perez, 12th Medical Regiment, Philippine Scouts,” no further introduction was necessary–at the words “Philippine Scouts” the crowd broke into applause, whoops and whistles.  Perez got up and waived to the crowd, and finally moved to the center aisle of the theater as the standing ovation continued. 

The announcer finally interrupted and thanked everyone for coming, at which point lines formed and the crowd spent the next half hour shaking Mr. Perez’ hand, thanking him, and taking pictures.  When Mr. Perez left the theater he found twenty soldiers from the 62nd Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas, recently returned from Afghanistan, waiting for him outside to get a group picture, in spite of the fact that they had to get up at 4:00 am to start their 26-mile trek in the desert.

At the Memorial Death March the next morning, soldiers, marathon runners and spectators repeatedly broke out of the line of march.

Forgotten Soldiers will be shown at five sites in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942:

 

  • April 7 at the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society Reunion in Pamapanga, Philippines;
  • April 9 at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico;
  • April 10 at the Ortigas Foundation in Manila, Philippines; and
  • April 12 at the Consulates of the Republic of the Philippines in New York and San Francisco.

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PHOTO CAPTIONS AND CREDITS:

Photo 1 (Forgotten Soldiers Facebook Website)

Bataan Death March survivors John Mims and Dionisio Perez, with Noel Perez at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Photo 2 (Forgotten Soldiers Facebook Website)

Both nights Forgotten Soldiers filled the 350 seat theater, with standing room only on Saturday night. Each performance was received with standing ovations from the crowd for both the movie and Philippine Scout Dionisio Perez, here being congratulated by General Ferrari.
— at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Photo 3 (Forgotten Soldiers Facebook Website)

The only Philippine Scout at the Bataan Memorial Death March, Dionisio Perez was the center of attention after each showing of the movie. These soldiers from the 62nd Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas (recently returned from Afghanistan) waited for him outside the theater to get a group picture–and they had to get up at 4:00 am the next morning to start their 26 mile trek in the desert.
— at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Photo 4 (Forgotten Soldiers Facebook Website)

As a Death March survivor, Philippine Scout, and featured interviewee in Forgotten Soldiers, Dionisio Perez was frequently approached for questions and photographs. The man talking with him has just completed the Bataan Memorial Death March.
— at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Photo 5 (Forgotten Soldiers Facebook Website)

After the start line, the marchers head out on a series of trails that take them up in elevation several times, through a mile-long sand pit at mile 20, and across other physically challenging terrain. The Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range is acknowledged to be the toughest 26-mile marathon trek in the U.S.
— at (U.S. Army photo).

 

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