War Vets Urged To Perpetuate Personal Oral History

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – Filipino and American survivors of Bataan Death March were urged to perpetuate their memories of World War II by coming forward with their experiences during the war while they are still alive.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who is also the State Librarian and Archivist, told the dwindling survivors of Bataan Death March, who attended the 71st Commemoration of Bataan Day: Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan) held Monday, April 8, in Chicago, Illinois at the new address of the Philippine Consulate of Midwest at 122 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the need to document their sufferings in order to inspire the next generations, who are not aware of their sacrifices and heroism.

In brief remarks during the annual observance of one of the greatest sagas of World War II, Secretary White said the “Secretary of State is collecting stories from military people. We want you to share your stories to us. We will provide your stories to the Library of Congress. We will cover as many stories of the Armed Forces as we can.

“We thank you for your giving spirit, your wonderful work relationships you have done during the war and your wonderful friendships and relationships.”

The two-sport athlete – he played baseball and basketball – while earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Alabama State College (now Alabama State University) said two days before he signed up with the Chicago Cubs for spring training, he was called into service, engrossing himself into basic military training, instead of baseball spring training.

He recalled that as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, when he was told to exit from the aircraft, he was told to count 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and then you put your head back and look up and see if your parachute’s is okay. But some jumpers called “southern jumpers” are more dangerous and deadly due to the speed of the aircraft and by counting 1,001, 1,002, when there is malfunction and when it is a night jump.

The founder of the internationally known Jesse White Tumbling Team to serve as a positive alternative for children residing in and around the Chicago area, White dances tinikling (Filipino bamboo dance) and favors Filipino delicacy, among them chicken adobo.

Because of the rainy weather, Philippine Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim called off for the first time the floral offering and wreath laying at the foot of the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge at the corner of State and Wacker Drive in the heart of Chicago that was annually held in collaboration with the Chicago of Commission on Human Relations, Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs chaired by Commissioner Samuel Miller, Jr., Filipino and American WW II Veterans, the Filipino American community and their American friends.

During the ceremonies at the Kalayaan Hall (Freedom Hall) at the Philippine Consulate office, Consul General Herrera-Lim opened with welcome remarks after the invocation by Dr. Arcadio V. Pomer.

It was followed by presentations and readings of letters, greetings from United States Senators Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), who was represented by Matthew Abbot, Director of Global & Economic Affairs; Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, represented by Filipino American Director Eric Salcedo and Ms. Nettie Lasco; Rep. Jan Schakowsky, represented by Filipino American Ms. Abbey Eusebio; Maywood, Illinois Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, Jr., whose message was read for him by retired Maj. Edwin H. Walker, USMC, Vice President, Maywood Bataan Day Organization; and Skokie, Illinois Mayor George Van Dusen, whose message was read for him by Skokie Commissioner Angeles (Jelly) Carandang, chair of Illinois National Federation of Filipino American Associations.  

Governor Quinn, Mayors Emanuel, Yarbrough, Jr. and Dusen declared Bataan Day celebrations in Illinois and in their corresponding cities. While Senators Durbin and Kirk, Atty. Gen. Madigan, and Rep. Schakowsky urged Americans to honor the sacrifices of both the Filipinos and Americans during World War II.

Director Salcedo added, “As a Filipino American growing up here in the U.S., I heard stories from my Mom and Dad, the horrors of World War II. I thank you Filipino Americans. I will not be here were it not for you. The future that came after you will always remember and will never forget.”

For his part, Major Walker invited the participants to attend the annual Bataan Day Celebration, an immovable commemoration set by the U.S. Congress on the first Sunday of September at the Veterans Memorial, Maywood Park at lst Avenue & Oak Street, Maywood. He also mentioned the struggles of Filipino veterans, among them in attendance, was Col. Emilio O. Hidalgo, 94, of Tanauan, Batangas, of USAFFE and Commander of Filipino American Veterans, who is still fighting for recognition as a Bataan Death March Prisoner of War. Hidalgo also wants to correct the surrender marker of American Col. Jones on behalf of General King to Japanese General Homma, which is way off the fire hydrant, where he was tied, while surrender negotiation was in progress on April 9, 1942. He said the current surrender marker in Balanga, Bataan is three and a half hours away by hiking from the Japanese Tent where the surrender took place.

Walker said, “Remember the price of freedom is priceless. Remember Bataan. Alalahanin natin ang Bataan!”

Highlight of the occasion was the presentation of several war service medals.

Among the awardees was Porfirio L. Tabieros, Sr., 90, a USAFFEE member and native of Penablanca, Cagayan in the Philippines. Among his awards were Philippine Defense Medal, Liberation Medal, Philippine Independence medal, WW II victory medal and badge. As barangay captain (village chief) and president of Association of Barangay Captain of his hometown of Iguig, Cagayan, Tabieros also received the Philippine military civic action medal from ConGen Herrera-Lim and wife, Fides Herrera-Lim and Secretary Jesse White.

Another awardee was Dr. Eugene E. Bleil, 92, of Detroit, Michigan, of the U.S. Army Air Corps, who was sent to Nichols Field in the Philippines with the 17th Pursuit Squadron. He wrote about his experiences during WW II entitled, “Consigned to Death Six Times: Surviving Bataan, The Death March, and Life as a POW.” He was awarded Philippine Defense, Liberation, Independence and WW II medals.

Bleil, however, could not attend, the ceremonies, like Dr. Lester I. Tenney, a Bataan Death March survivor with the U.S. Army as operator and later tank commander in the 192nd Tank Battalion Company B. Dr. Tenney was awarded many military decorations for valor and is presently living at Carlsbad, California. Excerpts of his award-winning book, “My Hitch in Hell,” are on display at Smithsonian Museum in the Museum of American History.

Posthumously awarded was Everall D. Olson, 21, of Lebanon, Kansas, a Staff Sergeant with the U.S. Air Force in the Philippines during WW II. He died as a Japanese prisoner-of-war in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija in the Philippines on Jan. 3, 1943.

Among those who supported the event were Sinai Medical Group/Sinai Health System, Edilberto C. Ortiz, CPA, of E. C. Ortiz & Co. LLP, members of the Preparatory/Planning Committee for the 2013 Bataan Day and leaders of Filipino American community organizations.

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PHOTO CAPTIONS

BATAAN DAY OBSERVED IN ILLINOIS:

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (right, in rostrum) urged Filipino and American war veterans to document their experiences during the war so they can be kept for posterity which could inspire succeeding generations during the 71st Commemoration of Bataan Day: Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan) held Monday, April 8, in Chicago, Illinois at the new address of the Philippine Consulate of Midwest. He cited an example on the challenges of parachuting at night and the dangers that former paratroopers, like him, faced. Among those in photo from left are Filipino American Director Eric Salcedo (seated, front row from left), Matthew Abbott, Director of Global & Economic Affairs of the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Stevens Kirk (R-IL), Filipino American Cook County Court Judge Israel “Izzy” Disierto, Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim, Mrs. Fides Herrera-Lim. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

WITH BATAAN VETERANS:

Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim (eighth from left) of the Philippine Consulate of the Midwest and Illinois Secretary Jesse White (seventh from left) join some of the Filipino World War II veterans and guests during the 71st Commemoration of Bataan Day: Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan) . Others in photo from left are Deputy Consul General Orontes V. Castro; Chicago City Mayor’s Commissioner Samuel Miller, Jr., chair, City’s Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs; retired Maj. Edwin H. Walker IV (USMC), Vice President, Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO); retired Col. Emilio O. Hidalgo, Commander, Filipino American Veterans Post 509; a representative of the American Legion; Fil Am vet Ricardo Caronongan; awardee Porfirio L. Tabieros, Sr., who served as U.S. Army of USAFEE in the Philippines; Fil Am Director Eric Salcedo; Fil Am vet Dr. Crispin Echiverri; Former Fil Am Post Commander Emil Garcera; Ms. Nettie Lasco, Director Matthew Abbot and another Fil Am vet. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

HELPING A BATAAN VET:

Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim of the Philippine Consulate of the Midwest holds the arm of retired Col. Emilio O. Hidalgo to guide the frail and 94-year-old USAFFE member toward his seat during the 71st Commemoration of Bataan Day: Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan) while American veteran guests look on. Hidalgo wants to correct the surrender marker of American Col. Jones on behalf of General King to Japanese General Homma, which is way off the fire hydrant, where he was tied, while surrender negotiation was in progress on April 9, 1942. He said the current surrender marker in Balanga, Bataan is three and a half hours away by hiking from the Japanese Tent where the surrender took place. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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