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  4. 94-year-old survivor has vivid memories of Bataan Death March

Those who fell or protested were summarily shot or beheaded. They were half-starved, humiliated, beaten and eventually shipped to Japanese labor camps.

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But for decades, veterans of the death march and the labor camps have gathered regularly to recall them. This weekend, about 30 members of a fast-dwindling group called American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor were gathering at a Ventura hotel in homage to those who were no longer among them, and in tribute to those who survived. That really hurt. A few are in wheelchairs or tethered to oxygen tanks.

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Usually, the members get together every three years; this year, with some rueful references to aging, they voted to meet annually. As reunions go, the Ventura get-together has been on the sedate side. There was a trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, a fish-fry at the American Legion hall and the viewing of a couple of documentaries about Bataan.

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At a table in a hospitality room, Laursen, a retired hotel worker, said he made it through the death march by helping out a weakened pal named Carl. Dozens of men died daily, and, for three months, Laursen hauled their bodies to open pits. He pleaded for another assignment and got one the day before he would have had to haul off the body of his sickly friend Carl.

Not everyone present had been on the death march. But all of them bore witness to atrocities. John Perkowski, 82, remembered a friend named Quentin Cooper. While the two were jammed into a sweltering metal warehouse with other prisoners in the Philippines, Cooper argued with a guard about getting water for his parched men.

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Conditions were so bad that some prisoners had others smash their arms and legs with huge rocks; for them, the pain of broken bones beat the pain of another day underground. Allied bombers sank a number of them, unaware there were American prisoners on board. Art Beale, 86, of Westminster, misted up when talking about his treatment by a Navy officer who spoke to him during his liberation from a prison camp in Manchuria.

I was so ashamed of my appearance -- but he came over and gave me a big hug.

In a meeting at the reunion, the veterans were urged to write their representatives in support of bills that would compensate prisoners of war. Much of the meeting consisted of housekeeping.

Bataan Death March: Background

They fought in a malaria-infested region, and survived on little portions of food. Some lived off of half or quarter rations. The soldiers lacked medical attention. They fought with outdated equipment and virtually no air power. The soldiers retreated to the Philippine Peninsula when Japanese forces were reinforced and overwhelmed the U.

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  • On April 9, , the U. The tens of thousands of U. The soldiers faced horrifying conditions and treatment as POWs.

    94-year-old survivor has vivid memories of Bataan Death March

    The soldiers were deprived of food, water, and medical attention, and were forced to march 65 miles to confinement camps throughout the Philippines. The captive soldiers were marched for days, approximately 65 miles through the scorching jungles of the Philippines.

    Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of prisoner of war camps and the brutality of their Japanese captors. The POWs would not see freedom until when U. In , U. These soldiers would be impacted by the poor conditions of the camps and the mistreatment by their Japanese captors.

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    About one-third of the prisoners died from health complications after they were freed. Others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners of war to Japan were sunk by U. During the Bataan Death March, approximately 10, men died. Of these men, 1, were American and 9, were Filipino.

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    This had a huge impact on New Mexico families.