Sunday, August 17, 2008
WHY SOME LIVED
The battle for Bataan and its aftermath was a particularly brutal and horrifying event. Our forces were not prepared for the rapid succession of events in 1941 or for the abominable conditions they were to endure as the war unfolded. Forced to fight with outdated weapons and ammunition, undernourished and fainting from hunger, and dealing with all the indigenous tropical diseases, many perished. Believing that their four and one half months of torment was coming to an end at the time of surrender, they were to discover a higher level of suffering. Some soldiers could not believe that they had survived up to that point. Many of their friends and fellow combatants had perished for no other reason than having been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Death March was to teach them the depravity to which the Japanese soldier could plumment. Many Filipinos and Americans suffered for lack of nourishment, water, disease and the new component, unchecked cruelty and barbarism. Again some lived and some died. There was no rhyme or reason. The somewhat fit soldiers died from abuse as well as the sick and injured who could not endure the hardship.
The next blows in close succession were the railroad ride from Capas to San Fernando where many died of suffocation and dehydration. Afterwards was the ordeal at Camp O'Donnell. The conditions at O'Donnell are well known. Many thousands died from no other reason than a total lack of decency, compassion, humanity, kindness or whatever you wish to name it. Yet again many survived.
Cabanatuan was somewhat better, yet many perished there in the next few months for the same reasons stated above. Then the insanity of the Hellships began to manifest itself. To have survived up to this point was a testament to courage and willpower, yet this was something almost unendurable. To be caged inside a somewhat furnace like situation, sitting in animal filth and forced to wallow in your own filth with limited water and food, was a new low even for the Japanese. Many survived these trips of a month or more, however, again some perished. Those who suffered the conditions in these Hellships and eventually made to slave labor camps could consider themselves fortunate. I say this because they had the fortune to be given a number by a nameless Japanese official which put them on a hellship that was not doomed to be attacked by air and by submarine of U. S. forces. Thousands of men who had the preserverence to survive the battle for Bataan, the Death March, the train to San Fernando, Camp O'Donnell, and Cabanatuan were killed by their own countrymen. They were slaughtered unknowingly because they had the misfortune of being shipped in unmarked Japanese freighters.
The final insult was to become a slave laborer on the Japanese mainland or elsewhere. Forced to work long hours in dangerous mines and factories, many more died. Some from accidents and some disease and malnutrition and of course the ever present mistreatment by their tormentors.
My father was one of the fortunate who survived the war. He was not one to speak about the horrors he endured. I do know that he carried with him a tremendous guilt for having survived when so many of those he knew did not. He could not reconcile his feelings. Having had a belief in God before the war, it was ripped from his heart by the events of his captivity. In many others the reverse was true.
The reason for this article in my blog is to share with you my belief in the reason why so many survived all of the perversive acts of the enemy over three and a half years. It is my belief that God on some level secures the lives of some soldiers so that they may testify to the hideousness of war. That they may bear witness to those of future generations that war is too great of horror to repeat. That they may substantiate the sufferings of their fellow soldiers and give evidence to those who will hold those guilty of perpetrating grievous injury and suffering for no other reason than to cause it. War is Hell in uniform. The affect and effects of war must be transmitted to the next generation and must be done by those who have existed within its grip.