Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Fall, The Valor

Written with advance apologies for all that I don't know and/or yet understand. I'm still learning.

Not to get all historical on you, my unsuspecting readers, but I spent the morning reading about the Fall of Bataan and now of course can't help but blog about it. I didn't, by the way, realize how close we are to the anniversary of the surrender, which happened on April 9, 1942 and is called "The Day of Valor" in the Philippines.

So the essay I was reading, "King of Bataan," written by one Thaddeus Holt, praises General Edward King Jr. who, in direct opposition to President Roosevelt's no-surrender order, made the heart-wrenching decision to hand over his gun and his starving, diseased troops—some 66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans at the onset of the last battle—to the Japanese. When he asked for assurance that his men would be well treated, the Japanese staff colonel standing in for General Homma (who refused to take the meeting with King) famously replied, "The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians."

We all know what happened then: up to 10,000 Filipinos and 650 Americans died on the death march to Camp O'Donnell where, in a few more weeks, at least 15,000 more Filipinos and 1,600 Americans would perish.

Not wanting his boss, General Wainwright, to bear any responsibility for the surrender, General King made the decision on his own. I can't imagine his anguish once he began to witness the gross physical and mental abuse of his men at the hands of the Japanese. After the war, he fully expected to be court-martialed for disobeying orders, no matter that his decision saved thousands of lives. Instead, his career was simply over—something he apparently never complained about. He took care that those who served under him received medals and recognition, and through it all, he pointedly defended that arrogant arse MacArthur, who returned the favor by pretending not to know him (not know your third in command? Whatever, Dougie) at some reception in Washington. "I believe he does not like to be reminded of Bataan," King wrote to a friend. You think?

Anyways, I found this whole story—which I later googled like mad, you can bet—terribly moving, especially knowing that Bino's late father and my Lola Engueng's late husband were both survivors. Thaddeus Holt ended his essay saying that General King devoted much of his retirement to the Red Cross. When asked to speak at this local function or that, he stuck to a few themes, one of which was Do not forget the loyalty of the Filipinos. He died in 1958. His headstone bears words from St. Luke. It says, "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted."


Here is a picture of General King.
Here is Bino's poem for his father, Augusto Roa Realuyo, who was a Bataan veteran and Death March survivor.
And here, a link to articles about the heroic Philippine Scouts.

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