By Bryant Million: PNT Staff Writer
Cannon Air Force Base held a dedication ceremony Tuesday for a memorial to the U.S. soldiers involved in the Bataan Death March during World War II.
In April 1942, 75,000 U.S. and Filipino POWs were forced by Japanese troops to march 65 miles to Camp O’Donnell after the Battle of the Philippines. The POWs were randomly beaten and killed by the Japanese, were denied food and water for several days, and underwent torture such as “sun treatment,” where they were forced to sit silently in the humid April sun without water or shade, according to Wikipedia.org.
Many soldiers from New Mexico were victims of the march, and four of the survivors were honored at the ceremony at Cannon: Lee Roach, Buren Johnston, Irven Butler and Louis Herring.
“I really appreciate what Cannon has done to get this memorial for us,” said Roach, who grew up 40 miles west of Clovis and worked at Cannon for 26 years after returning from World War II. Roach was a member of the 200th Coast Artillery.
Butler, a member of the 200th Coast Artillery, weighed under 100 pounds when he was rescued — about 75 pounds under his weight when he began with the artillery.
He was honorably discharged in 1946, and returned to Portales where he worked on a farm. Butler later worked as a groundskeeper with the Portales school system, and retired in 1982.
Johnston, a member of the 200th Coast Artillery, was honorably discharged in 1946 and returned to Clovis.
Capt. Kenneth Artz of Cannon and chairman of the memorial committee told the story of the Bataan Death March and explained the hardships that the POWs went through and the harsh conditions of the march, such as starvation and the “sun treatment” torture.
The memorial is a stone map of the march with brown markers following the route of the march and stars representing the beginning and end. The memorial lists the service members who participated in the Bataan Death March and gives the history behind the event.
The memorial ceremony was concluded by base commander Col. Scott West and the four march survivors cutting the ribbon in front of the memorial.
“This is an extremely well-deserved memorial for the extreme sacrifices made by all the service members who took part in the Bataan Death March,” said Staff Sgt. Craig Seals, a public affairs officer for CAFB’s 27th Fighter Wing.