Bataan Death March Memorial Held At Camp Shelby - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/09/05

Bataan Death March Memorial Held At Camp Shelby

Only a handful of the American fighting men who survived the Bataan Death March have survived to see this day.

"We record it as a very bleak day when that began April 9th," says Major General Harold Cross, Adjutant General for the State of Mississippi. "And it's tough to remember it but we should."

That's what the 63th Anniversary Bataan Death March Remembrance Day at The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby is all about.

"We're very pleased to be able to have just a small gathering of them," says Museum Director Chad Daniels. "But when you can have 12 or 13 of these real American hero's come in it's always a special event."

And these old soldiers from Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana do remember and on this day they joined with others to remember and honor the sacrifices suffered in the jungles of Philippines.

"Out of the 27,500 in the Philippines, 13 thousand came back, which is more than 50 percent died from the death march and from prison camps," says Bataan survivor Joseph Baxter of Bay St Louis.

"They didn't have to have a reason to kill you," says James D. Gautier of Fountainbleau. "If they didn't like your looks they'd start beating on you and probably beat you to death."

The personal hardships of the Bataan Death March remain vivid memories for the survivors but even more vivid are the memories of their fallen comrades they left behind.

"They're the ones we think about and dream about every day," says Baxter.

Following a short ceremony the survivors lined up in front of mural dedicated in their honor. 84 year old James Carrington of Slidell, Louisiana is on that mural.

"Right there," points out Carrington. "I'm hiding in a banana leaf. The gorilla."

He's one of many, forever immortalized here and in the hearts of a grateful nation.

By Don Culpepper

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