Richard M. Gordon,
Remarks at the Manila American Cemetery
Ft. Bonifacio, Makati, Manila, Philippines,
April 2, 2002
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Senator Inouye, Senator Stevens, Ambassador Ricciardone,
distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. On behalf
of the Battling Bastards of Bataan, I want to express
our sincere appreciation to Superintendent Mervin R. Jones
and his staff for the magnificent job they do in caring
for this beautiful memorial to America's Pacific War Dead.
I have been here a number of times, and each time, I am
overwhelmed by the majesty of this Memorial. One can feel
the presence of those who are buried here or who are remembered
here. It has a special significance to those of us gathered
here today, as it is the place for many of Bataan's Dead.
It is the place that remembers those "missing in
action", lost aboard the Hell-Ships, and those buried
unidentified. Their names are inscribed on the hallowed
walls that surround you.
Many visiting here today will never return. Time is catching
up with us. So we come here today to honor for the last
time our friends and buddies. We owe them nothing less,
as they have been forgotten by their country. Here, they
are remembered and always will be as long as this memorial
They fought the Battle of Bataan under the most adverse
conditions, which most people could never imagine. For
all intent and purposes, they were abandoned with inadequate
training, supplies, materials, and food. Using World War
I weapons, many of which failed to function, they fought
a tenacious and highly trained enemy.
Beset with starvation and disease, the American and Filipino
soldiers who fought on Bataan held the best Army in the
Orient at bay for four months. The stand on Bataan altered
the course of World War II. We did not suffer the loss
of our Pacific arsenal, Australia, and we severely delayed
the Japanese time table for their conquest of South East
On April 9, 1942, the men of Bataan were surrended by
their Commanding General, Edward P. King, Jr. If General
King did not have the courage to surrender, we survivors
of Bataan who are here today, would not be here. Today,
General King is an ignored figure in history.
Had the General not surrendered, it would have been a
blood bath on Bataan. One day's ration existed in the
QM [quartermaster] storage areas. Fuel for what few vehicles
we had left was almost extinct. Medication to fight the
diseases, so prevalent in Bataan, was non-existent. The
last bit of quinine had disappeared around March 1, 1942.
The hospitals were filled with malaria and dysentery patients,
along with the wounded.
Approximately, 1,000 men a day were being admitted to
the hospitals, while only 30% of those troops remaining
were fit for combat. These men were existing on 1,000
calories a day. Bataan was a far greater disaster than
Pearl Harbor and very few of the American people know
Thousands of soldiers were forced to march for days in
the extreme heat of April in the Philippines, without
food or water, on a journey of over 85 miles, with 26
of those miles in a nightmare train ride. Men struggling
to march were shot, bayoneted, decapitated, and run over
for no reason other than they wanted water. Their enemy
showed them no mercy. That man could be that inhumane
to his fellow man is the real story of Bataan.
The surrender and the infamous Death March paled in significance
by what followed at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. In
O'Donnell alone, under horrible conditions, over 1,600
Americans died in less than two months, while the Filipinos
lost about fifteen thousand, dying at a rate of 500 a
The Americans taken to Cabanatuan from O'Donnell, in June
1942, arrived desperately ill and starving. Of the almost
3,000 Americans who died there, 95% of them were men of
Bataan, who died within the first five months of the camps
Then came the infamous Hell-Ships. If ever there was or
is place called "Hell", it was those ships.
Men died in places such as Japan, Manchuria, Korea, and
China, working as slave laborers in coal mines, steel
mills, or building hydro-electric dams. Cremated at those
sites, a good number of them were never returned home.
It is worth noting that every country who had prisoners
of war working under such conditions have compensated
those prisoners. Every country except one, the United
States. Japan, unlike Germany, has refused to compensate
any or even admit to the conditions that existed. They
are in a constant state of denial. I am ashamed to say
that our government has supported Japan in it's refusal,
offering such weak excuses as we do not want to offend
the Japanese. It is they who have offended us.
In 1941-42, we on Bataan were abandoned by our government
and we are being abandoned again today.
Of the 58 known Hell-Ships taking 68,000 British and American
Prisoners of War, from Singapore and Manila, 22,000 of
them perished at sea by "Friendly Fire." Hollywood
has led us to believe that the Titanic was our greatest
loss at sea. Far from it... Almost 1,800 Americans perished
on one ship alone: the Arisan Maru. And the greatest maritime
disaster in history was when the Junyo Maru -- with British,
Americans, and Javanese prisoners of war -- was sunk with
the loss of 5,640 men. History has barely mentioned this.
25,000 Americans were captured by the Japanese in World
War II. Over 38% of them died while in the Japanese hands.
Many of these soldiers rest here, or are remembered on
the walls around you. It is for these men that we come
In closing let me add this:
Bataan's place in history is firmly established. It stands
as a lesson to our country. We can all pray that lesson
is never repeated.
It is wrong to place our military in harm's way and not
support them. May God forgive those who did so in Bataan,
and may God forgive those who forget the sacrifices of
Bataan, and those other Americans who rest here.
Maj. Richard M. Gordon (USA Ret.)
Battling Bastards of Bataan