Of Those Who Did Not Come Home
Download this document as a PDF.
Bataan force went out as it would have wished, fighting
to the end of its flickering forlorn hope. No army has
ever done so much with so little and nothing became
it more than its lasting hour of trial and agony.
weeping mothers of its dead, I can only say that the
sacrifice and halo of Jesus of Nazareth has descended
upon their sons, and that God will take them unto himself.
Lorenzo Y. Banegas
was born on May 22, 1919 in San Ysidro, New Mexico and
that's where I was also raised. My father, Feblonio
Banegas was born on June 17, 1880 and passed away on
February 19, 1967. My mother is Louisa Ybarra Banegas
who turned 107 this past June (1999) and currently lives
in California. Her picture celebrating her 107th birthday
is included in this booklet.
great-grandfather was Manuel Banegas who lived to be
100 years old and was one of the first settlers in the
area. He was the original homesteader of over 300 acres
located between Dona Ana, New Mexico, and north of Las
Cruces, New Mexico.
brothers and sisters starting with the oldest are Willie,
Charlie, Esther, Susie, Caldelario, Cecelia, and Adelina.
Esther passed away on January 2, 1996, Adelina passed
away on September 9, 1997 and Caldelario passed away
on October 3, 2000.
was raised by my Tio (Uncle) Jose Maria Rodriguez who
was also my padrino (Godfather). We lived about a mile
and half from my tio's farm. I liked the farm so much,
my mother tells me that when I was three years old I
ran away from home three times to go to my uncle's house.
I knew my way out there, there were real long rows of
cotton so I walked between the rows of cotton then I
crossed the railroad tracks and then walked along the
side of the ditch and followed the ditch to the farm.
The third time that I ran away my mother told me she
was going to let me stay with my uncle because she was
afraid the train would run over me or I would fall and
drown in the ditch because we had just lost a cousin
who had drowned in that same ditch.
liked staying with my uncle because he had all kinds
of animals on the farm. He had sheep, goats, dogs, chickens,
turkeys, guinea pigs, and hens. He just had all kinds
of animals. That's the reason I liked being on the farm.
My padrino Jose was not married and he never married.
He and my Tia Carolina Banegas who was also my madrina
lived with my oldest aunt, Tia Lina Rodriguez who was
married to Tio Lucas Rodriguez. I was the only one of
my family who went to live with my padrino. My mother
tells me that I would put a diaper on my head and just
take off to his farm and when they were looking for
me and couldn't find me, they knew wheere I had gone!
Tio Jose was brother to Lucas and Tla CarolIna was my
padrino Jose Maria died on April 18, 1967 and my madrina
Carolina Banegas died on December 1, 1976. They were
my baptismal padrinos.
went to East Picacho school and my padrino told me he
would put me through school as far as 1 wanted to go,
but I quit in the 6 or 7th grade. I just didn't like
school. I stayed home and helped my Tio Jose in the
farm. I worked so much in the farm I really got tired
of it and that's why I wanted to join the service. I
knew that I was going to be drafted sooner or later.
I was about 19 or 20 years old then. But I really didn't
have to go because I could have gotten a deferment.
uncle went with me to the local board and he told Mr.
Snow, the man in charge, that he didn't want me to go
to the service because he needed me on the farm because
he was too old to run the farm himself. So Mr. Snow
asked me if I wanted to go into the service or stay
and run the farm. "No," I said, "I want
to go to the service because I'm tired of farming."
So I went to take my physical and three times I failed
and I kept begging them to take me. I was told that
I was under weight and had flat feet, and I don't remember
what else. They kept telling me that I should get up
early in the morning and run two or three miles so I
could eat more.
the third time Dr. Allison asked me if I really wanted
to go he could fix up the papers. I told him I did want
to go, so he sent me to Santa Fe to swear in. It was
February 22, 1941 when I swore into the 200th Coast
Artillery. What they did was consolidate all the New
Mexico National Guard to form the 200th Coast Artillery
and on January 6, 1941 it was federalized.
Santa Fe I was sent to Ft. Bliss, Texas, where we trained
for six to seven months before they shipped us overseas.
The reason they sent us overseas is because we were
so good at spotting the planes at night that we got
first place and they threw a big party for us. But after
that we were told we were going to be moved but they
didn't tell us where.
did not know where we were going until we got to the
Philippines. On the way we stopped in Hawaii and I really
liked it and wished we could have stayed there, better
than the Philippines. We were transported to the Philippines
in a crew ship that had been converted from a passenger
ship. President Pierce was the name of the ship.
arrived at the Philippines on September 16, 1941 and
the Filipinos thought we were from Mexico. When we got
off the ship they started playing "South of the
Border," which was a very popular song at that
time. They thought we were all Mexicans from Mexico.
D. Roosevelt was President of the United States at this
time. He died in office in 1945 right before the end
of the war and Vice President Harry S. Truman took over
were assigned to Clark Field in the Philippines and
we started training at night. My job was to run the
search lights at night to spot the enemy planes so they
could be shot down. We trained there until December
the 8, 1942 when the war started.
was a Sunday. I remember I had a really bad hangover
and we were all lined up that morning to go to the chow
hall to eat. From there we spotted this big cloud of
planes and we thought they were our Navy planes that
were coming to help us with our mission. We didn't know
yet that we were at war. When we saw the big cloud of
planes we started waving at them thinking they were
our planes. After they approached they started dropping
little black things that I thought were leaflets from
the pilots to let us know that they were there to help
us. We started running toward where they were dropping
the little black things and then we saw that they were
bombs exploding allover the place. This was the first
day of war for us.
Clark Field we started retreating towards the Bataan
peninsula. Bataan is the peninsula in Luzon Island.
The reason we had to retreat is because we didn't have
enough troops to stop the Japanese who were coming at
us at a ratio of five to one. The peninsula of Bataan
is like a tongue that goes into the bay and they had
more troops to stop the Japanese. The peninsula was
narrow and that's where we had four months of intense
fighting until we ran out of food, out of ammunition,
out of medicine, out of everything. Earlier they had
cut down our food to one or two meals a day up to the
day that we were surrendered. We were eating water buffalos
and mules. The horses that were left from the cavalry
were also killed for food for us and whatever else they
could find to feed us. (It was later reported that "the
courage of the men on Bataan and Corrigidor postponed
Japanese plans for invading Australia and thus controlling
the South Pacific. The delay permitted General MacArthur
a base of operations in Australia to stage his triumphant
return to the Philippines and the subsequent conquest
King, surrendered in defiance of General Wainwright's
instructions not to surrender. General King said he
didn't want any more slaughtering because we didn't
have any way of beating them. We were all so sick and
King then went to the front lines with a white sheet
in a jeep to surrender the troops. That night before
we surrendered, our commanding officer got us all together
and he gave us each a white pill and told us to take
the pill and then he would tell us the bad news. I didn't
have any idea that we were surrendering, and I thought
maybe he wanted to kill us with the pill before we surrendered,
so I tasted the pill and it was kind of salty so I threw
it away. After a while he asked if we had all taken
our pills and we said yes, so he told us that as of
right now we had been surrendered by our General and
that we were on our own. "You can take off to the
mountains, or you can surrender to the Japanese,"
he said, "but, I advise you if you surrender do
it in groups." We were all so sick, I really thought
that once we surrendered we would be taken to some hospital
with beds and sheets and nurses to look after us. Golly
was I wrong!
we started walking through the jungle, and this was
at night and we were lost. I got separated from my group
in the dark. Then I heard some Japs talking, real close,
so I backed out the other way. About sunrise I found
some other Americans so we started out. Before we left
camp we got either handkerchiefs, t-shirts, or whatever
we could find that was white to carry with us. We formed
a long, long, line and walked until we ran into the
Japanese. They were ready to attacks us, but when they
saw the white cloths they didn't kill us. It was a whole
bunch of Japanese that jumped on us with bayonets. They
lined us up in rows and searched us to be sure we didn't
have any weapons. I had a knife in my pocket that I
forgot to get rid of. I eased it out and let it slide
down my pant's leg and covered it with dirt with my
foot. They didn't find nothing. The poor fellows with
Jap souvenirs or money, the Japs killed them right there.
that night before we left camp our commanding officer
told us to destroy all the guns, and the machine guns
and throwaway all the ammunition and whatever else we
could get rid of. We used a sledge hammer to destroy
the search lights so the Japanese couldn't use them.
Later I also found out that the pill our Commanding
Officer, Captain Dorris, had given us was a tranquilizer.
we were captured by the Japanese, they put all of us
in this very large clearing in the jungle. Their intentions
were to kill all of us because once we were all together
they lined up their tanks with the machine guns aimed
at us and their idea was to get rid of us I'm sure.
Right at that moment - a large earthquake hit causing
the tanks to turn away from us and the Japanese were
so scared they jumped out of the tanks and started running
away from them. I saw this earthquake as an act of God
to save our lives. I remember seeing the tan pine trees
swaying and bending down almost touching the ground
and then going up again as the earthquake moved across
the ground, it was a really bad earthquake. From that
point we started the death march leading to the three
and one-half years of prisoners of the Japanese.
were told by the Japanese to form columns of four to
start the march. Seventy thousand American and Filipino
prisoners of war started the death march and almost
10,000 died along the way. From the 200th, or the "Old
Two Hon'erd" as we called ourselves, we were about
1,800 and after three and one-half years of captivity,
less than 900 of us returned home. We marched from Mariveles
in the southern tip of Bataan to San Fernando, which
was 65 miles. I don't remember how long it took, we
were so sick and hungry. (For the record: The march
was 65 miles and it took five days to complete it because
of the extremely poor condition of the prisoners.)
wasn't in too bad a shape yet, but I was weak, run down
and very skinny after the four months of fighting without
any food or medicine. But many of our troops already
had malaria when we surrendered because the area we
were in was very warm and swampy and a natural breeding
ground for malaria. The temperature was about 110 to
115 degrees and we had to keep on marching and marching
without any water.
the way there were some stands where they were boiling
rice and if you were lucky you got a spoonful of rice
right in our hands. The rice was very hot so we tossed
it from one hand to the other to cool it down so we
could eat it, but not everybody got to eat. We kept
on going and going, some of the prisoners were falling
down and those of us who could help, we'd pick them
up and put their arms around our shoulders and dragged
them the best way we could. Otherwise the Japs would
kill them. One Filipino went completely out of his head
and he started yelling and screaming and you know one
of the Japanese guards got him and stuck his bayonet
through one side of his face. He used so much force
the blade went right through to the other side. It was
awful, they were so mean to all of us.
the way there were some artesian wells on the side of
the road but the Japanese wouldn't let us drink water
from those wells. Some of the fellows in desperation
broke away and took off towards the wells to drink water,
but the Japanese shot them and killed them for doing
that. They told us to keep going and going and further
down there was a small creek of water with decayed bodies
of dead soldiers and rotten dead water buffalo and the
water was green, slimy, and not fit to drink. This is
where the guards told us "Hey, you can go drink
water there." The water was terrible, we couldn't
drink it, so I dropped my handkerchief over the water
and let the water seep into my handkerchief, but still
there was a lot bacteria and those who did drink came
down with dysentery. When we arrived at our first prison
camp, those fellows who drank the water were dying left
and right from the dysentery.
the march from Mariveles to San Fernando they put us
in a train. We were crammed into small metal cattle
box cars about seven and a-half or eight feet wide and
28 or 30 feet long and hotter than blazes. They put
as many as they could even pushing us in with bayonets
and after each box car was packed full they closed the
doors. Some of the fellows were dying from suffocation.
I guess our Commander told the Japanese that we were
losing a lot of prisoners in those box cars so they
decided to leave the doors open to let some air in.
That helped us a lot. It also helped because when we
went through the train depot the civilian Filipinos
saw us through the open doors and some of them threw
food at us, like rice or eggs or whatever they had.
I was lucky enough to get a little basket from a Filipino
with four raw eggs in it and I was so hungry I ate them
all but I got so sick from eating them.
Read part 2