San Francisco remembers Bataan at jubilant Presidio rites
WATCH: Bataan Death March 75th Anniversary Commemoration, SF Presidio. INQUIRER/Vic Valbuena Bareng
SAN FRANCISCO — It was a glorious day for Filipinos, particularly for surviving Filipino World War II (WWII) veterans, as the 75th Anniversary of Bataan Death March was commemorated at the San Francisco Presidio Officers’ Club amid a standing room only audience.
Filipino and American military officers, soldiers, community leaders and members and veterans’ advocates gave richly deserved recognition and honor to the veterans.
Hosted by the Bataan Legacy Historical Society (BLHS) in partnership with the Presidio Trust, National Park Service, American Battle Monuments Commission and Fil-Am Racing, the commemoration was a rousing success and an expression of public gratitude that seemed to have eluded the war heroes for so many years.
The diamond anniversary rites included an early morning “valor run,” wreath-laying at the WWII West Coast Memorial, flag raising, and a 21-gun battery salute.
The jubilant celebration, with speeches from distinguished guests was a fitting follow-up to the triumphant campaign led by U.S. Army Maj. General (ret.) Antonio Taguba to make the United States Congress unanimously award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Filipino veterans of WWII, which President Barack Obama signed into law on December 14, 2016.
The Congressional Gold Medal will be displayed as the symbol of recognition of Filipino veterans’ honor, valor and selfless sacrifice and patriotism, explained Taguba.
“The Congressional Gold medal is the highest award Congress can bestow to an individual or a group who perform significant and outstanding achievement that has impacted on American history,” Taguba added.
“The betrayal of trust, the humiliation and indignation they have suffered mainly due to the Rescission Act of 1946 have resonated in the past 75 years. Of the 260,000 who willingly served our country, some 57,000 were killed in action, thousands were wounded for life and hundreds more remain missing in action to this day,” Taguba lamented.
Another Filipino American U.S. Amy Major General (ret.) Eldon Regua, credited Taguba with the successful campaign for the Congressional Gold Medal.
“With regards to more benefits, we need not give up the fight despite the nominal stipend they were already given. So that quest for more benefits will continue,” Regua assured.
High school curriculum
BLHS Executive Director Cecilia Gaerlan recounted that the Bataan Death March took place in the Philippines starting on April 9, 1942 when Maj. General Edward P. King, Jr., commanding officer of the Luzon Force was compelled to surrender 75,000 diseased or starving Filipino and American troops of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE)to the Imperial Japanese Army.
“They marched approximately 60 miles to their prison camp at Camp O’Donnell under extreme tropical conditions with no provisions for food, water, shelter or medicine. Those who could no longer go on were beaten, bayoneted, shot and some were even beheaded by their Japanese captors. Approximately 10,000 Filipino and 650 American soldiers died during the march. After reaching Camp O’Donnell, approximately 20,000 Filipino and 1,600 American soldiers ultimately died inside the camp. They fought in the Bataan Peninsula for 99 days without any reinforcement or air support but they were able to disrupt the 50-day timetable of the Imperial Japanese Army before their surrendered. This delay prevented Japan from reaching Australia,” explained Gaerlan.
BLHS worked with the California Department of Education to include the Bataan Death March and WWII in the Philippines in the history curriculum framework for California high schools. On July 14, 2016, the State Board of Education approved its inclusion in the U.S. History curriculum framework for Grade 11. Sample lesson plans for school teachers in California high schools are now being developed.
The first and only Filipina to be elected into office in San Francisco at the Unified School District Board Hydra Mendoza O’Donnell, senior adviser on education and family services to Mayor Ed Lee San Francisco Unified School District Board, gave a boost to the inclusion of WWII in the Philippines in San Francisco public high schools.
“And as a board member, I promise to make sure that the inclusion of World War II in the Philippines in public high schools gets implemented in San Francisco Unified School District,” a teary-eyed Mendoza declared. Mendoza also handed out the Proclamation from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee declaring April 9, 2017 as Bataan Death March Day in San Francisco.
The only Fil-Am Assemblymember Rob Bonta introduced a similar resolution that recognized April 9, 2017 as Bataan Death March Day in the State of California to “acknowledge and commend the bravery, valor and dedication of all the Filipinos who served during World War II.”
“To be able to publicly acknowledge the incredible debt of gratitude that we owe was powerful and moving,” Bonta said. “As the first and only member of the California State Assembly, I wouldn’t miss this event.”
Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr. recalled that Filipino and American soldiers “sacrificed their blood for all of us so that we are able to enjoy the freedom, the independence, the dignity we all now enjoy,”
Wartime buddies Ramon Regalado and Antonio Secapure, both of the 57th Infantry Regiment, exchanged recollections of their experience in the war as if it happened only yesterday.
“I cannot forget the firefight in Abucay and even at Mt. Samat. We fought to the last man in the battle. I fought with him (pointing to Secapure). I was holding a Browning automatic rifle. Oh, I liked that!” Regalado vividly recalled.
“We were together in the battle in the same squad and he still remembers,” Secapure chuckled.
David Tejada, 94, of the Signal Corp was telling everyone that he supplied phone wires for field telephone operators. “I am glad that there is this Bataan Day that value the sacrifices and sufferings that the Filipino as well as American soldiers endured during World War II,” Tejada stated. “Sadly, I also remember that many of the Filipino solders were remarkably lonely most of the time as they always thought of the families they left behind.”
The Bataan Death March survivors honored were:
Amado Ante – 12th Quartermaster Regiment
Gregorio Canono – 26th Cavalry
Rudolfo Solon Duterte – Philippine Commonwealth
Armando Lansang – 86th Field Artillery
Pedro Pineda – 12th Medical Regiment
Ramon Regalado – 57th Infantry Regiment
Januario Ruiz – 45th Infantry Regiment
Antonio Secapure – 57th Infantry Regiment
David Tejada – 12th Signal Company
Other Wwii Veterans:
Lourdes Catig-Poblete – 10th Military District
Johnny Johnson – USS San Francisco
Richard Keith – 511th Parachute Regiment
Alfonso Lamata – 414th Counter Intelligence Corps
Joe Pacheco – 7th Infantry Division, 6th Army
George Stan – 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade
John Stevens – 1st Marine Division
Arturo Topacio – Marking’s Guerrillas