New Mexico veteran who survived Bataan, Corregidor, Japan POW camp dies at 101
William “Bill” Overmier liked saying that he joined the New Mexico National Guard in 1940 to earn gas money, $19 to march around the parade grounds. He ended up surviving several years in a prisoner of war camp in Japan after serving in the Philippines in World War II.
Overmier, who was among the few remaining WWII G.Is who lived through the POW experience in the Pacific, died on Aug 2 in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the age of 101.
Like other New Mexicans who signed up for the National Guard in the months before America’s entry into the war, he found himself in the Philippines, fighting the Japanese in the Bataan peninsula, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican/Stars and Stripes.
Using only WWI-era equipment, they were outgunned by the enemy. He told his son, Alan, that. fire from their aged 3-inch anti-aircraft guns only reached about 8,000 feet. But the Japanese fighter planes flew no lower than 10,000 feet.
Overmier avoided the Bataan Death March by catching a ride in one of the last small patrol boats to leave Bataan for Corregidor Iskabd in Manila Bay. The boat was attacked by a Japanese plane, which fortunately was brought down by machine gun fire from a U.S, Navy ship.
Being on Corregidor gave Overmier and extra month before U.S. forces on Bataan surrendered, thereby avoiding the Death March. When Corregidor fell, Overmier was sent by prison ship to a Japanese POW camp in Yokohama, Japan.
He survived over three years on a meager daily diet of rice. He earned a Purple Heart upon return to the U.S. because a Japanese guard he argued with had stabbed him in the back with a chisel. He didn’t think much of the medal and tried to convince his family to throw it away.
After the war, Overmier worked in the construction industry, got married and had three children. He was buried with full military honors in Sunset Memorial Park in Albuquerque.