I attended this dedication ceremony this morning at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery.
Every time I have visited this cemetery, I've wondered what each person's story is about their time/place in the war...
Thanks to the veteran's who helped make at least this one possible...
And thanks, again to each of you who have served.
No, Freedom is not Free...
This article below was in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday.
I will post tomorrow's article if one appears about the ceremony.
ARTICLE IN St. Louis POST-DISPATCH Newspaper:
A salute to those who suffered in POW massacre
By Elizabethe Holland
On Dec. 14, 1944, Eugene Nielsen and 149 other U.S. prisoners of war on the Philippine island of Palawan reported to work for their captors as usual - malnourished, plagued with injuries and illnesses and barely clothed, if clothed at all.
Nielsen, an Army private, noticed something peculiar about the Japanese captors that day. They didn't scream at the men to make them work faster and harder. They weren't quick with their clubs and other means of torture.
His sense was right. Later that day, the guards herded the Americans into three air-raid trenches at the Puerto Princesa Prison Camp, dumped fuel into the pits and set them on fire with torches and grenades. Prisoners who attempted to escape were killed with machine-gun fire or bayonets.
In all, 139 Americans died in the massacre. Eleven somehow, miraculously, escaped. But greatly to the chagrin of Nielsen, 87, and other former prisoners held captive on Palawan, the events that day have been regarded as little more than a footnote, if even that, in history books.
On Saturday, however, a handful of veterans determined to preserve and pass on the details of the massacre will dedicate a historical marker at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, where most of the victims were buried in 1952.
"They've got to know in history exactly what happened," said Glenn McDole, 82, of Ankeny, Iowa, one of three remaining survivors of the massacre.
Of the 139 victims, 123 were buried at Jefferson Barracks. Family members of the others requested their remains be buried elsewhere.
The Palawan grave is the largest mass grave site at the national cemetery in south St. Louis County. But until recently, anyone examining the large, flat, gray stone that marks their shared resting place would learn nothing more than the names, ranks and branches of service of the men buried there - that and the day they all died.
"The Japanese tortured them . . . and nothing was told to anyone," said Joseph E. Dupont Jr., 82, of Plaquemine, La. "That's what upsets us - that the world doesn't know. We hope that this will be a steppingstone for more information to come out."
The men killed were Americans who were taken prisoner in 1942 by the Japanese at Corregidor and Bataan in the Philippine Islands, then a U.S. possession. The most infamous atrocity of that time and place was the Bataan Death March, in which Japanese guards brutalized American and Phillipine prisoners.
Unlike other savage acts of the time, however, the massacre at Palawan - where prisoners had been taken to build an airstrip for the Japanese - hasn't been mentioned in some of the most respected military reference books. And only in recent years has the incident garnered significant attention in books focused on what happened in the Philippines during wartime.
The realization that few people knew of the horrific incident became even more difficult to swallow two years ago when, during a reunion of World War II survivors in St. Louis, a number of former prisoners visited the grave site.
Dupont, a prisoner on Palawan who successfully faked a case of malaria and was taken off the island before the massacre, became upset that there was no explanation of the slayings at the site. There is a brief account of the massacre in the cemetery's chapel, but Dupont and others who suffered on the island believed more was needed.
When Dupont returned home from the reunion, he spearheaded an effort to raise money among fellow Marine Corps veterans for a marker. The former private was overwhelmed with the response. Cemetery personnel installed the brass marker atop a marble stone in the spring.
Dupont will be at the ceremony Saturday, as will Nielsen and McDole and others who experienced staggering degrees of abuse at Palawan.
McDole, who has recounted his experiences in high schools throughout Iowa, is expected to tell some of his story - how he slipped out an escape hatch the prisoners had fashioned in the trench and then made his way naked down a cliff below.
For two days the Marine Corps sergeant hid in a mound of trash and then behind some coral before he swam into the bay to escape. He was forced to leave behind a friend whose arm had been shot off, he recalled. McDole was taken to safety after Phillipine fishermen found him atop a fishing trap.
Nielsen hopes the storytelling Saturday will fall to McDole alone. Nielsen tells his story to those who ask, but not without long pauses and a deep sense of sadness.
He made his escape, he recalled, after forcing his way through barbed wire outside the trench.
"It was hard to believe what was going on," he said. "I realized it was either get out or die."
Like McDole, he took refuge in a heap of trash and then a coral reef. His escape grew more complicated, though, when he was spotted working his way down a beach. Japanese guards shot at him, he said, as he tried to take refuge. He was hit in the leg and the armpit, and a third bullet grazed his temple.
After losing a good bit of blood and being temporarily knocked out, he managed to go on. After some nine hours of swimming in the dark, he landed on a sandbar. After navigating through a mangrove swamp and then a field of grass that cut into his naked skin like serrated knives, he came across a Filipino who led him to three other survivors, he said. Another escapee showed up later.
"It's like taking a handful of wheat and throwing it at a can 30 yards away," Nielsen said of the likelihood of his escape. "One of those grains might drop in the can."
The former prisoners of Palawan hope their efforts to teach others about the massacre, even those simply passing by the grave site, have greater success.
Like Dupont, Dan Crowley, 81, of Simsbury, Conn., was taken off Palawan before the massacre due to an arm so injured it was rendered useless. As a member of the organization the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, he helped establish the plaque in the cemetery chapel. He also has made certain that military personnel in Washington know the story of Palawan and has even called a number of Japanese newspapers in hopes of receiving coverage of Saturday's dedication.
Palawan, Crowley said, "was probably the worst nightmare you could ever imagine. . . . How any of us are alive is a miracle."
An Army private while imprisoned, Crowley speaks highly of the heroes that died at Palawan and of their stunning courage.
Though he believes those men - those who made it and those who didn't - are deserving of more recognition, he's pleased that the grave site now includes the story of the men at Palawan.
"It's recognition," he said. "Finally. Fifty-nine years later."
What: Dedication of a marker giving the details on the massacre of 139 prisoners on the Philippine island of Palawan in World War II.
When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County.