By Nancy A. Murphy
As Jim Murphy began thinking about attending the 17th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, NM good things began to happen to him. Now a month later, good things are still happening as a result of that annual march.
Jim, like most of the survivors of the April 9, 1942 march in the Philippines, has had difficulty talking about the experience. It dredges up horrific visions of happenings on and after the March and seemed to the survivors to be unbelievable if you had not been one of the POWs of the Japanese. Yet behind these feelings, was the memory of promising each other that if anyone survived and got back to the U.S he would make sure the story got told. That stemmed from the belief that perhaps knowing the story around the world would help prevent such a horrific event from ever happening again. 2006 official poster of the Memorial March
A trip to the Memorial March in White Sands, began with us Murphys arriving 24th of March and being assigned to a house on the Post at White Sands Missile Range. The house was ample for Jim and me, son Tom and Laurie who had driven us there, and for son, Ken, who was one of the 3900 Marchers. Ken walked the 26.2 mile sandy, up and down course in the desert, to honor his father, a survivor.
wished to give each marcher, supporter, and sponsor a token of his
appreciation but when he was told there would be over 3900 Marchers
participating he could not handle the logistics. As he began looking for
something, a local realtor suggested her son, graphic designer Ross
Brown, might help come up with something. Together Jim and Ross decided
on a handout thank you letter. The letter thanked each person and
praised the sponsors for honoring all POWs and especially the New Mexico
Guard and ROTC. They had arrived in the
shortly before December, 1941. They suffered heavy losses thus making the
re-enactment of the March so appropriate for holding in New Mexico.
An afternoon gathering in the Post theater was a welcome for the 20 Survivors attending. Included in the audience were marchers and families. A brief historical review of the original Death March was done by New Mexico State Army ROTC. Professional Actress Jewel Greensberg told the story of the Nurses who were captured on Bataan. White Sands Missile Range personnel were in charge of the remainder of the program.
crowd moved to a new location. Each Survivor was given a room and
audience so he could tell the story of his survival in 1942 and to answer
questions from the audience. Dinner for all was in the Frontier Club for
any and all participants. The movie gThe Great Raidh was shown for the
second time that day.
Seated in pairs, the survivors of the 1942 March shook hands with the participants, wished them well, and the 17th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March was underway.
Around noon some of the survivors were bussed out to the mid point in the March to see how it was going. All reported a special feeling of gratitude as many of the Marchers detoured off the course to touch, honor, and say another thank you to the Survivors. They frequently expressed to each survivor gwhat a hero you are to all of us for your service and what you endured in that grueling March. We get fruit, cold water and drinks, first aid for blisters and minor emergencies and we are reminded that you all began the March while ill, malnourished, without medication or food or proper shoes, hats or clothingh Such recognition has not been expressed by so many sincere people before.
Closing ceremonies were held at 3 pm near the finish line. The emcee introduced each survivor, named the leading groups of Marchers who had already finished the course, and then Range Director Tom Berard was introduced. He subsequently pinned each survivorfs jacket with a designated insignia thus making each man a part of the Army Freedom Team. At the close of the ceremonies, the gatheringfs final honor was for the emcee to repeat the poem written in 1942 by Frank Hewlett entitled gThe Battling Bastards of Bataanh.
The Battling Bastards of
After a brief silence, the emcee shouted,
But now you know we ALL give a damn.
The audience broke into spontaneous cheers and applause.
Some Marchers were still on the course long after the sun went down. Officials used Jeeps to offer light for them and to assure all were accounted for and crossed the finish line one way or another.
was after the two day drive back home for Jim and family that Jim said,
gUp until now I have felt when I am gone, no one will keep the story alive
nor remember the sacrifices we all made. But since I saw the annual march
in White Sands I know there are untold marchers and former marchers along
with future marchers who are dedicated to keep the story alive. No one
can know the peaceful feeling that gives us survivors.h
learn more about his POW
experience, please go to Murphy.