Memorial Honors Bataan March Vets
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Survivors of the Bataan Death March gathered in the wind and rain to see a new memorial marking the 60th anniversary of the World War II battle in which as many as 21,000 soldiers were killed.
The memorial is a series of 6-foot high granite columns with the names of the 1,817 New Mexicans who fought at Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines. The few remaining New Mexico veterans who fought in the battle reunited for the unveiling and dedication Sunday.
``It’s him,″ said Lillian Lujan, crying as she brushed her fingers across the name of her husband, Jimmie Lujan.
In 1942, the Japanese forced an estimated 70,000 captured American and Filipino soldiers to trek across 60 to 70 miles of jungle roads in the Philippines without food or water.
As many as 21,000 died on or after the march in prison camps. More than 900 New Mexicans died, and fewer than 900 survived.
The columns in the new memorial feature a story on each military unit and the names of the men who served in them. They are lined up about 6 feet apart to symbolize the soldiers’ march following the surrender to Japanese troops.
``They were ready to die, for their country and for us,″ said Greg Villasenor, whose late father’s name, Gregorio Villasenor, appears on one of the columns.
On the Net: Bataan-Corregidor Foundation of New Mexico: http://members.aol.com/bcmfofnm/