Several special guests expected for Bataan walk

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Public Library and its American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum again will mark the anniversary of the Bataan Death March with a community walk on April 12, and several guests are slated to appear.

Author John D. Lukacs will be on hand at 11 a.m. to present the documentary, “4-4-43,” which is based on his book, “Escape from Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War.”

The book is about 10 prisoners of war and two Filipinos who broke out of a high-security penal colony following their capture by the Japanese during World War II.

Among the participants was Lt. Col. William Dyess, a fighter pilot from Albany, Texas, who worked with the Chicago Tribune to make the public aware of the atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war, including the Bataan Death March.

The library and museum will observe the 72nd anniversary of that event, which occurred on April 9, with a community walk April 12 from the library to the Wellsburg Elks Lodge at 834 Charles St. Registration will begin at noon, with the walk slated to start at 1 p.m.

A $10 donation is requested from participants, with proceeds going to the museum. A limited number of bags commemorating the event and containing the book “Soldier Slaves,” by Jim Parkinson, will be presented to walkers.

Participants and the public can see a performance by dancers with the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to promoting the Filipino culture, from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the lodge. Refreshments will be served.

Jane Kraina, museum coordinator, said she’s pleased by the Elks’ involvement. She said the Wellsburg lodge, led by Exulted Ruler Jeff Cionni, secured a grant from the West Virginia Elks to provide the food and the stage for the dancers.

Cionni, who also heads the lodge’s veterans committee and is on the state Elks’ Adopt a Veteran committee, said, “Our motto is ‘So long as there are veterans in need, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks will never forget them.'”

Kraina said re-enactors with the World War II Living History group led by Bill Burruss will return with World War II-era military vehicles and will be on hand to talk with visitors following their arrival at 10 a.m.

Also slated to attend is Agnes Ahn of Massachusetts, who has provided funds for a touchscreen kiosk for the museum to be unveiled that day. The kiosk will provide visitors access to 22 videos, 300 photos and assorted letters and other documents.

Kraina added Joe Vater, a survivor of the march from McKees Rocks, Pa., plans to attend. Vater is a long-time supporter of the museum and donated a box camera and photos he took following his liberation by Allied troops from a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

The American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor began as a permanent exhibit established by Ed Jackfert, a Wellsburg man who was among the many captured following a long battle to defend the islands against Japanese invasion. It details the surrender of 72,000 American and Filipino troops at Bataan and their forced walk 65 miles in grueling heat to a railroad station where they were loaded onto stifling boxcars to the Camp O’Donnell prison camp.

At least 600 Americans and more than 10,000 Filipinos died from disease, starvation or dehydration or were killed when they attempted to get water or fell behind.