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BATAAN: A 70th ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION

March 8, 2012

Bataan Veterans William Overmier and Pedro “Pete” Gonzalez joined Bataan spokesman Edward D. Baca, Lt. Gen., USA (Retired) for an interview with Matt Grubs, New Mexico in Focus Producer, in the New Mexico PBS studio. The interview will air on New Mexico PBS for a special program called BATAAN: A 70TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION on April 12, 2012 at 7:00pm.

New Mexico PBS’s 70TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION includes an introduction by Senator Tom Udall, the full half-hour documentary “Tragedy of Bataan” & the interview recorded this week.

Edward D. Baca, Lt. Gen., USA (Retired) has called Bataan “The most ruthless capture in the history of warfare.” During the Fall of Bataan in 1942 “tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces [leading to the Bataan Death March.] Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a prisoner of war (POW) camp” (see http://www.bataanmarch.com/r09/history.htm).

In the interview, Gonzalez and Overmier (two of the last remaining Bataan defenders) tell their stories of capture and imprisonment for the years they served as POWs. Gonzalez and Overmier recalled how they were “The battling bastards of Bataan—[they had] no momma, no papa, no Uncle Sam!” Help did not come to the POWs of Bataan until 1945. Overmier solemnly states, “I hope that something like Bataan will never happen again. I have no regrets—I was doing my duty as a soldier.”

 On December 15, 2011, honoring the 70th anniversary of the fall of Bataan and the subsequent death march, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) proposed S .2004, legislation to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the troops who defended Bataan during World War II. The next day, Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM) proposed its counterpart in the House of Representatives – H.R. 3712. Udall states, “Their courage and tenacity during the first four months of World War II, and their perseverance during three years of imprisonment truly deserves the recognition of a Congressional Gold Medal. We are indebted to them for their service and sacrifice” (see: http://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=989).

When asked what the Congressional Gold Medal & the New Mexico PBS special means to them & to other Veterans, Baca responded: “It means that we are honoring this story 70 years later. Especially to make the youth of America understand that there are people willing to sacrifice themselves in the interests of peace and freedom. We live in the greatest country in the world.”

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