News: Indiana Guardsmen participate in memorial march
Story by Sgt. William Henry
WHITE SANDS, N.M. - For the last 23 years the men who survived the Bataan Death March have been honored and remembered for their sacrifices with a marathon-length memorial march now held in the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
While the number of Bataan Memorial Death March participants increased to A record high of 6,796 this year, the number of Bataan survivors is decreasing. Only 16 attended this year after surviving capture by the Japanese nearly 70 years ago.
On March 25, the Indiana National Guard had two teams take part in the light National Guard team category of the memorial march. The light category indicates team members are in uniform and are required to carry a water bladder or canteens.
The Indiana National Guard’s two teams were comprised of Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 152nd Cavalry’s Long Range Surveillance, and Camp Atterbury’s team consisted full-time staff assigned to different units throughout the state.
Atterbury’s team finished first at 5:12:27, and the LRS team finished second at 6:05:53.
Spc. Logan Gehlhausen, an Atterbury team member with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry, said the event was fun, but tough. He also added it was teamwork that got them to the end.
“It was pretty grueling, but we stayed together and kept pushing each other,” said Gehlhausen, a Birdseye, Ind., resident. “I think all in all, we did a damn good job.”
Spc. Josh Brunson, an LRS team member from Greenfield, Ind., agreed saying the course was harsh and the team worked well together. Brunson said it was thoughts of the survivors that kept them going.
“Coming across the finish line definitely makes you feel so much better, seeing all those guys that went through that sitting there. It makes your pain feel like nothing,” said Brunson.
“These guys, if they stopped their lives were taken. So basically, they ran for their lives the whole time,” said Brunson. “That’s what kept me motivated, and when you come around the corner and you see [the survivors], right away your pain goes away.”
During World War II the Philippine island of Luzon's Bataan Peninsula was gripped by Japanese forces who took thousands of prisoners in what now is known as the Bataan Death March. Prisoners were forced to march approximately 80 miles or die if they stopped. With no food or water for the first three days, the prisoners endured hellish agony as told in many accounts of the march.
Capt. Andrew Miller, an Atterbury team member with the 38th Sustainment Brigade, said the event is focused around the Bataan Death March survivors and is grateful to be a part of the event.
“It’s obviously to honor the survivors of the real Bataan,” said Miller, a Brownsburg, Ind., resident. Miller said the event means a great deal to him because the survivors of Bataan are dying.
“They come out, and they shake your hand. They’re more appreciative of us being here I think than anybody else,” said Miller. “They’re really happy that we come out to honor them and what they went through. This isn’t anything like what they went through. It’s just so we don’t forget.”
History of the Bataan Death March:
In April 1942, during World War II, Imperial Japanese forces had a strong hold on the Philippine island of Luzon's Bataan Peninsula. The U.S. Military and Filipino forces in the southern Bataan peninsula were met with fierce attacks in Corregidor and other areas on the peninsula.
The U.S. supply routes and their assistance were cut to nearly nothing leaving the U.S. and Filipino troops prone to starvation, and sickness. Lacking supplies and food, troops were eventually overrun and commanded to surrender to the Japanese forces.
Tired, sick and starving, the soldiers who survived the initial brutalities made by Japanese forces began an approximate 80 mile foot-march through mountainous jungles north toward San Fernando, now known as the Bataan Death March.
The Japanese organized all surviving prisoners, stripped them of most goods and forced them to endure the march. According to historic reports, there were approximately 76,000 prisoners. An estimated 12,000 of all the prisoners were American troops and the remaining were mostly Filipino forces.
Thousands died on the march from exhaustion, starvation or illness. The Japanese killed anyone who stopped or passed out along the way.
New Mexico National Guardsmen of the 200th Coast Artillery were estimated to have taken the most losses per capita during the march. According to New Mexico National Guard Public Affairs reports, approximately 1,800 New Mexican soldiers were taken prisoner and only 900 lived to return home. Today only a few men remain to tell their stories of heroism and unfortunate ordeals of being a prisoner of war at the hands of Japanese forces.
Teams and Times:
Finsh time: 5:12:27
Sgt. 1st Class Tom Smith, Indianapolis, Ind., 2-151 INF
Sgt. Thaddaeus Sauls, Seymour, Ind., HHC 2-151 INF
Spc. Logan Gehlhausen, Birdseye, Ind., HHC 1-151 INF
Capt. Andrew Miller, Brownsburg, Ind., 38th Sustainment Brigade
Maj. Gary Blagburn, Fishers, Ind., 38th Sustainment Brigade
Finish time: 6:05:53
Spc. Charles Koeppen, Indianapolis, Ind., Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 152nd Cavalry, Long Range Surveillance
Spc. Brad Holloman, Murray, Ky.,
Sgt. Eric Hamlin, Saint Clair Shores, Mich.,
Spc. Joshua Brunson, Greenfield, Ind.,
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Barr, Anderson, Ind.,