Monday, September 11, 2017 || By Michael Romain | Photos by Spooner Baumann || @maywoodnews
On Sept. 10, a few hundred people gathered under a tent pitched at Maywood Veterans Memorial Park, located on the corner of 1st Ave. and Oak St., for the 75th Bataan Day commemorative service.
According to the Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO), the service is the “longest running World War II commemorative event in the Chicago area.” This year, MBDO officials added, also marked the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.
“Maywood citizens also responded to the call for heroes during WWI, and the men of the 33rd Division would one day form the core of the Illinois National Guard unit in Maywood that would become known as Co. B of the 192nd Tank Battalion — Heroes of Bataan!”
The annual ceremony, which always takes place on the second Sunday of September, commemorates what’s come to be known as the Bataan Death March, which began on April 6, 1942, when World War II’s Battle of Bataan in the Philippines had concluded.
The Japanese army forcibly marched over 60,000 Philippine and American soldiers roughly 70 miles to a transfer point, where they were loaded onto trains. An estimated 500 to 650 American soldiers died during the march, many having suffered extreme abuse.
The 144th Ceremonial National Guard Army Band, under the direction of Sgt. First Class Robert Reed, performs during Bataan Day ceremonies on Sunday.
Among the soldiers in the death march were men from the Company B of the 192nd Tank Battalion of the U.S. National Guard, which included 89 men from Maywood. The battalion was inducted into the federal army on Nov. 25, 1940. Only 43 of those Maywood residents returned from the war.
On the first Maywood Bataan Day commemoration 75 years ago, an estimated 30,000 people showed up along 5th Avenue on Sept. 11, 1942 to demonstrate their support of the war effort.
“Later, a larger parade would step off – this second parade lasted three hours and involved literally thousands of participants,” according to the MBDO statement. “Bands, floats, celebrities and politicians all marched to show their support for Maywood – and for all the small towns, that had placed their loved ones in harm’s way to fight for freedom.”
During comments at Sunday’s ceremony, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins said that “because of the testimony of those who made it back, we are painfully aware of the horrendous death march and the many problems that took place in the Japanese war camp.”
Members of the America Legion Post #974 rifle squad, based in Franklin Park.
Perkins then put the deaths of those Maywood soldiers into contemporary perspective, subtly evoking today’s tense political environment.
“This idea that some human beings are better than others or deserve more than others based on skin color or religion is threatening to destroy us,” Perkins said. “We face extreme threats. I am concerned because there is so much strife in the US and on the international front that threaten our security.
“As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.’ Each and every day we can make the choice to treat each humanely. That is the lesson for today,” she said.
“That is what our boys from Maywood and all the others on our side fought and died for. That is what it comes down to. We should act on the gift they gave us. We celebrate them and honor the best in ourselves.”
Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, far right, observes Bataan Day services with Major Gen. Richard J. Hayes, Jr., along with the event’s keynote speaker and the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, Mayor Perkins, and Maywood Public Library Executive Director Stan Huntington, among others.
IN MEMORIAM: Goran E. Anderson (1924 – 2017): MBDO board member, who served during World War II with the 549th bomb squadron in the U.S. Army Air Corps. | Lourdes M. Ceballos (1929 – 2016): Former MBDO board member. | Pvt. Charles C. Harmon (1916 – 2016): One of the two remaining survivors from Company C of the 192nd Tank Batallion. Harmon was three months shy of his 100th birthday. | Col. Emilio Hidalgo (1918 – 2017): Retired colonel of the Judge Advocate Service of the Philippines armed forces and longtime friend to MBDO. | Pvt. Albert P. Naymick (1971 – 2016): The other remaining survivor from Company C. | Pvt. Lester I Tennenberg (1920 – 2017): The last man from Company B and the last Maywood-born member of the 192nd Tank Battalion. He was also a past president of the American Bataan Clan — the predecessor of the MBDO.
JUST ONE REMAINS: The MBDO said that Pvt. William L. Arnold, of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is the last confirmed survivor of Company D of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
Mayor Edwenna Perkins, with MBDO President Col. Richard A. McMahon, lays a wreath at the foot of the tank in Veterans Memorial Park on Sunday.
A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE TANK: According to a summary in the MBDO’s Bataan Day memorial booklet, the tank that’s been on display in Veterans Memorial Park is an M3 Stuart Light Tank, which proved “invaluable in providing cover for the retreating troops in the Battle of Bataan and were more than a match for the Japanese tanks then in use.”
“After the war, Capt. Emmett Gibson, who was a native son of Maywood and a Bataan survivor, contacted General Weaver who had commanded the 192nd in Bataan and asked if it would be possible to get a Stuart tank to use as a memorial to the men who fought and died on Bataan.”
The rest is history. The tank was “decommissioned and transported to Maywood by train in the fall of 1946. The tank was dedicated in Maywood on Sept. 8, 1946 and has been in the park ever since. VFP