Sometimes history is downright ugly. In fact, sometimes it’s horrific, tragic, cruel and inhumane, but nonetheless it is reality. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman uttered the immortal words “War is hell” during the Civil War, and for the prisoners of war in the Far East combat zone during World War II those words could not have been more true.
The sacrifices of those who were subjected to the miles of hell inflicted by the Japanese Imperial forces after the fall of Corrigedor in the Phillipines on April 9, 1945, were remembered last Saturday at Bataan Park in East Bremerton. The fall of Corrigedor gave way to what is more painfully known as the Bataan Death March.
Dysentery, vitamin deficiencies, beatings, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment were inflicted upon the brave American and Filipino troops as they plodded toward their final destinations. Some met their Maker along the way and were saved the horrors that their comrades would face in the Japanese labor camps, which were a far cry from the internment camps in the United States during that time.
A brief glance of Bataan survivors’ diaries reveals the hardships endured by captured soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and how they had no choice but to eat the wormy rice and not resist because resistance meant certain death after prolonged torture.
These diaries aren’t propaganda tools or imaginary conjectures and tales resulting from chemical exposure or military medical experimentation; they are reminders of a tragic history that many would like to forget.
For Mrs. Bonnie Sorci, the realities of that horrific time in history will never be forgotten as her husband, Charles Sorci, “never adjusted” to society after his experiences as a Bataan Death March survivor and a POW in a Japanese labor camp. Living in 28 homes in 32 years is just one example of how her husband struggled to come to terms with the horror he endured at the hands of the enemy. He lived out the last years of his life reliving those days, which is one of the greatest tragedies any American hero should endure.
Yet as Navy historian Jonathan O’Brien Smith noted in his speech at last Saturday’s event, there is a generation that now believes America started the war with Japan, when in reality it was the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, which threw the United States into World War II. History is being rewritten before our very eyes, yet few have the courage to speak the truth because of the politically correct world in which we now live.
As each year passes, the memories of the reality of what happened in the Far East grow dimmer and dimmer and if history isn’t preserved it will be forgotten.
Currently there is a push to build a museum or at least find a location to display this history and honor those who endured some of the most inhumane treatment at enemy hands in any conflict in the history of civilization. With Building 50 now in use as a great naval museum perhaps a room could be made available to honor these brave men and ensure that their sacrifices won’t be like dust in the wind.
Their story is one that no one likes to hear, because it is as ugly as history gets, but it is one that must be told, so future generations don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.