by Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN News
ALBUQUERQUE – December is one of the toughest months for 96-year-old Atilano David.
It was December 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy made a surprise military strike on a United States naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The deadly attack led to the United States’ sudden entry in World War II.
“I was 19; I thought I would never see 20,” David told Balitang America. “The hardships waiting for the enemy was is terrible.
David was among the 75 thousand Filipino and American troops to walk the 65 mile march to prison camps in the Philippines during the war.
“If I remember right, it was 7 to 10 days,” he said, vividly remembering the experience. “It was about 65 miles from where we surrendered.”
David was a young sergeant of the 31st regiment of the Philippine Division.
“In ‘No Man’s Land;’ the place was already bomb[ed]… not even stone remained,” he recalled. “For 3 days and 4 nights, we were subsisting on a tin of jelly, and four crackers, and there were four of us.”
David says that his experiences in the war, and part of the Bataan Death March, are all accounted for. He has already written a book and will be published in spring of 2017.
“It is imperative that the young generations know what happened in Bataan, because the Americans and the Filipinos always had a good relationship,” David said, remembering General Douglas MacArthur’s prominent role in the victory. “When Japan [invaded] the Philippines, the Americans were on the watch out for their welfare.”
The infamous death march is memorialized in several parks and museums in New Mexico.
From December 1941 to April 1942, 1,816 soldiers from New Mexico fought alongside Filipinos to combat Japanese invaders on the Bataan Peninsula. Of those soldiers from New Mexico, 829 died in battle.
Bataan Memorial Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico pays tribute to its soldiers both living and dead, that their bravery and sacrifices shall forever be etched not only in history books, but in the memories of generations to come.