USS Bataan Marches On in Honor of Fallen

USS Bataan Marches On in Honor of Fallen

Sailors and Marines paid homage to two survivors of the WWII Bataan Death March during a ceremony held aboard USS Bataan (LHD 5) as a part of the city of Jacksonville’s Week of Valor, Nov. 8.

“This ship was commissioned in 1997 to honor the sacrifices of those who have gone before us,” said Capt. Erik Ross, commanding officer of USS Bataan.

The ceremony honored Donato Abalos and Patricio Ganio, both of whom marched nearly 60-miles during a forcible transfer of more than 70,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war by the Imperial Japanese Army. The march followed the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines.

“These two individuals sacrificed,” said Ross. “Their dedication, their courage, their perseverance, and most remarkable in my opinion, their humility in a time where humility is rare. Both of you are true heroes.”

During the march, many prisoners died from abuse, murder or exhaustion while others were not given food or water until they had reached Balanga, the capital of Bataan. These acts of heroism were not lost on the crew attending the ceremony.

“I felt very honored to see them because everything they went through was extremely dangerous,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Elizabeth Blanco. “The reason why we honor them today is not only because our ship is named after their struggle, but because there is a sense of pride and you have to be proud. Being in the Navy I am proud to serve my country, proud to wear the uniform. Whether it’s speaking to others about serving in the military or working long hours during flight operations. I want to thank them for giving us an example to do the same. I am happy to be here.”

After the ceremony, the service members were able shake hands with the survivors and many were moved by the experience.

“I was extremely humbled and honored to be in the presence of real war heroes that in these days you don’t come across that to much,” said Lance Cpl. Ian Delacruz stationed in Camp Lejuene, N.C. “To have the opportunity to hear what they have gone through and survived is very heartwarming. I’m infantry so our job is to be on the frontlines and put ourselves at risk. To hear what they have done, I’m just honored to be able to shake their hands and when I did, I don’t know if this is the right way to say it, but it just felt right. I feel like we are in the same line of work and they are my predecessors. I’m proud to be here today to pick up were they left off.”

The Battan is the second ship to be named in honor of the march. The first was USS Bataan (CVL-29/AVT-4), which was originally planned as USS Buffalo, but was renamed on June 2, 1942 after the tragedy occurred.

A translator added that Ganio and Abalos were proud to be recognized after all of these years and were very thankful for the opportunity to there.

Naval Today Staff,November 11, 2012; Image: US Navy