Brooke County's support for the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum at the public library continues to grow.
Monday, the 70th anniversary of the infamous march during World War II in the Pacific theater, saw about 30 area residents turn out for a walk remembering the many American and Filipino troops who suffered and died following the hard-fought battle to defend the Philippine Islands against Japanese invasion during the war.
The local walk was held in memory of Abie Abraham of Butler, Pa., a survivor of the march who died March 22 at the age of 98. He had been an adamant supporter of Brooke County's museum located within the library - a museum that got its start with an exhibit created by Ed Jackfert, a Wellsburg man who also served in the Philippines, and his wife, Henrietta.
A frequent visitor to the museum, Abraham donated to it a samurai sword given to him by a Japanese major who had been captured on the Philippine Islands at the end of the war.
Abraham's wife, Christine, said her husband was more than happy to have opportunities to speak to schools, colleges, universities and various groups about his experience and that of others in the Bataan march, which wasn't made known to the public during the war or fully acknowledged until many years after.
The Bataan march was a brutal experience, period. Troops went without supplies for months and were starving when they were captured but were given no food or water by their captors as they were marched for 65 miles to areas where they could be transported by train and ships to prisoner of war work camps.
Only about 50,000 men survived the march, and it's been documented that many servicemen were beaten or bayoneted for not keeping up or trying to drink from wells on the roadside.
To make matters worse, these troops were deployed at the onset of the war and weren't well prepared for battle, having to use weapons and equipment from World War I, according to officials.
Thanks to servicemen like Abraham and Jackfert, as well as local library employees and volunteers, the atrocities of the march and the prisoner of war camps and the sacrifices of soldiers will not be forgotten. Abraham himself remained in the Philippines for two years to help find the remains of soldiers who died during the march, and his testimony helped bring justice against the Japanese captors who ordered the march.
We commend those involved with the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum at the Brooke County Public Library, and we truly hope the walk becomes an annual event.
Museum organizers hope to raise funds for an addition to the library to house writings, photos and artifacts concerning the march and donated by veterans who served in the Philippines. The museum is unquestionably a unique and much-needed establishment that we're proud to have in our midst.