Monday, April 14, 2014

Valor Tours Ghosts Soldiers of Bataan and Hellships Memorial Tour 2014

For nine days, we accompanied twelve Americans and one Australian on our annual Ghosts Soldiers of Bataan and Hellships Memorial Tour, run through Valor Tours of San Francisco, California, and handled locally by Rajah Tours.

The group was unique for us, in that for the first time, three families had direct connections to the Bataan Death March, Camp O'Donnell, and Cabanatuan, where each of the three soldiers had perished.  For those tourists, it was probably bittersweet, but all were ultimately glad that they came and paid their respects.

Day 1, April 5:
Manila, including Intramuros and the American Cemetery 

Walking through the gate at Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila

Gurney listening to Pres. Quezon while Gen. MacArthur pretends not to eavesdrop

Day 2, April 6:
Corregidor, Sun Cruises regular tour

Dan, Peter, and Abe (L-R) leaving the Sun Cruises ferry after we arrived at Corregidor

Jerry Ann, Dan, and Peter on the tranvia during the tour

Day 3, April 7:
Inter-island tour and jungle hike on Corregidor

Banca ride around the fortified islands of Manila Bay

White-bellied sea-eagle circling nest on Corregidor (picture captured by Gurney while eight of us were hiking one of the jungle trails)

The eagle's nest, actually near eye-level, in a tree that was rooted far below the trail

Day 4, April 8:
Bataan, including Mariveles and Balanga

The group at Death March KM 0, (L-R) Fred, Dan, Marion, Carol, Liz, Anna, Mike, Gurney, Tom, Steve, Jerry Ann, Peter, Dena, Marcia, Abe



Staff members at the newly-opened Bataan WWII Museum behind the Balanga Elementary School

Some of the artifacts we donated to the museum

Death March diorama (center) and some of the photo panels (right) in museum

Day 5, April 9:
Mt. Samat Ceremony
Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagatigan)

Wreaths as presented at the Mt Samat Memorial Altar on April 9

Color guard

Crowd at ceremony

U.S. Ambassador Goldberg and Philippine President Aquino (far left), while Japanese Ambassador Urabe is speaking

Ambassador Goldberg with most of our Valor Tours group

Marcia with Filipina from Veterans organization

Steve with Filipino Death March survivor

Day 6, April 10
Subic Bay

Some members of a fruit bat colony near Subic International Airport; this was by far the largest colony we have ever seen in this area.


Dan drinking from 'water vine' at Jungle Environment Survival Training Center (JEST)

Philippine Hawk-eagle at JEST

Philippine Eagle-owl at JEST

Bamboo bat at JEST, said to be "world's smallest bat"

A monkey is having breakfast outside our room at Kamana Sanctuary at Subic Bay.  Philippine long-tailed Macaques do not use their tails as a hand-like appendage, but Marcia observed this one loosely wrapping its tail around branches for balance.

Swifts hunting for insects in pampas grass fronds near Kamana

The group gathers at the Hell Ships Memorial, Subic Bay

Australian, Peter, stands beside the wreath he presented to honor all who were transported in Japanese Hell Ships as he describes the Montevideo Maru disaster.

Day 7, April 11:
Capas

Welcome banner at the Capas Microtel; a Japanese guard is shown in the foreground, and
Death Marchers in the background, unfortunately obscured by text.

Abe, Dena, and Fred ponder the Filipino Walls of the Dead at the Capas National Shrine
(Camp O'Donnell).

Day 8, April 12:
Cabanatuan

A Cattle egret in breeding-season plumage stands on top of a carabao near Cabanatuan.

Steve describes the battle that took place Cabu (Pajota's) Bridge near the location of the Cabanatuan POW camp. Pajota's men held that Japanese troops from crossing the bridge while US Army Rangers effected the rescue  of the POWs at the prison camp.

Gurney points to her father's name, Major Edmund W. Wilkes, at the West Point marker inside the Cabanatuan Memorial grounds.

Thomas Smothers Jr. to the left of Edmund Wilkes. Gurney recalls her mother saying that the two families shared an 'over-and-under' duplex while both men were stationed on Corregidor.

Marion, Liz, and Carol look at the last panel to be removed from the walls at Cabanatuan, which contains Karl Loesche's name. The memorial is - as you can see - in the midst of an extensive renovation project.

Marion signs the visitors' log at the Cabanatuan Memorial.

Marcia and Mike search through tablets from the old wall. Mike's uncle, Phil R. Downey, as well as Gurney's father were both listed on panels that had already been removed in preparation for the new walls.

Day 9, April 13:
American Cemetery in Manila

Tom, Gurney, and American Cemetery Asst. Superintendent Bert Caloud

Family members of SSgt Karl Loesche with Bert Caloud at probable grave site

We hope you enjoyed the photos, and encourage you to join us and Valor Tours one day for the unforgettable tour.

Some of the photos included are courtesy of photographer Ojie Santos.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock




























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