Time has been flying by. It’s been close to a week since we concluded a private eight-day tour arranged by Valor Tours for Thomas Morgan. Tom is a 1958 graduate of West Point, and, having completed those four years, he served twenty-eight years in the Army. During his career he had only been in the Philippines while traveling to other places, including his two tours in Vietnam. Tom, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, is an avid history buff, and when we weren’t talking about the regional WWII history, he was telling us stories and facts about so much more.
One of our stops was in Lamao, Bataan, where General Edward King surrendered approximately 76,000 troops on April 9, 1942, the first time an American Army ever surrendered. More correctly, King attempted to surrender; the Japanese refused to accept the surrender because it didn’t include Corregidor and the rest of the Philippines. Terrible treatment of the prisoners followed, beginning with what became known as the Bataan Death March. Many years ago, a simple monument was erected at the surrender site in Lamao to honor General King, whose capitulation, against orders, saved thousands of lives. At the bottom it reads, “DEDICATED BY HIS MEN, THE BATTLIN BASTARDS OF BATAAN.” (The name of the organization is seen written both with and without the letter "g" on the word "Battling.")
No pictures were taken at this actual attempted surrender, and essentially the same American and Japanese soldiers gathered a day or two later at the local elementary school in nearby Balanga, Bataan, where photographs were taken during an interrogation conducted by the Japanese. A beautiful monument and museum have since been erected at this location, and thus Balanga has been given credit by many for the being the surrender site. This is without a doubt not historically accurate.
We were astounded and saddened by what we discovered in Lamao. In the past we have easily found the old monument just past the barangay basketball court. Where we expected to find it once again, we instead found a small city market. We will tell the rest of the story with the pictures that we took.
This is the barangay basketball court which we have used in the past to locate the historic monument. This year we encountered a city market built right in front of the monument.
Guessing where the monument might be, if it still existed, we worked our way into the innards of the market. Here is Marcia squeezing between a post and a makeshift wall. Note that she had to drop one backpack shoulder strap and carry her pack at her side to fit through the narrow passage.
Steve took this picture in the direction he assumed may contain the monument, but no real evidence of it existed as you can see.
We exited the market and walked around the perimeter, thinking that the monument was either gone or completely hidden in the middle of it somewhere. Steve, already tall, held the camera high above his head for this shot, and was excited to see that the monument was in fact still there, but virtually obscured in the middle of the market.
By the time we worked our way to the other side of the small market people were laughing at us, apparently for trying to find the monument that was hidden away. Steve once again had to hold the camera up high to get this shot of the monument.
Now sure that the monument was inside the guts of the market, we once again went inside, hoping to at least get a glimpse of it.
Although we went back over the same ground, this time we saw an opening into the middle. In the short time we were walking around, obviously word got out that some "crazy Americans" were trying to find whatever it was that was there, so someone moved a few tables and boxes before we returned, and voila, the entrance appeared! Well, sort of an entrance.
And there it is! The monument as we remember it.
Marcia reading the monument
Tom, finally working his way inside the tiny compound
Marcia and Tom inside
The words on the monument, which has been in Lamao for a long, but indeterminate, time.
DEDICATED BY HIS MEN, THE BATTLIN BASTARDS OF BATAAN
We have since been told that this market site is supposed to be temporary, and after it is relocated to the new (currently under construction) Municipal Market building, the monument will again stand alone. We can only hope so, as this marker, although humble, stands on one of the most historic and important spots from WWII history in the Philippines.
It should be noted that, although General King was an American officer, the Battling Bastards of Bataan was made up mostly of Filipinos. It is estimated that 12,000 Americans and 64,000 Filipinos began the Death March. Every year the surrender is remembered at Araw ng Kagitingan, (Day of Valor) on Mount Samat not far from Lamao. How many of those attending could even tell you where the surrender took place? This monument marks the spot, and that is the reason we consider it so important, and something that should bring great pride to the people of Lamao.
We hope and trust that you agree.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock