We Refused to Die
In 1942 the Japanese army forced about 70,000 US and Philippino prisoners of war to march some 80 miles across the Bataan Peninsula on the way to a prison camp. More than 10,000 died or were summarily executed along the way. Among the survivors was Gene Jacobsen - who published a book about the ordeal. Jacobsen died in 2007 at the age of 85. Today, we're rebroadcasting his story of three and a half years as a prisoner of war. (Rebroadcast)
Voices from the American Military Cemetery at
Fort Bonafacio, Manila, in the Philippine Islands
On marble pillars carved in stone
The names of former corpsmen known.
Young they were, valiant and brave,
Assigned too early to an unknown grave
In a station still unknown.
Standing alone in that hallowed place,
Each name read recalls a face,
A catching laugh, a smile, a glow
Of months with them so long ago,
Far from their present resting place.
They are dead, how blessed am I
Standing beneath a tropic sky,
Free from prison pain and care,
Breathing deep freedom's air,
One of the few who didn't die.
As I stood in quiet, I could hear
Their voices speaking load and clear:
You're well, were not, and we won't be
Until you strive to set us free
From the heavy burdens that we bear.
It isn't death that pains us so,
Although we hadn't planned to go
So young, without our mission through,
The one we were supposed to do
And failed, we all now know.
Why was the country we love so dear
Willing to sacrifice us here,
Abandoned, long before we fell,
To suffer each, his own private hell
When victory could have been so near?
What happened to the planes and tanks
Bombers of the starving Yanks?
Eager to serve the country well,
Instead of experiencing a living hell
Far from home in the form of thanks.
As I stood and read the names inscribed
Of the brave men who fought and died
I felt my anger rise and stir
Through tears that caused the scene to blur
Recalled other names-----those who lied.
Our four-stars general topped the list
Of faces visible through the mist
Joined by exalted President,
Who never shared his intent
Our concerted for those would be missed.
Generals there were and quite a few
Who seemed to know not what to do
And the British Prime Minister, the President's friend,
Who wooed and swayed him to the end
Until his water at home was through.
And so, these restless dead still yearn
For the folks to finally learn
The truth about the Rock and Bataan
Although the years have come and gone
Their complete respect from us to earn.
A group of cowards we were not
As some have said and others thought.
The task assigned was far too great,
For the desperate men a pending fate,
A futile and nobly fought.
Who will take up the cause for these men here?
Courageous and faithful, men with out fear,
Who pled with us to set them free
To join the ranks of you and me
And those at home who hold them dear
When men are called to serve in war,
Weather near toat home or in places far,
Is it too much to ask
Support that's needed for the task
That nation's honor not to mar?
For them no freedom, no honor, no fame.
At home life went on just the same.
Few knew why we had lost the cause.
The nation hardly seemed to pause,
So still only suffer in their shame.
- Gene S. Jacobsen, 1996