From those that were there… (2)

Photos in Mr. Coloma's collection

Photos in Mr. Coloma’s collection

Elias Coloma was a Filipino scout when the war started.   The following is part of Mr. Coloma’s story.

“You’d hear boom-boom-boom,” the forward observer said in his interview.  “And wherever those shells dropped, they killed someone because we were too many people all in one place.”  Four months it lasted.  When C-rations ran out, Coloma’s 86th Field Artillery Battalion ate horses.  Then monkeys.  Then Grass.  Then weeds.  “The shelling was continuous.  Night and day.”

“At first it [the march] didn’t seem so bad.  The Japanese told me I could walk home, so I followed the endless line of men in the road.  We began to realize it was really different when the weak people were pulled off the side of the road and short or bayoneted.

Luzon, P.I., Bataan Death March

Luzon, P.I., Bataan Death March

“Sometimes the guard would open their mouth with a weapon and shoot them.  We marched without sleeping.  In the hot sun we marched and at night we marched.  No food and no water, okay?  No rest.  If there was mud on the side of the road, we’d try to drink from it.  If there was wild rice, we’d pick the grain and put it in our pocket.  Sometimes the guard would allow it.  Sometimes they’d tie the prisoner to a tree and shoot him – Boom – as an example.

“I told myself, ‘I will survive.’  I wanted to go home.  On the 5th day we were crammed into boxcars in San Fernando.  No one could sit down.  When the doors finally opened in Capas, the survivors marched 9 more miles to Camp O’Donnell.  I was lucky,” said Coloma [whose weight dropped from 130 to 70 pounds], “I kept an old meat can, not washed, clipped to my pants.  With that, I ate a bowl of rice and a cup of water a day.

Sgt. Coloma

Sgt. Coloma

“In July, the Japanese transferred prisoners to another camp.  A crowd of Filipino civilians waited outside the gate to watch the prisoners pass.  One civilian pulled me out of line and threw a shirt over me.  They took me village to village until I was home [in Guimba, in central Luzon].  Then I said, I’m free.

“I can’t describe it.  All I had was a determination to survive, that’s all.  I can’t say anymore.”

***

Elias Coloma went on to fight as a guerrilla with Major Robert Lapham and his Raiders throughout the war.  He then re-joined the US Army which promoted him and brought him to America.  He retired from active duty in 1962 as a Master Sergeant and rose to Captain in the reserves.

Click on images to enlarge.

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MILITARY HUMOR – [updated style] – 

 

loveI told you guys to go before we left

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Farewell Salutes – 

Victor Begovic – Browns Bay, NZ; British Merchant Navy # R339598

Frederick Drew – Glen Head, NY; US Army, 123rd Signal Batt,/3rd Infantry Div.

Gertrude Grace – Toronto, CAN; WAF, WWII

Earl Laube – Waukegan, IL; US Army, WWII, ETOJkhv6.AuSt.74

Alfred Martz – Jensen Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Robert McDow – Shawnee, OK; US Army Air Corps (2 yrs.) & US Air Force, Korea

Jess Wilson – McKee, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, aircraft sheet-metal mechanic

Richard Synder – Tucson, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, (Ret. 20 yrs)

Ross Trower – Springfield, VA; US Navy, RAdm. Chaplin (Ret 38 yrs), Korea & Vietnam

 

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 11, 2014, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. There must have been many like Sgt Coloma on that death march.
    From my readings of the march, it appears that survival was not only hinged on food or fitness, but sheer luck as well.
    Only those survivors can know the savagery they endured, words cannot describe their ordeal.
    Regards
    Ian

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    • The men themselves did not call it the Death March. Did you know that the newspapers coined that phrase and the POWs only heard of it after their release in 1945? I would think that would give them pause to think back and realize just what they had lived through.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First, I have no idea how they could have survived. Second, I can’t imagine being cruel enough to inflict such pain on another human being. People wouldn’t do that to their animals, let alone a person. So glad you are telling these true stories because we couldn’t even dream up something that horrible.

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    • Oh, yes, they are thought of – just not by people such as yourself, Bev. We can only keep hoping that humans will learn one day. Thank you for reading despite the gore and cruelty.

      Like

  3. That had to be awful. At 70 lbs. I’m surprised he survived.
    I loved both cartoons. I’m not certain what the little girl was thinking, but she was a doll.

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  4. I did a term paper many years ago in Jr. College on the Bataan Death march and was shocked at the brutality and inhumanity of the Japanese soldiers. Equivalent to the German death camps on a smaller scale. Reading this man’s account reminded me of that horrible event.

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    • Then you know first hand some of the gruesome acts of brutality that I refuse to put in the posts. [we do have squeamish and rather young readers too]. I want everyone to be able to take in the events, but not lose their lunch. Do you have this paper on-line now? Do you plan to? I thank you for stopping in to read and comment here, Gerald.

      Like

  5. Amazing story, gpcox. I’m thinking perhaps his native upbringing helped him survive. It was a very ugly chapter in the history of humanity.

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  6. I’m reading and following with you with gritted teeth, because I have grown too close to these stories now. But they need telling.

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    • You were already close to most of these stories. In your research, Hillary, I know you understand why I edit out some of the worst episodes in regards to the younger and/or squeamish readers. I thank you very much for barreling through, you are a strong individual.

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  7. I took many pics of the Cabanatuan POW Memorial during the time I lived in the Philippines for about a year. I walked part of the route a few times, and in Tarlac the historical markers can be seen…I wish I could show you all the pics I took, but you can see them on my WW2 History page on Facebook…I invite you all…

    https://www.facebook.com/USWW2HISTORY

    Like

    • Another thing, Japanese people will deny the Japanese soldiers killed anyone during the “Bataan Death March”…they really need to come to terms with what the Japanese soldiers did during WW2 let alone just the Philippines…

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      • I believe they would find it far too humiliating. After all, the men themselves – many couldn’t face coming home and looking their parents in the eye. A code of conduct was broken and it offended the family by doing so. The same reason the American G.I. found it difficult to believe the enemy would kill themselves rather than be prisoner.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Woody, I am not a facebook type person, but the link did allow me to look and scroll thru your photos – outstanding collection you have there!! Thank you very much for the link and I’m thrilled to have you here to watch out for my mistakes – if I make one – please let me know immediately. Thank you again for giving easy access to your site for everyone!!

      Like

      • You’re most welcome sir, Although I have been into WW2 history over 35 years, I am the first to say I am not infallable…though I do strive for thoroughness and being correct in what I post. It’s going to be a lifelong fight to get the Japanese government to admit the truths its kept from the people of Japan ever since the war ended…

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        • Well, it’s a little difficult to hide it with today’s technology – they aren’t China with nearly total control. I am often into their sites and have a book by a Japanese scholar who lived through it all – news travels pretty well these days.

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          • Agreed, I have wondered why with the wealth of info readily available info on the internet why so many Japanese people are still in the dark…but when the Japanese Prime Minster says “The way Japan fought WW2 was not against Japanese law”…when I saw that, I was inscensed, so he was saying the near genocide in China was legal in Japan? or that the SBD pilots (O’ Flarherty and Bruno Gaido) who crashed near the Japanese destroyer Arashi during Midway and fished from the water interogated and had their hands and feet bound to weights and thrown overboard to drown was not a crime?…..its instances like these that makes this effort I am into all worth it…and I will never give up my efforts to make the people of Japan know the truth…the first step in healing is accepting the truth, no matter how painful. I know full well the US were not guiltless of some crimes, but were never a policy as the Japanese crimes were…

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            • I see your point, but you’re dealing with an old culture that is very different from ours. For those not following the old ways – maybe they just want to move on. [just playing devil’s advocate here, not arguing].

              Liked by 1 person

  8. Amazing stories! How could a human being survive. How could a human being inflict such horror on others. One of the finest men I ever had the pleasure of meeting, was a survivor of the march and imprisonment. I found this out quite by accident from his wife. He never talked about it to me and I never asked. But after I found out, I looked at him in a different light. What a man!

    Like

    • You never know who they might be: the cranky old guy you see at the deli once in a while, the next door neighbor that tends his garden every spring – they all handled it differently and most learned to cope. The whole concept is amazing. Thanks for reading, Don – always a pleasure.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a touching story. To not be able to eat and to drop half your weight and still be able to go on. What they went through is terrible. I too had to laugh at the little girl and the Marines 🙂

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  10. gp, An amazing story of just one Filipino hero, Elias Coloma going from a Filipino scout all the way to Master Sergeant by ’62 & even a Captain in the Reserves! Typically, Americans are ignorant of the history of American rule of the Philippines going back to 1898 lasting until 1947. And the sacrifices of the Filipino people like Elias Coloma have been great. In our lifetime, to learn of the political problems & the guerrilla fighting that has gone on over the years is such a disappointment. And added to that the TERRIBLE tropical storms that have & continue to devastate that vast collection of islands saddens me. Phil

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    • The P.I. truly seem to be located in a horrid area of natural catastrophes!! Yet, ‘move on’ seems to be their motto. I felt very lucky to locate this story, Phil, and I thank you for sharing your own opinion about it and the islands.

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  11. This is a great series, GP. Anecdotal stories so often provide insights you never get from a history book.

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    • It’s that personal touch that brings us into the reality of it all. Being as my usual posts merely have statistics and dates, etc. [I have even been doing a pretty good job of limiting my own feelings and reactions to the comment section]. I greatly appreciate you reading today, Jacqui.

      Like

  12. Wonderful story. But I love the Marines with the little girl. It’s hysterical.

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  13. The stark brutality is horrifying.

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  14. My uncle was lucky enough to escape even before the march started. Today he is over 90 years old and still plays tenpin bowling, drinks beer and often graces a local spreadsheet’s frontpage every Bataan Day.

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  15. A wonderful tale of a human being’s determination to survive and then to fight on the side of the Angels.

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  16. Coloma’s survival was a balance of true grit and good luck. This is a gripping story.

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  17. Such a horrific story and to realise it was only one of so many is very sobering. How amazing that he was rescued that way by civilians and then after he was safe and entitled to fight no more, he went back anyway!

    Like

  18. These stories are hard to read – but necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

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