Bataan Memorial Death March: Uncovering A History of Service

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ashley Walker
  • 913th Airlift Group

Members of the 913th Airlift Group and friends teamed up on March 17, 2019, and participated in the 77th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. More than 8,000 attendees honored the U.S. and Filipino soldiers by marching 26.2 miles over desert terrain.

Such memorial events bring a sense of esprit de corps and military history. This particular event uncovered a personal tie for two of the 913th Airlift Group team members.

Tech. Sgt. Edward Limmer’s family initiated the dive into their ancestry and the sacrifices during the Bataan March. His family texted a photo of a news article depicting his great uncle’s military service. Army Cpl. Carl Egner was in prison camp in Japan for more than three years.

 “What are the odds that two of us would discover that we have close relatives who survived such an experience,” said Tech. Sgt. Malcolm Moe, 913th AG historian. “As we were driving to the event I find out the father-in-law of my sister-in-law, joined the New Mexico National Guard, then Army Air Corps and eventually joined and retired from the Air Force.”

Every year Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Womack, 96th Aerial Port Squadron superintendent, coordinates and trains teams from Little Rock Air Force Base to participate in the annual memorial march.

“It’s always wonderful to put together teams for this event. Given that 913th reservists come from across the state and even Oklahoma, it becomes more difficult to train together,” said Womack. “The highlight is seeing folks, not only complete the march, but make those personal and pride connections. It makes this effort worthwhile.”

According to the Bataan Death March event website, on April 9, 1942, the U.S. and Filipino soldiers surrendered the Bataan Peninsula after seven months of battle. Approximately 75,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers were forced to become prisoners of war to the Japanese Forces. The captive soldiers were marched for days to their prison camps, approximately 65 miles through the scorching jungles of the Philippines. Thousands died and those who survived faced the hardships of prisoner of war camps.

“I wouldn’t have known about my own personal ties to the Bataan march otherwise. I’m hyped and inspired even more from that experience,” said Moe. “Imagine your grandfather enduring these conditions. It’s such recent history that we have to continue to honor and uphold.”