Bataan Death March survivor to speak on Veterans DayPublished 10:40am Monday, November 9, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
The nation will celebrate its veterans this week with services taking place in communities large and small.
From small forums to large auditoriums, the day marks an opportunity to hear first hand accounts of moments in military history that will one day remain only in the pages of history books and memoirs.
“Really, it’s live history we’re losing,” said Bob Krauss, an historian and photo archivist who has been scheduling veterans to come to the American Legion Post No. 51 in Buchanan to tell their first hand accounts to audiences.
This year, Lester Tenney is scheduled to speak at Buchanan High School on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and on Veterans Day, Wednesday, at 11 a.m. at the Legion on Front Street.
Tenney is a survivor of the Bataan Death March, a Japanese war crime that took place in 1942 in the Philippines.
According to an historical account, during the march an estimated 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were subjected to beatings, prison camps and murder.
Krauss said he previously knew of Tenney and his background and felt he would make a good speaker in this year’s program.
“It’s important we learn their history,” Krauss said. “It’s important we hear about the sacrifices these men made to keep us free.”
Tenney a prisoner of war for three and a half years in both the Philippines and Japan, recounted his experiences during the march in his book, “My Hitch in Hell.”
Thousands of lives were lost during the 90-mile march.
Tenney survived escaping into the Filipino jungle only to be recaptured days later and wouldn’t gain his freedom until after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, after which he spent a year and a half receiving medical attention for his injuries.
The Legion’s now annual program has been getting quite a good response, Krauss said.
Speeches at the Legion have resulted in standing room only and at the high school, “we manage to fill the seats,” he said.
“These fellas are leaving us,” Krauss continued.
Last year’s speaker, Michael Kuryla who told his story of surviving the sinking of the USS Indianapolis passed away, he said, just a little over a month ago.
“His voice is now silent,” Krauss said.
In Tenney’s case, Krauss said his story is unique in that “there were very few survivors to begin with” of his particular unit.
“I often reflect when I hear these men talk, ‘is this something that I could’ve done?’ he added.
The program is at no cost to the public.