Thursday, November 13, 2008

Battling Bastards of Bataan . . .

. . . redux.

(I should have posted this on Veterans' day, but other "stuff" got in the way.)

Back in January, I posted an article about a cousin of mine, J. S. Gray, who was on the Bataan Death March, shipped to Japan in on the Hell Ship Mati Mati Maru, and forced to work as a slave laborer in the mines.

On 09 NOV, the Virginian-Pilot printed a story about Death March veteran Norman Matthews as a part of a four-day series on prisoners of war. As I read the article, more and more "coincidences" surfaced.

Both Norman and J.S. were in the Army Air Force, both were on the Death March, both went to camp O'donnell, both were sent to Japan in hell ships, both were slave labor in Toyoma, Japan.

Both mens' POW photos were virtually identical. Same shirt. Same type number tag on the right breast. Same hat with a number tag. Same run-down clapboard siding background. Their POW numbers were 260 (JS) and 406 (Matthews).

This was WAY too much coincidence, so I called J.S.'s widow this afternoon. It turns out that they were together throughout their captivity. Same march, same ship, same camps. In fact, Matthews raided the slave camp office after V.J. day and took all of the POW photos. He eventually found JS years later and gave him his POW photo.

It wasn't coincidence after all.

On the first Wednesday of the month, the local survivors have a reakfast meeting at a local restaurant. Before it's too late, I intend to drop in, share my photo and J.S.'s story - and buy them all breakfast.