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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended November 17, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 21Nov00

By Rosemary Pollock

LDS Veteran Remembers Bataan Death March

ROY, UTAH -- Veterans Day had special meaning for LDS Sgt. Hyrum J. Sandberg. Captured during one of the worst defeats in American history "Roy" was held captive in a Japanese prisoner of war camp after the April, 1942 surrender of an entire U.S. army in the Philippines. Sandberg endured the infamous Bataan Death March alongside an estimated 600 to 650 soldiers who died from the brutal march through scorching heat, inadequate rest or outright beatings and murder.

Sandberg was a 21-year-old machinist from Grantsville when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940. He was assigned to the Philippines as a mechanic and fired back at the planes during the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. "Several times I shot at them. Never hit them. They were just too fast. We just weren't prepared for fighters or dive-bombers to come so close."

Supplies eventually ran out and with defenses weakening and men falling sick, Gen. Edward P. King surrendered the allied forces. "We got our orders to stack our arms," Sandberg recalled. The soldiers were taken captive by the waiting Japanese and formed goups of 80 to 100 GI's and marched five abreast. The relentless sun beat down on the uncovered heads of the tens of thousands who made the march, including GI's, civilians and Filipinos. Sandberg recalls, "They banged me on the head.....'No hat,' and took it away with a heave." Sandberg improvised by wrapping his shirt around his head and using his canteen or plate to cover his head from the merciless sun.

"Sometimes a soldier would fall and guys alongside 'em would pick'em up on both arms," Sandberg remembered. "Mosquitos were real thick," he said. "You'd lay down underneath there [barrack's] and try to sleep and the graybacks, body lice, would start to crawling." An estimated 1,500 Americans died at Camp O'Donnell in its first 40 days.

Much later the POW's were shipped to boxcars in Manchuria, China where they worked in factories. Finally, the prisoners began to see American B-29 bombers on raids. It was a thrilling sight, these immense planes flying over enemy territory, streaming vapor contrails from B-29's flying overhead. Soon the Red Cross dropped packages and doctors by parachutes. The guards realized the war was over and threw opened the gates as they escaped.

Sandberg had been a prisoner for more than three years and five months. "We got real good care, a lot of medicine," Sandberg said of the Americans. This year he and his wife, Norma, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their four children.


Veteran recalls Bataan Death March
Deseret News 11Nov00 P2
By Joe Bauman: Deseret News staff writer
Roy resident spent 3 years, 5 months as POW


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