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During World War II in the Philippine Islands, he survived over 5 months of intense and fierce battle engagements with the Japanese Army with little to no food, water, medical supplies and ammunition. The Food on Bataan was almost non-existent. By mid January, they were cut down to half rations and by mid February, they were on less than 1,000 calories a day. That is not enough to keep soldiers healthy and their immune system strong. The Japanese thought they would take the Philippines in a little over a month, but the soldiers of Bataan held out from December 8th, 1941 to April 9th, 1942. Their supply line was cut off because the ships were sunk at Pearl Harbor. The remainder of the supply ships was diverted to Europe by order of President Roosevelt, and Bataan was sacrificed. To make matters worse, the soldiers who fought on Bataan were plagued with tropical diseases, malaria and malnutrition, but they did not give up! They continued to fight with determination; courage and a will to survive that cannot be fully described. As General MacArthur was ordered to leave Bataan and head for Australia, he said "I shall return," but the soldiers did not think it would be three years later. General MacArthur wanted them to fight to the last man and hold the Philippines. These men did not surrender! Lt. General Jonathan Wainwright went against General MacArthur's orders and surrendered them in order to save as many lives as possible due to the condition of the men. Approximately 78,000 American & Filipino soldiers surrendered to the Japanese. This was the first time in American history that a whole army this size had to surrender to an enemy force. These men had fought heroically for so long, and so many good soldiers lives had been lost that the thought of surrendering was traumatic for them. This was an emotionally and psychologically hard decision for some of the men including my father. They were called the "Battling Bastards of Bataan" because they had been forgotten.
My father had never really talked about his experiences in great detail until recently. Some of the stories he has told have brought tears to his eyes. I know it was hard for him to remember some of those painful memories but I feel that they needed to be told so his friends and family can truly understand what he went through and know that war is awful although necessary in some cases. I know the tears he has shed were not just from the memories of his days as a POW, but were also for the dead soldiers and childhood friends he lost.
There were so many POW's who were in different situations that each one has his or her own story about what they saw and what happened to them. Dad and I are going to try and tell you about his experiences and survival of the Bataan Death March, 2 Hell Ship voyages, and 3 ½ years as a Prisoner of War. The story will be based on conversations, videotapes, and audiotapes he has made over the years. There will be some of my thoughts and feelings expressed throughout the book because of how I feel towards my father and the men he fought with. I have done research at the National Archives in Baltimore, Maryland, read countless number of books that have been written by fellow POW's, their sons, daughters, best selling authors, and viewed web sites dedicated to the Hero's of Bataan.
Posted October 29, 2005
I have to say, this book is just amazing. Abel Ortega Jr did a fantastic job and has obviously spent much time and dedication writing this book. Abel Ortega Sr. is one of the last surviving POW's and probably has the best account of the events ever recorded. There are such amazing stories and many testimonies of how God protected him through all the unbearable circumstances. There are actual copies of documents and photos throughout the book. It is worth every penny, especially if you are a history buff.
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Posted December 4, 2013
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