News Talk Radio 530, KMJ (580 AM/105.9 FM) out of Fresno, California, has a fantastic weekly veterans radio show, called Hometown Heroes. The show honors our World War II veterans for their service and sacrifice, as it make sure their stories are not forgotten and preserved to share with current and future generations.
Hometown Heroes airs Saturdays, 6 pm – 7 pm, according to the current schedule. Be aware this time could move around periodically, either earlier in the day or even on a Sunday, depending on station programming.
KMJ radio’s Hometown Heroes Host Mr. Paul Loeffler does a superb job interviewing a World War II veteran each week and the great part is that the veterans do most of the talking. Mr. Loeffler has accomplished many interviews already, as you will see on episodes page for the show (see below for link). A review of the listing quickly reveals several Bataan-related veteran interviews.
EPISODE #5, 11/18/2007: Bataan Death March survivor “Wild Bill” Begley of Fresno, CA (originally from Hyden, KY). (27:49 in duration, cut short by a NASCAR broadcast, unfortunately) He was assigned to the 34th Pursuit Squadron as a radio operator. On Bataan he served in an infantry capacity. At the start of the war he weighed 180 pounds, and was down to 110 by the time of the Death March. He survived three and a half years of brutal captivity and by the end of the way was down to only 68 pounds.
EPISODE #114, 5/15/2010: Bataan Death March survivor Julio Barela Las Cruces, New Mexico, remembers the horrors of his years in captivity during World War II, and his daughter’s perspective on what happened to her father. He was assigned to Battery A of the 200th Coast Artillery with a searchlight crew. He was one of only 800 of 1,800 men of his unit who survived Bataan, the Death march and the rest of captivity including the “Hell ships” and captivity in Japan, to come back from the war. (36:42 in duration)
In this interview there is mention of the Bataan Death March Memorial at Las Cruces, New Mexico, which is the only federally funded monument dedicated to the victims of the Bataan Death March. The monument was dedicated in April 2001.
A very poignant element of this memorial is the trail in front of the men in the monument. On it are the footprints, some in boots, some in bare feet, of actual Bataan Death March survivors.
This web log writer was pleasantly surprised to discover the interview of a Philippine Army soldier who served in the Bataan Campaign. It’s perhaps uncommon, and unclear how many interviews of Filipino veterans of Bataan are available, but here is a good one to listen to!
EPISODE #336, 10/11/2014: 93-year-old Atilano “Al” David of Albuquerque, New Mexico, explains how he escaped from the Bataan Death March. A Filipino soldier who served as a sergeant in the 33rd Infantry Regiment of the 31st Infantry Division (Philippine Army). On the Death March he was too sick to continue and after a day or so his comrades helped him to escape by pushing him into bushes along the roadside – he was then helped by a family named De La Cruz who sheltered him a few days before he made his escape to join the guerrilla forces. (51:31 in duration)
There are other Hometown Hero interview episodes to listen to. One is of a US Navy veteran who served on the light carrier USS Bataan (CVL-29). He was a radio technician and Petty Officer Third Class when he was initially assigned to Bataan.
EPISODE #226, 8/18/2012: 87-year-old Alan George of Visalia, CA relates how he earned a Purple Heart in the Battle of Okinawa aboard the USS Bataan when he was wounded after his ship was struck by four 5-inch shells on the port side which were fired from other ships in the formation trying to hit the kamikazes attacking the formation – eight men were killed and 26, including George were wounded. It was a reminder that friendly fire isn’t, but stoically accepted in a very chaotic battle situation. (52:31 in duration)
To view other KMJ Hometown Heroes veteran interviews, see the episodes listing at:
So a hand salute and heartfelt thank you to KMJ Radio and Hometown Heroes host Paul Loeffler for this excellent program! Keep up the good work which helps share and preserve our incredible military heritage!
The Bataan Death March Memorial at Las Cruces, New Mexico, information and images, at: http://www.mllora.com/bataan_virtual_tour/bataan_3.htm
Student volunteers join to clean Bataan March monument, at: http://archive.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_25351956/student-volunteers-join-clean-march-monument
Paul Loeffler, at: http://www.kmjnow.com/2015/02/02/hometown-heroes-with-paul-loeffler/
34th Pursuit Squadron P-35, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/34th_Pursuit_Squadron
Searchlight unit, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Coast_Artillery_Corps
Coastal Artillery searchlight, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Coast_Artillery_Corps
Close view of Bataan Memorial in Las Cruces, NM, at: http://www.nationalguard.mil/AbouttheGuard/TodayinGuardHistory/April.aspx
Bataan Memorial in Las Cruces, NM, at: http://www.nationalguard.mil/AbouttheGuard/TodayinGuardHistory/April.aspx
Philippine Army gun crew, at: http://www.gstatic.com/hostedimg/8a018b9687d6d63e_landing
CVL-29 under attack, at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Bataan_%28CVL-29%29_under_attack_in_March_1945.jpg