Bataan Echoes from New Mexico

It seems the nature of the internet to be similar to the sea, with repeated searches of the shore sometimes yielding a fact that the ocean of the internet churns forth.

Such was the case the other day, when a typical Google search yielded the sad news of the passing of yet another Bataan veteran and Death March survivor, Charles F. Sanchez of Albuquerque on 16 October 2015 at age 96. He had only recently been honored in Congress – belated perhaps but recognition nonetheless. The experience Charles Sanchez had during the war was so difficult, he only talked with his sons and family members who joined the military – he never discussed it with his wife or two daughters.

Charles F. Sanchez was one of the last remaining 25 survivors of the Bataan Death march in the Philippines during World War II. On his return to the U.S. at age 28, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  (M. Sheppard, Albuquerque Journal)

Charles F. Sanchez was one of the last remaining 25 survivors of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines during World War II. On his return to the U.S. at age 28, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. (M. Sheppard, Albuquerque Journal)

Sanchez was a member of the New Mexico National Guard’s B Battery in the 200 Coastal Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft). About 1,800 men were in the two regiments (200th and 515th) of the New Mexico National Guard which the US government sent to reinforce the Philippines in late 1941, and which fought in the Bataan Campaign. Only half of them survived the war. Now that Charles Sanchez has departed, there are but 24 men left from these two regiments, about half of them residing in New Mexico.

His story can be read in some more detail at a couple of the references below. But in review of the comments made to the article in the Albuquerque Journal, there was reference to another Bataan story, of Captain Frederick B. “Ted” Howden, Jr., father of three, who also served with the 200th Coastal Artillery as the Regimental Chaplain. Chaplain Howden apparently had the opportunity to be evacuated from Bataan but declined, saying “They are my boys and I’ll stay with them.” He survived Bataan and the Death March but not his imprisonment in the Davao Penal Colony.  Despite suffering from malnutrition like all the others, he gave of his own meager rations to help others.  However, Chaplain Howden succumbed to disease and neglect, and died on 11 December 1942 of pellagra and dysentery. These many years later, his granddaughter Melissa A. Howden searched for his story.

Captain Frederick B. "Ted" Howden, Jr., was the Regimental Chaplain of the 200th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment.  He surived the Bataan Campaign and Death March, but not captivity.  (Courtesy Angelfire.com, The Names Project)

Captain Frederick B. “Ted” Howden, Jr., was the Regimental Chaplain of the 200th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment. He surived the Bataan Campaign and Death March, but not captivity. (Courtesy Angelfire.com, The Names Project)

Ms. Howden assembled enough information to make a documentary film titled “Be Home Soon: Letters from My Grandfather.” Her film is about war and faith, love and loss, family myth and legacy. Perhaps it can help others to connect with their family member or friend who perished in the Bataan Campaign or the aftermath. Her effort is certainly to be commended. You can view the Be Home Soon website which features a trailer of the video documentary at:
http://www.behomesoonthefilm.com/

So, then, the periodic internet search begets one Bataan article, leading to discovery of a documentary film made, related to the 200th Coastal Artillery. What other stories and secrets from Bataan will yet be discovered?

References
Sheppard, Maggie, “‘Very gentle’ survivor of Bataan Death March dies, age 96,” posted at: http://www.abqjournal.com/665171/news/bataan-death-march-survivor-dies-age-96.html?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_term=Autofeed#link_time=1445753590

Recognizing Charles F. Sanchez in Congress, at: https://the-constituent.com/speeches/208066/recognizing-charles-f-sanchez-by-representative-michelle-lujan-grisham

Corporal Charles F Sanchez – POW Summary, at: http://www.japanesepow.info/index.php?page=directory&rec=17133

Frederick Howden, database entry at: http://www.angelfire.com/nm/bcmfofnm/names/h.html

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