Did you know this about the IW Knights of Columbus?
In today’s Part II episode we pick-up the story (from last week) of World War II Army veteran Paul Kerchum (entitled: "In My Heart, I Forgave"). In Part 1 Paul recounted the brutal and infamous 55-mile forced Bataan Death March across the Philippines. Now we find him in a prison camp where the conditions are even harsher.
"His Years in Captivity: In the next two months, hundreds of Americans and thousands of Filipino soldiers died at O’Donnell. In early June 1942, I was transported to the main prison at Cabanatuan, where 3,000 Americans died in the next six months. You couldn’t believe the brutality. Three Navy officers in our camp who tried to escape were captured and then beheaded. We were put in groups of 10, and if one escaped, then the other nine were shot.
Work details were sent to Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere. In early October 1943, I was part of a 500-man work detail sent to build an airfield near Las Pinas, 40 miles from Manila. All we had were rumors that help was on the way. We heard that for three and a half years.
One day, we were at the end of the runway when one of the men began pointing toward Manila. And there in the sky were hundreds of American and Japanese aircraft in aerial combat. Later, we learned that Gen. MacArthur had returned to the Philippines.
The next morning, 11 of us were stuffed into a ship, part of a convoy headed for Japan. No sooner had we left Manila Bay than we came under an American submarine attack. The holds were covered, and we remained in complete darkness, but we prayed for the best. We ran zigzag all over the South China Sea for days, being chased by American submarines. Approximately 5,280 Americans went down to the bottom of the sea when unmarked hell ships like ours were sunk by American submarines or aircraft.
We eventually landed in Japan and were stuffed into a train to Sendai. Then, we took a narrow-gauge railroad way up into the mountains, where we worked at Mitsubishi Mine No. 11. One day, a B-29 came over and dropped food, clothing and medicine with the news that the war was over. I began eating well and, soon enough, I was no longer a 75-pounder. They put us on a hospital ship, and for the first time in four years we slept in real beds."
Links Related to this week’s column:
Service and Sacrifice
Knights of the “Greatest Generation” tell their stories of faith and courage as veterans of World War II
By Paul Kerchum, Tom Rossi and Louis Graziano, with Columbia staff - Columbia Magazine(11/1/2021)
Click here to read the article
Happy New Year 2022 from the IWKnights!
The IWKnights of Columbus Council #9981 would like to wish you and your family a very Happy and Blessed New Year 2022 and look forward to serving you in 2022.
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