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Old 09-16-2004, 06:43 PM
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Default Bataan Death March survivor tells of memories of camps.


By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2004 -- The Pentagon's POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony
Sept. 14 brought back memories of a horrid, week-long march in a scorching
malaria-infected jungle, and being starved, kicked and beaten for World War II
Bataan Death March survivor Dr. Alex Kelly, 87.

"I'm personally pleased that there's this kind of interest in POWs and MIAs so
they have these ceremonies each year," said Kelly, who spent more than three
and a half years as a prisoner in Japanese prison camps in the Philippines and
Japan. He relayed his experiences in the camps in an American Forces Press
Service interview after the ceremony.

Kelly said he was a POW from April 1942, when the Philippines surrendered to
Japanese forces, until the end of the war in the Pacific on Sept. 2, 1945. A
first lieutenant at the time, he was captured while serving as the battalion
surgeon for the 57th Infantry Regiment "Philippine Scouts."

The scouts were native Filipinos attached to the U.S. Army's Philippine
Department prior to and during World War II. They were mostly enlisted troops
under the command of American officers. However, a handful of Filipinos
received commissions from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

More than 70,000 Filipinos and Americans surrendered to Japanese forces. It was
the largest American army in history to surrender.

The Japanese led their captured prisoners on a forced march out of Bataan.

The trek through the Philippines jungles was labeled a death march because so
many people died on the march, Kelly noted. "The Japanese marched us from
Bataan to the prison camps further north in Luzon, which was about 60 miles for
me and much longer for some people," he said.

"Many, many people died along the way. I saw dead people in the ditches along
the road all along the way," Kelly continued. Conditions were terrible -- no
food, no water, no transportation, hot summer sun -- just a terrible
situation."

Kelly said he doesn't know how many pounds he lost during the march, quipping,
"I was a skinny guy when we started."

He said his years as a POW were long and full of anxiety, uncertainty and
loneliness. "I never had any contact with my family or friends in this
country," he noted. "I had malaria a number of times, but otherwise my health
remained fairly good.

"It just seemed like a never-ending, dull, boring, miserable existence," he
said.

During the march, Kelly said, he only ate a total of one to one and a half cups
of rice. He said he received water during the march, but not everyone did.

"The first several months in the prison camp all there was was rice, but more
of it," he noted. "We got a canteen cup full of rice every day and some green
leafy vegetables, mainly sweet potato leaves. They boiled those into a soup,
but they didn't give us any of the sweet potatoes.

At the first prison camp Kelly spent time in, Camp O'Donnell, the Japanese gave
the men one cow for roughly 1,000 men every two or three weeks. "I would get a
teaspoonful of meat and a bowl of soup, which the meat had been boiled in," he
said.

The Japanese transferred the Army doctor to a POW camp in Japan in March 1943.
"At that time, there were extra medical personnel in the Philippines, so they
sent a detail of 50 doctors and a couple hundred medical corpsmen to Japan,"
Kelly explained. "When we got to Japan, we were scattered out into various
prison camps to treat the POWs."

He said memories of that horrid, haunting experience are long gone. "I don't
think about it very much anymore," said Kelly, who earned his Army Reserve
commission in the medical corps after graduating from the Medical College of
Georgia in Augusta in 1938 and was called to active duty in 1941.

He said his Bataan experience caused him to make "tremendous changes in my
life, but I can't say that it scarred me."

Though he hasn't been heavily involved with POW/MIA issues, Kelly said he
decided to attend the Pentagon ceremony to see what it was like. "I wanted to
see if I wanted to become more involved with POW/MIA activities some time in
the future," said Kelly, who got out of the Army about a year after returning
home. "It was a moving ceremony for me."
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