September 12th Program Overview
Hello, I would like to tell you a little about the program that is scheduled for Sept. 12. The man I would like to tell you about is Dr. Eugene Bleil. He was stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 1941 at about the same time they attacked all over the Pacific including where Dr. Bleil was stationed which was Nichols field as an airplane mechanic. Very quickly after the attack, Dr. Bleil was given 15 minutes of infantry training and a 1903 Springfield rifle. I said to him that was an old rifle and he quickly told me that it sure was a better weapon than a stick. He was then in a fight for his life literally everyday for nearly four years.
He fought for about four months with very little food or medical supplies. While he never got into hand to hand combat he told me that he was forced to kill at a distance of five feet to survive.
On April 9th 1942 he and about 75,000 men WERE surrendered by General King to stop a total slaughter. That is when he was forced to endure the Bataan Death March of about 65 miles after nearly no food for four months. The Japanese were not prepared for the number of men that WERE surrendered. They were brutal with many beheadings and bayonetings. Once they got to Camp O’Donnell there were up to two hundred deaths a day, due largely to starvation and disease.
In about mid 1943 he was sent to Japan as slave labor. He was put on what became known as the Hell Ships. Many were sank by our own Navy because they had no insignia on them to let the Navy know that there were US POW’S on them. Men were put into the holes of these ships packed into them so tight that many times they had to stand up with only a five gallon bucket for drinking water and a five gallon bucket for the sanitary needs of as many as 700 men for days at a time in sweltering heat. Men died there and were left there.
One quick story and there are many. One day Dr. Bleil came to the firestation where I worked and had dinner with me, the men did not know of his WW ll experiances. They were teasing the cook about our dinner which was steaks, the men said that the steaks tasted like horse meat, Dr. Bleil very seriously said that this meat did not taste like horse because in the Philippines they had eaten every horse that they had. The mens jaws about hit the floor not knowing if he was kidding or not and when he assured them that he was not kidding they wanted to know more of his experiances.
At the lowest his weight dropped to about 85lbs.
Below is a Map of the Route for the Bataan Death March – Click for a Larger View